Book Nerd Interview
William Campbell Powell was born in 1958 in Sheffield, but grew up in and around Birmingham. He was educated at King Edward’s School, Birmingham, and gained a scholarship to Clare College, Cambridge to study Natural Sciences. Leaving Clare College in 1980 with a BA in Computer Science, he entered the computer industry, which is where he has been ever since.
William has been writing since 2002, experimenting with various genres, but he is most at home with Science Fiction, Historical Fiction and fiction for Young Adults.
Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
As a youth? – no, I don’t think I wanted to invent the future in that sense – I wanted to be a scientist, and create the future. There was a brief flirtation with writing when I was 15 or so, when one particular English teacher inspired me to creativity, but then I discovered computers. The urge to write got buried as I discovered the realm of programming, FORTRAN and punched cards and mainframes the size a bank of freezers in Wal-Mart. It finally resurfaced about fifteen years ago, when I started reading stories for my children, and fell in love with literature again.
What was your first introduction to YA literature, the one that made you choose that genre to write?
If you discount the juvenile Science Fiction of (say) Robert Heinlein (which I greatly admire, especially Podkayne of Mars), which is a very different beast to modern YA, then it would be the work of Howard Whitehouse, my friend and encourager since we were both 11 years old. I’d been dabbling in writing, and mentioned it to Howard, who I knew was also writing stories. At the time I was writing entirely for an adult audience, but I read his novel “The Strictest School in the World”, which was then still in draft, and that opened my eyes to the possibilities of writing for a teenage audience.
That said, I didn’t write Expiration Day as a pure YA novel – the original was much longer and went far into Tania’s adult life. But (my editor) Susan Chang and I settled on the current timespan, pitching the novel more at the YA market, rather than the All-age market I’d originally hoped to hit.
Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of your genre?
If you asked me which one book would I rescue if my house was burning down, I’d probably choose my battered old copy of Alice in Wonderland, but that would be for entirely sentimental reasons. (Actually, you’d find a pile of rescued books on the lawn, and my burned corpse clutching a final armful.)
On the other hand, the book I’d take with me to a desert island (other than the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare) is probably Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine. Ray Bradbury’s writing is astonishing in its poetry, its ability to show you the world through a thousand different pairs of eyes. Dandelion Wine is a fountain-of-youth novel, to teach the old what it is like to be young again.
Outside of my genre? I’m not sure if I’m a YA writer or an SF writer, so maybe Ray Bradbury lets me hedge my bets there. But I think I’d pick The Book Thief, which is definitely outside both genres. It’s a beautiful journey of a book, told in a handful of thefts. I was really worried when I saw they were making a film of it that they’d Hollywoodise it and kill it. I was mostly wrong. There were a few liberties with the text, but I think they captured the spirit of the book really well.
In your book; Expiration Day, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it?
It came out of nowhere, about 8 years ago, with the idea of a little girl, Tania, growing up and feeling very much alone (I initially titled the book “A Child Alone”) because all the other children weren’t proper children, but robots. Why are all the other children robots, I wondered. Because humans mostly can’t have children, so they raise robots (child-androids, which I called Teknoids) as substitutes. Spoiler Alert! And of course Tania doesn’t realise she’s an android until she suffers an accident, and then her cosy world disintegrates. She discovers that she is property and her days are very much numbered. Nevertheless, she persists in her illusion, following her urges to create music and drama, to discover friendship and even to fall in love.
For those who are unfamiliar with Tania, how would you introduce her?
She’s precocious, ambitious, unwilling to be put in a box (both literally and metaphorically). She can be jealous, selfish and tactless, but also vulnerable and caring. She’s also a bit afraid to take risks. But she can play bass guitar fit to make a stone cry, and her poetry isn’t bad, either.
If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I think I’d introduce Tania’s “father”, Michael Deeley, to Sherlock Holmes. There’s quite a keen brain in Reverend Deeley’s head, and I rather fancy that with a bit of guidance from the master detective, he could become something of a sleuth in his own right.
When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
“How many books have you just bought?”
“Oh just one or two…”
What's the most memorable summer job you've ever had?
When all my school friends were working in holiday camps, or on a Kibbutz, or in hospitals in India, all my summer jobs were working as a computer operator or as a programmer. Of course, I could claim I was actually an ophidiophobic archaeologist, specialising in discovering lost arks. But I already used up my lie on the last question. Three books. Maybe four. Five at most…
Who was your first girlfriend?
There was one girl I saw at the bus stop every day for about 3 years, witty and attractive, who was the first to catch my eye. We’d chat a bit and I changed my route home so I could walk with her past her door, but that was as much as ever happened between us.
The first girlfriend where the attraction was total and mutual was the girl who is now my wife, Avis.
Tell me about your first kiss
Oh, look, here’s another book. Is that six? Well, would you believe it?
