Fact and fantasy: Ali Sparkes and Unleashed

aliMy stories are a bit like a fairy with bunions. They are fantasy but they have their feet in the real world.

What I really love is making startling, spooky or paranormal things happen in the ‘real’ world that we all know and recognize. When I started out with Dax Jones in the very first Shapeshifter story it was with this thought:

Ordinary boy, one day, out of nowhere, turns into a fox.

What then?

What would happen? Think about it. If it happened to you, today, how would you react? How would your friends react? Your teachers? Your family? Your enemies?

And then I love to do a bit of research in the real world, to work out what might happen for real. For example, for the Shapeshifter series, featuring 100 or so COLAs (Children Of Limitless Ability) who have suddenly developed paranormal powers, I spoke to:

  •  An ex Ministry Of Defence expert
  • A survival/bushlore expert
  • A practising dowser
  • A practising psychic
  • A practising healer
  • A special operative with the police (ex SAS)

And for the follow on series UNLEASHED, I’ve added:

  • Another special operative (ex SAS)
  • A successful stage and up close magician
  • Assorted Irish people
PSC

Peter Clifford

…and probably many more. Research is one of my favourite things. I love getting to meet people who are happy to tell me or show me stuff I need to know to make my books make better sense. Bristol illusionist par excellence, Peter Clifford, was a particular treat. In a Bristol café he did proper close up magic just for me! He made coins, clenched in my fist, vanish without trace. He did things with rubber bands that defy all logical explanation. http://www.peterclifford.me.uk/ will tell you a bit more – but not that much more.

To be honest, though, I felt a little guilty. For UNLEASHED: Trick Or Truth – a story featuring Spook Williams, one of my favourite but less pleasant characters – the magician I invented was the opposite of Peter. Brash, cheesy, over the top and contemptuous of his audience.

Really good magicians like Peter, and Derren Brown (who happens to be one of Peter’s best friends) are not at all contemptuous of their audience. They hugely enjoy imparting amazement, delight and that child-like sense of wonder we can still find in ourselves even when we’re properly grown up. They want to involve the audience, not make idiots of them.

I wasn’t really into magic much before going out to research for Trick Or Truth but now I love it. I’ve seen Peter’s show a couple of times and Derren Brown’s live Svengali show too. I don’t really waste too much time trying to pick all the tricks and illusions apart. I enjoy them as if they were ‘real’ magic and revel in the brilliance of the person, or often the team, that has made this astonishing theatre happen.

I would love to be able to do it myself but one of those fake nails through my finger is probably as clever as I’ll ever get.

Spook Williams, of course, needs no help at all. He is the REAL deal. A COLA illusionist who can make you see anything he wants you to see, so convincingly that he could bring you to your knees. And just with the blink of an eye.

Couple that with an arrogant and conceited personality and you have all the makings of a monster. But will Spook turn out to be a monster after his adventure in the Mediterranean? Living a life of luxury aboard a millionaire’s yacht and moving among the champagne swilling beautiful people of St Tropez, will Spook’s ego lead him into pulling off a daring heist?

UNLEASHED: Trick Or Truth is out now…so you can find out for yourself!

UNLEASHED TRICK OR TRUTH

ali

Ali Sparkes grew up in Southampton and despite some exciting months in London and even more exciting months in Lowestoft (where she really experienced life on the edge), still lives in Southampton today, with her husband and two sons.

She has worked as a singer, journalist, broadcaster, magazine editor and the spangle-clad assistant to a juggling unicyclist (frighteningly, there is photographic proof).

Ali has many children’s fiction titles published by Oxford University Press including her SWITCH series, her award-winning novel Frozen in Time, and her heart-stopping new adventure series about a group of teenagers with special powers, Unleashed.

Visit Ali’s website

Follow Ali Sparkes on Twitter

The problem with superpowers . . .

What would your perfect superpower be? Ali Sparkes shares hers . . .

ali

Fly? Be invisible? Able to spit acid? Or control other people’s bowel movements..?

I get asked a lot about the superpower I would choose if I could have one, so I’ve given it a lot of thought.

