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I Belong


Guest Author: A. Gordon Smith (Guest Post & Giveaway)

Please join me in welcoming author Alexander Gordon Smith here today to Dark Faerie Tales.  The first two books in his Escape From Furnace series, Lockdown and Solitary, have already been released.  The third book in the series will be Death Sentence.  Click on the links to read an excerpt from Lockdown and Solitary.

One lucky commenter has a chance to win a copy of Lockdown and Solitary.  Details are listed at the end of the post.

Author Bio:

Alexander Gordon Smith was born on February 27th, 1979, in the now demolished Norwich and Norfolk Hospital (the demolition had nothing to do with him, although he was a big baby). He moved houses several times while he was a kid, although never straying more than twenty miles from where he was born.

Gordon always wanted to be a writer. He wrote stories all the time when he was young, dreaming up characters as complex and emotionally engaging as Super Carrot.
After experimenting in the service and retail trades for a few years, Gordon decided to go to University. He studied English and American Literature at the University of East Anglia which, as you may have guessed, is in Norwich.  More importantly, however, it was at the UEA that Gordon explored his love of publishing. Along with Luke Wright, a poet who was in the midst of setting up now-legendary performance group Aisle16, he founded the Egg Box Magazine, a groundbreaking new magazine for fiction and poetry. Funded by his student loan, the magazine was a huge success, and profits from the first three issues helped pay for the newly created Egg Box Publishing’s first poetry collection, The Zoo Keeper by Richard Evans. The following year Egg Box published Come What You Wished For by Ramona Herdman. Both of these first collections were Highly Commended by the Forward Prize and firmly secured the company’s reputation for publishing bold and talented newcomers. Several years later, Gordon stepped aside to let long-time friend, poet and publisher Nathan Hamilton into the captain’s chair.  Parallel to running Egg Box, Gordon also set up an editorial company called Box of Words. Gordon wrote literally hundreds of articles, short stories and books ranging from Scooby Doo comic strips to world atlases, Midsomer Murders to X-Files. It was a tough few years of silly hours and constant writer’s cramp, but he loved it. Most importantly, the endless research led to countless book ideas germinating in his head.

It was a dream, however, which led to his big break. In the summer of 2005 he woke one morning with the striking image of two young inventors running away from an evil genius. He started writing the story that very morning, with the help of his nine-year-old brother Jamie, and some weeks later they had finished their first novel, called The Inventors. The manuscript came second in the Wow Factor competition, run by Faber and Waterstones, and Faber published it in the UK in April 2007.

The sequel, The Inventors and the City of Stolen Souls, was published in the UK in June 2008, and Gordon decided to fold up Box of Words and spend the rest of his life writing books.


Welcome Gordon!

It’s often difficult to pinpoint exactly where the inspiration for any book comes from. But I guess with Furnace: Lockdown it can be boiled down to one truth:

Alex Sawyer is Alexander Gordon Smith. Or at least he’s the person I could have become.

In the first draft, Alex (the main character) didn’t have the name Sawyer, he had the name Smith. And it wasn’t just my name he shared – in many ways he was me, with the same loves, the same fears, the same insecurities. I never set out to write a book with myself as the main character, but as soon as Alex took life on the page I realized that he was one version of the teenager I had been. He was me, but a me that had never been allowed to exist. And his story, his horrific ordeal in Furnace, was a parallel version of my history that, fortunately, was never written in reality.

This makes more sense when you know what kind of character Alex is. He’s no hero, not the conventional kind anyway. He’s the bad guy, a school bully who robs kids of cash so he can buy himself new trainers, new bikes, new computers. He’s a burglar too, the kind of person who would steal a wedding ring from a lonely old woman so he can play the latest computer games. He knows he’s in the wrong, but this only makes his behavior worse: there’s nothing innocent about Alex’s criminality, he does it because he consciously buries those bad feelings so deep that they can never rear their ugly heads.

Now, I was never as bad as Alex when I was a kid, but for a while I could have been. I remember all too well that lure of easy money – the desire to control at least one thing at a time when it feels as though your life is spiraling into chaos around you. I never robbed a house, but I was a thief: I stole money from my Mum and Dad, never more than ten or twenty quid at a time, but I stole other stuff too, things I could sell. Sentimental things. Things I knew I could never get back. Those same horrible feelings clawed their way through my gut every time I betrayed someone I loved, but like Alex I knew how to force them down, so deep inside me I could pretend they weren’t there at all.