In my youth we had “snogging parties”, where a small number of boys and the same number of girls were invited. The lights would be low, someone would put a Pink Floyd record on, and the already-established couples would find the sofas and start kissing. In about sixty seconds, the boys and girls who knew what was going on would grab attractive looking partners and find the cushions. I wasn’t quite the last to work out what was happening, but I got the rug by the fire and the girl my then-best friend had his eye on.
When was the last time you cried?
The last reel of The Book Thief.
What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a teenager?
I’m pretty happy with decade I was a teenager – the 1970s – but I think that the teenagers of the 1960s possibly had it better, gig-wise, with bands like the Rolling Stones and Cream at their creative peak.
What is your greatest adventure?
That has to be the time I went sailing in the Mediterranean with some friends, returning from Sardinia to Corsica, across the Straits of Bonifacio, in a small yacht, a 30- or 35-footer. We set off in a Force 4, which rather quickly turned into a Force 7. Not quite a gale, but the waves were well taller than the mast from trough to peak, and when the yacht was on a crest, it looked like an awfully big roller coaster down into the trough and up the next wave to catch the wind again on the crest.
Unfortunately, there’s no predicting whom seasickness will strike, and I found myself unexpectedly alone at the helm, not totally inexperienced, but with no immediate backup either.
No, this isn’t about “saving” everybody. We probably weren’t in that much danger, really, and I’m sure one of the others could have mastered his seasickness to help if I’d needed it. The point is that it truly was an adventure, enjoying the pitting of my skill and feel of what the boat, the wind and the waves were doing, judging the moment to turn the helm towards the wind or away from it, feeling the power of the wind, and knowing that I had the measure of it.
And the most beautiful sight in the world is the narrow passage between the cliffs that guard the port of Bonifacio.
Top Ten List - Things you would change about your high school years if you could go back in time.
#1 don’t sing quietly when you have a voice test. I got an A for pitch but a C for volume, purely because I was shy, so the choirmaster lost interest in me. So later, when I was at Clare College, I didn’t join the choir there, and missed out on working with the wonderful John Rutter.
#2 do learn to read music, and possibly learn to play keyboards.
#3 don’t do cross country running. If signing a pact in your own blood is the price, it really might be worth it
#4 do go to more gigs. Birmingham had a fantastic Pub Rock scene and I didn’t see but a tenth of it
#5 don’t go on canal trips with the scouts. Or if you do, keep a lookout when going under bridges. I was lucky, getting squashed but not crushed.
#6 don’t drink water from a stream with a dead sheep in it. The whole scout group did that, and we were sick and had the runs for days
#7 don’t call your friends by their surnames. They’re your friends, not your bank manager
#8 don’t do technical drawing. The technical drawing master is called Mad Jock for a good reason. Two good reasons, actually.
#9 don’t set your sights too low at drama auditions. You can do better than second bug in The Insect Play.
#10 do be more curious. Ask yourself if there might be a reason why some of your friends spend so much time by the fence separating us from the girls school next
What happens when you turn eighteen and there are no more tomorrows?
It is the year 2049, and humanity is on the brink of extinction….
Tania Deeley has always been told that she’s a rarity: a human child in a world where most children are sophisticated androids manufactured by Oxted Corporation. When a decline in global fertility ensued, it was the creation of these near-perfect human copies called teknoids that helped to prevent the utter collapse of society.
Though she has always been aware of the existence of teknoids, it is not until her first day at The Lady Maud High School for Girls that Tania realizes that her best friend, Siân, may be one. Returning home from the summer holiday, she is shocked by how much Siân has changed. Is it possible that these changes were engineered by Oxted? And if Siân could be a teknoid, how many others in Tania’s life are not real?
Driven by the need to understand what sets teknoids apart from their human counterparts, Tania begins to seek answers. But time is running out. For everyone knows that on their eighteenth “birthdays,” teknoids must be returned to Oxted—never to be heard from again.
You can purchase Expiration Day at the following Retailers:
And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you William and Tor Teen for making this giveaway possible.
3 Winners will receive a Copy of Expiration Day+Tor Teen Bag by William Campbell Powell.
April 22nd Tuesday: Nerdophiles Review & Guest Post
April 23rd Wednesday: Once Upon a Twilight Review & Spotlight
April 24th Thursday: Bittersweet Enchantment Review & Music Playlist
April 25th Friday: Bookish Review & Dream Cast
April 26th Saturday: The Reader Lines 5 Random Things & Spotlight
April 27th Sunday: Literary Meanderings Interview & Spotlight
April 28th Monday: Swoony Boys Podcast Review & Interview
April 29th Tuesday: TTC Books and More Books Review & Interview
April 30th Wednesday: Insane About Books Review & Spotlight
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