Out now, Hollow Earth is the first book for children written by Torchwood star John Barrowman and his sister Carole E. Barrowman.
Lots of twins have a special connection, but for 12-year-old twins, Matt and Emily Calder, the connection is beyond special. Together, the twins have extraordinary powers. However, their abilities are sought by villains trying to access the terrors of Hollow Earth – a place where all the demons, devils and evil creatures ever imagined lie trapped for eternity.
CultBox caught up with John and Carole to find out more…
What made you decide to write Hollow Earth and how long ago did you begin planning the book?
CB: “We began thinking about the series a couple of years ago when we were finishing up another project. But we didn’t start to outline in any serious way until last winter.”
JB: “We enjoy working together so as soon as one project comes to a close we’re already brainstorming about what the next one will be.”
CB: “I think we’re a bit like Matt and Em…”
JB: “Except we’re rubbish at drawing…”
CB: “Speak for yourself… actually he’s right. We love art but we can’t really draw. Anyway I was saying… we have very active imaginations like Matt and Em and the list of things we’d like to work together on is a long one.”
As siblings have either of you ever felt an unusual connection to the other in any way?
JB: “We know each other well so sometimes we finish each other’s sentences.”
CB: “We can also make the other person burst out laughing with a look or even part of a gesture. Plus we do have lots of code words and phrases relating to things we’ve done together.”
JB: “She tries to boss me around enough without getting inside my head too!”
What inspired the story?
CB: “When John and I were kids we read lots of adventure stories like The Chronicles of Narnia, Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, The Secret Seven, all the classics. I think we wanted to write something that we’d also like to read.”
JB: “When the first Harry Potter came out in the UK and before its US release, I brought copies to Wisconsin to a family lake house and gave them to my niece and nephews. One afternoon, it’s hot and sunny and there’s a trampoline in the water and skis and all sorts of things to do and we couldn’t figure out where the kids were.
“We went up to the house and they were all spread across the couches reading Harry Potter. That moment stuck with us.”
How did the joint writing process work?
JB: “I think we have a unique collaboration. We brainstorm ideas and generate an outline together while on the same continent. Sometimes this can be anywhere from 4-6 weeks. We try to record as much of these conversations as possible and Carole takes lots of notes. Then she goes back to Wisconsin and she writes.”
CB: “When I have satisfying chunks drafted, I use iChat or email and John comes back with comments. Sometimes, though, a character will do something we didn’t plan so we have to make room for that in my writing.”
JB: “And sometimes when that happens she forgets about the time difference and will call me in the middle of the night UK time babbling about how Zach decided to take a boat and what do I know about boats and I’ll remind her I was asleep and now I’m not!“
What tips would you give for any other writers trying to write jointly and in different places?
CB: “I’d say if you’re going to divide up the process, settle that ahead of time. Make expectations clear to each other.”
JB: “Since Carole is the writer we have a natural way to break open our collaboration, but I think I’d say use technology to the fullest and trust your partner.”
CB: “Yes. Trust in each other is critical, and I’d add that you also have to trust your imagination and never underestimate what it’s capable of doing.”
JB: “That sounds like something Renard might say – never underestimate an imagination!”
CB: “Oh, that’s good. You should play him in the TV version.”
JB: “Nah. I want to play Simon.”
Did you both have different ideas about what direction the story should take at any point and how did you decide whose route to take?
JB: “Not really with the first book, but when we were plotting the second I had an idea for a character’s path that was different from what we had first imagined.”
CB: “So I told him to convince me.”
JB: “And I did.”
CB: “What was cool was that while John was convincing me it inspired an idea for something else in the plot and suddenly we had something even more exciting.”
If you were to follow up Hollow Earth with another novel, what sort of story would you like to tell and are there other genres you’d like to explore?
CB: “We’ve plotted this as a three book series with the twins, and we’re hoping the second one will be out in the UK this time next year.”
JB: “We’re also working on a Torchwood novel together called Exodus Code that will be out in the fall in UK.”
Would you like to write a film script one day and what sort of genre would that be?
JB: “Well, we’re currently in negotiations for the TV/film rights for Hollow Earth.”
CB: “I love that you asked this question because we have a script sitting around that we adapted together a few years ago from a pretty dark mystery story of mine.”
JB: “I’d play an emotionally damaged detective who’s been forced to face a kind of male Sophie’s Choice and when he gets involved in an investigation the choice haunts him in a dangerous way.”
CB: “Shameless plug – it’s called Damaged Goods.”
JB: “Script available upon request!” [Laughs]
Watch a clip of John Barrowman in Torchwood: Miracle Day….