And it got worse, too. I began hanging out at a biker bar, drinking lots, absorbing hours of heavy metal then letting it all out of my system in drunken scraps. I wasn’t a bully like Alex – I never picked a fight with anyone – but I was just as lost as him. And with each bloody nose and lost tooth I found my grasp on life, on myself, slipping away a little bit more. I hated it, but it was fast becoming who I was – without it, I faced the far greater fear of being nothing at all. And when you’re that age, absence is so much worse than substance, even when that substance has begun to rot.

I don’t know how bad it could have become. I’m guessing it never would have gone too far – I had the best family in the world, a safety net that was always there for me no matter how bad my behavior became. Maybe that’s why I felt I could get away with it – I knew I could never lose myself completely. After I’d failed my A-Levels (not just because of my behavior, I should say, I’d also written my first novel and assumed I wouldn’t need qualifications as a famous writer!) I calmed down. I started to uncover some of those buried emotions – the guilt, the loathing, the shame – and only by confronting them and coming to terms with what I could have become did I truly realize what I wanted to be.

The Alex in Furnace has the same realization, but in his version of history there is no escape. In his version of history there is the Furnace Penitentiary. Alex Sawyer is punished for the crimes that I committed, he suffers the worst fate that I could have imagined for myself when I was a teenager. This is why the events that take place in Furnace feel so real. When I was writing the book, Alex wasn’t just a character – he was me and I was him. I had to do everything in my power to try and find a way out, because if he couldn’t escape, then neither could I. Our lives may have taken different paths, but for as long as Alex was buried alive in the guts of the world we were one and the same again. His actions were mine, his terror was mine, the friends he made were my friends, the pain he felt was pain I felt too. And, most importantly, we were making a break for freedom together.

Being a writer sometimes means you have all the power in the world – in the world of your story, that is. But with Furnace I felt just as powerless as Alex. I didn’t plot the books, the story just unfolded, sometimes in a way that I never could have predicted. And there were many times when I had no idea how a scene would turn out, whether or not Alex would even survive. During these periods I felt that the pages of the manuscript were a mirror backed up against some impossible inter-dimensional void; the words on the page bars, through which I saw myself fighting tooth and nail just to stay alive. It was the same feeling I had when I was a teenager, wanting to be free but unable to control the chaotic world around me, unable to find a way out of the depths to the light and air on the surface.

I didn’t know what would happen to Alex over the course of the series, but I knew one thing: I would be there with him until the end. There’s no way I could abandon him in the pit of Furnace Penitentiary. Everything he went through, I went through too, and when he changed – and he does change, so much, over the course of each book – so did I. His life is mine, and mine is his. And if I ever need a reminder of that I only have to read back over this piece of writing and notice how similar it is to Alex’s. That was unintentional, but I guess it was also inevitable when you not only become close to your character, but have always been him.

About Lockdown:

Furnace Penitentiary: the world’s most secure prison for young offenders, buried a mile beneath the earth’s surface. Convicted of a murder he didn’t commit, sentenced to life without parole, “new fish” Alex Sawyer knows he has two choices: find a way out, or resign himself to a death behind bars, in the darkness at the bottom of the world. Except in Furnace, death is the least of his worries. Soon Alex discovers that the prison is a place of pure evil, where inhuman creatures in gas masks stalk the corridors at night, where giants in black suits drag screaming inmates into the shadows, where deformed beasts can be heard howling from the blood-drenched tunnels below. And behind everything is the mysterious, all-powerful warden, a man as cruel and dangerous as the devil himself, whose unthinkable acts have consequences that stretch far beyond the walls of the prison.Together with a bunch of inmates—some innocent kids who have been framed, others cold-blooded killers—Alex plans an escape. But as he starts to uncover the truth about Furnace’s deeper, darker purpose, Alex’s actions grow ever more dangerous, and he must risk everything to expose this nightmare that’s hidden from the eyes of the world.

You can visit Gordon around the web here: Website | Blog

GIVEAWAY GUIDELINES:

One lucky commenter will have a chance to win a copy of Lockdown and Solitary.

To enter, leave a comment below answering the following question:

Have you ever read (or written) a character so similar to you that it changed the way you viewed yourself?

1. +1 entry for answering the question (required).

2. +2 entries for becoming a follower of this blog and Dark Faerie Tales on Twitter.

3. +3 entries for tweeting about this contest, blogging about it, linking via your sidebar etc…(please tell me where!).