Most people fancy flying or telekinesis (being able to move things with the power of your mind) but hmmmm, I’m not so sure. They both seem like the kind of powers you’d be chucked in a concrete bunker for possessing . . .

If you want a nice life you really need to go for a superpower which won’t freak people out too much. Like . . . Instant Buns. You just stare hard at an empty plate and . . . fwip fwip fwip. . . a plateful of hot buns! Brilliant! Everyone would be your friend, especially if you could do assorted types of buns. And you would never go hungry and could set up your own bun shop with very low overheads.

buns

*sigh* I can see I’m not getting you excited. Hungry, maybe, but not excited.

OK – so how about the power to SILENCE those really annoying continuity announcers who shout STUPID, OVEREXCITED THINGS over the emotionally charged music at the end of the brilliant film you’ve just given two hours of your life to?

You know what I mean. End of amazing and slightly sad movie . . . music swells . . . we’re left with a retreating view of mountains at sunset . . . and. . .

HEY! Don’t forget to stay tuned for news of KATIE PRICE’S latest boob job on KATIE, KATIE, OH DEAR GOD IT’S EVEN MORE KATIE! – right after the break!

I mean, yes, there’s the MUTE button but then you lose all the music and the atmos too.

So. . . SUPER-INSTANT-AUDIO-EDIT-POWER anybody?

No?

How about it instantly turns the continuity announcer into a bowl of jelly at the same time? Yeah?

But that would be unkind. After all, they’ve got to earn a living somehow. It can’t be easy in that little cupboard. They probably secretly yearn to be doing the news on the BBC . . .

When I came up with the assorted superpowers for the COLAs in the Shapeshifter series. . . and now again in Unleashed . . . I knew that most of them were going to be troublesome. The worst is poor Mia’s power – being able to heal people. Imagine that. Imagine if you really could. It would be the most amazing thing but also the most terrible. You would forever feel it was your duty to be helping save people, just because you could – even though it cost you so much in energy and time and made you weak and ill if you overdid it. You’d be surrounded by the sick and ill, all desperate to use your gift. Your life would not be your own. You would really HAVE to keep that power secret.

And of course, telekinesis – as Luke and Gideon find out yet again in their brand new adventure out this month (Unleashed: Mind Over Matter) – is a whole bundle of problems once it gets out. Their talent for moving things with their minds is so amazing and so scary that they end up going everywhere with government minders, like the royal family! I’d hate that.

So, every time, I decide it’s got to be Dax’s power of Shapeshifting. Into animals which are not remarkable in the UK. Dax can fly, swim, run, scent danger and see 20 times better than in his human form whenever he’s shapeshifted. He can look after himself and his friends with his hunting skills and escape all kinds of danger.

And then he can become human again and seem very normal. Perfect!

Yup. Shapeshifting for me and before you ask, yes – to the same forms that Dax shifts to. I’ve thought about this, remember?

How about you? Would an amazing superpower really be worth the loss of anonymity – or the normality among your friends and family? Would the responsibility of it flatten you? Would enemies forever come after you? Would your own people for ever want to use you for their personal gain..?

Come on. Admit it. You’re weighing up Instant Buns again now, aren’t you?

ali

Ali Sparkes grew up in Southampton and despite some exciting months in London and even more exciting months in Lowestoft (where she really experienced life on the edge), still lives in Southampton today, with her husband and two sons.

She has worked as a singer, journalist, broadcaster, magazine editor and the spangle-clad assistant to a juggling unicyclist (frighteningly, there is photographic proof).

Ali has many children’s fiction titles published by Oxford University Press including her SWITCH series, her award-winning novel Frozen in Time, and her heart-stopping new adventure series about a group of teenagers with special powers, Unleashed.

Visit Ali’s website
Follow Ali Sparkes on Twitter

9780192756077_UNLEASHED_MIND_OVER_MATTER_CVR_MAR12

Unleashed: Mind Over Matter is out now. Unleashed: Trick or Truth and Unleashed: A Life and Death Job will be published in April and August this year, with further Unleashed titles due for release in 2014.

Unleashed_series

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