4. Giveaway is open to U.S. and Canada residents only.

5. Please include your email address in your comment.

6. Giveaway ends Wednesday, February 23rd at 11:59 PM EST.

7. The winner will be picked with the help of Random.org.


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27 Responses to “Guest Author: A. Gordon Smith (Guest Post & Giveaway)

  1. RickiNo Gravatar
    1

    I can honestly say that I have never read a character similar to me – that would be too freaky.
    rickimc[at]aol[dot]com

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  2. Kristen My Bookish Fairy TaleNo Gravatar
    2

    I think that I always find a little bit of myself in a lot of the characters that I read.. I don’t know if it’s because the traits are similar or because I like to submerge myself into the stories so much. Im not sure lol!

    moc.liamtohnull@lrugybab_netsirk

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  3. LunamothNo Gravatar
    3

    i think i find myself looking for traits that i want from charactors rather then me finding my own in them.

    trancespiderx(at)gmail.com

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  4. Rabid FoxNo Gravatar
    4

    +1 I have never, so far as I recall, read or written a character that similar to me. I may be dishonest with myself, or been fortunate to avoid a character that boring. :)

    +2 I follow on Twitter (@wagthefox) and on GFC.

    +3 Retweeted a link to this post: http://twitter.com/#!/WagTheFox/status/35372356436361216 and I added a link to the sidebar of my blog: http://waggingthefox.blogspot.com

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  5. Lexie HNo Gravatar
    5

    +1 I don’t have one specific character that is just like me but there is usually at least one trait that the characters have that I can totally relate to. And it definitely makes me think about my own traits.
    +2 GFC follower (Lexie@BookBug) and Twitter follower (@LexieBookBug)
    +3 Tweeted at http://twitter.com/#!/LexieBookBug/status/35379713383866368
    lexie.bookbug(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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  6. Karen WapinskiNo Gravatar
    6

    + I once wrote a character (Jade) that I didn’t realize was me but a few years later when I was looking back on stories I’d written as a teenager it was so obvious that her head was where mine had been that I’m amazed I didn’t realize I was obviously writing about myself. Weird.

    + 2 Follower on Twitter
    + 3 Tweeted (http://twitter.com/Parakiss25)

    faefever25 AT hotmail DOT com

    Good luck to everyone :D

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  7. FredaNo Gravatar
    7

    No, unfortunately I haven’t felt THAT connected. I have noticed some things about myself, and made changes but not so much on connectivity.

    freda.mans[at]gmail.com

    +2 follow blog and twitter
    +3 tweet; http://twitter.com/#!/fredalicious/status/35427204410118144

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  8. VivienNo Gravatar
    8

    +1 I have read very similar characters to myself, but in the end there is always something a little different. There are so many aspects to our personalities it would be difficult to find one that matches yourself. Of course, this may just be all in my head and we have absolutely nothing in common lol.
    +2 just a GFC follower
    +3 spread here
    http://www.goodreads.com/event/show/108564-gordon-smith-giveaway

    Vivien
    deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

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  9. Ammy BelleNo Gravatar
    9

    Thanks for the guest post! These two books have caught my attention and been fermenting on my book buying list for a month or so, and I would relish the chance to win them! I really liked the synopsis and it looks like I will have fun with it.

    As to the question, I have read many characters that remind me of myself – Jane Eyre being a glaring example, and when I write, I tend to write in a character that I see myself in – right now, that character is Luna in my series. I do it almost unconsciously I think, because of that need to explore a particular facet of my personality.

    Anyways, thanks again!
    apereiraorama[at]gmail[dot]com

    Am a follower.

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  10. KarenNo Gravatar
    10

    Yes sometimes I see a character so similar, that I begin to follow their same thought pattern, and take a critical view of the things I do. I guess I’m naturally a introspective person, so whenever I meet/read people that seem similar to me, I observe and learn?

    Following!

    blissfulrains(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  11. Katie @ Novel SocietyNo Gravatar
    11

    I don’t think I have, I’ve seen some similarities but not enough to freak me out, maybe like one or two things but that it.

    +2 I am a follower here (GFC- Katie) and on Twitter (@GirlyKat)

    +3 for tweeting: http://twitter.com/#!/GirlyKat/status/35484387847966720

    Total= 6 entries

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  12. KristyNo Gravatar
    12

    I think I see a little of me in a lot of different characters. I haven’t found any that are creepily similar, though…

    kristy[at]dreamingbyday[dot]com

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  13. StephanieNo Gravatar
    13

    I have to say that I don’t think I have. Usually characters in books are a lot more outgoing. I have definitely wished to be more like the characters I read about though.
    +1 comment

    follower
    Stephanie
    thegirlonfire27 at gmail dot com

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  14. SerenaNo Gravatar
    14

    1. +1 I don’t think I’ve ever read a character that’s like me, but I do see characteristics in characters that I have.

    2. +2 already am :)

    anedia @ gmail.com

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  15. MissieNo Gravatar
    15

    I’m not a writer, but I think it is very interesting when an author can openly express part of himself/herself in their characters. And as Mr. Smith pointed out, making that break for freedom together added an emotional bond to the journey.

    I’ve definitely been able to see some identifying factors of myself in book characters. It enhances the reading experience for me every time.

    I’m a blog and twitter follower. Thanks.

    missie at theunreadreader.com

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  16. lulilutNo Gravatar
    16

    Thank for hosting the giveaway
    +1 I’ve read character I wish I were more like but I’ve never read one that I could have changed places with because we were so similiar. Some little detail is always there making the character and I different.
    To me, this makes the story interesting – the road not taken, etc.
    +2 I am a blog & twitter follower
    +3 Tweeted here:
    http://twitter.com/lulilut/status/35825059381641216
    d.septer at insightbb.com

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  17. Kimberly MaloneyNo Gravatar
    17

    +1 I wrote a short story a few years ago where the character was pretty much based on me, and it definitely made me look at myself from an outside perspective while writing about the character (Natalie)!
    +2 I’m a follower of your blog and on twitter (twitter.com/kdaze10)
    +3 I’m definitely going to retweet it!

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  18. Kimberly MaloneyNo Gravatar
    18

    +1 I wrote a short story a few years ago where the character was pretty much based on me, and it definitely made me look at myself from an outside perspective while writing about the character (Natalie)!
    +2 I’m a follower of your blog and on twitter (twitter.com/kdaze10)
    +3 I’m definitely going to retweet it!

    kimbers10[at]yahoo[dot]com

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  19. RobertaNo Gravatar
    19

    Oh WOW these books sound fantastic!!!

    I’ve yet to write a character like me (Yawn :)

    I am a new follower on this site, also on Twitter. I also tweeted about the contest @frobwalk.

    THX!

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  20. AprilNo Gravatar
    20

    Those books sound awesome. I don’t think I’ve ever really read about a character like me. Now I kinda of wish I had!

    +1 comment
    +2 follower on twitter (@csilibrarian)

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  21. Meredith MillerNo Gravatar
    21

    No, I haven’t read about a character that close to me!

    +1 comment
    +2 Twitter follower

    meredithfl at gmail dot com
    @tessaa99

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  22. CrystalNo Gravatar
    22

    No, I haven’t. But there are some I would love to be like!
    GFC & Twitter Follower
    moc.liamgnull@01seniwehtneewtebgnidaer

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  23. JessyNo Gravatar
    23

    +1-I don’t think I have ever read a character that is similar to me. I see some things in characters that are like me, but we are never fully alike.

    +2-Following here and twitter (@emma015)

    +3-Tweeted: http://twitter.com/Emma015/status/37515180573196288

    findjessyhere at gmail dot com

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  24. OrchidNo Gravatar
    24

    As far as I can remember I haven’t read a book with a character that was so like me. Thanks for the awesome contest they sound like great reads. ^_^

    GFC/Twitter follower (Orchid/HauntedOrchid)

    hauntingorchid (at) aol (dot) com

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  25. Jennelle SNo Gravatar
    25

    Thankfully I have not read a character too similar to me, since I think that would creep me out.

    jlynettes @ hotmail . com

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  26. Andrea INo Gravatar
    26

    No I’ve never read about a character similar to me. It would be freaky if I did.

    GFC follower & follow on twitter @lillieblue613

    Tweeted.
    http://twitter.com/lillieblue613/status/38751068523470848

    lillieblue613(at)gmail(dot)com

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  27. TinaNo Gravatar
    27

    I read Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta when I was a young teen and was surprised to find how much I connected with her character. It changed the way that I viewed myself because in seeing Francesca’s growth, I saw the potential for my own growth.

    +1 comment
    +2 follow

    melodiousrevelry (at) gmail (dot) com

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