It’s my stop on the Spylark Blog Tour, and I am delighted to be welcoming Danny to the blog today to talk flying, drones and personal journeys.
Learning to fly with the RAF in the Cambridge University Air Squadron gave me an appreciation of what Jim Rothwell – the main protagonist Tom’s mentor character – calls the ‘extraordinary privilege of flight’. What he means by that is simply that you can see things, and notice things from the air that you can’t from the ground. From the air ordinary things take on a different perspective. This gives flying great potential as a narrative device, especially in a Middle Grade action adventure story.
The problem is that 13 year old boys can’t generally fly planes.
The solution in Spylark is drones. Drones offer what I think is a unique narrative point of view. They allow Tom to soar, like a bird, over the peaks and islands of his Lake District setting, and because of the tight third person point of view I stuck to in writing the book, the reader flies with him. But he does all of that, unseen, from the safety and anonymity of his garden shed. He can literally be in two places at once. His drone, Skylark, is the perfect device for spying. Hence the title!
Exploiting drones for this story-telling purpose (which, as far as I am aware, had never been done before), is what excited me most about writing Spylark. Fantasy, an omniscient narrator, and even science fiction can all easily enable someone to be in two places at once, to switch the protagonist’s point of view between locations instantly, and to view another character’s actions without them knowing he or she is watching. The beauty of drones, however, is that you can do all that in the real world, from a single character’s point of view. Not only did this give me a unique and original narrative tool to play with, but for the main character, Tom Hopkins, it opened up his life to an entirely new world.
However, there is one piece of information, only gradually revealed to the reader, that makes this ability paramount to the story. The main character, Tom, by nature a physically adventurous out-door loving teenager, has suffered a horrific accident a few years earlier and is now disabled and walks with a severe limp, with the help of a stick. While his flying therefore helps Tom overcome his mobility issues and enables him to catch the criminals and end up the hero in the best traditions of the genre, it is also connected to his inner journey as he faces up to the emotional scars and fears of the past. If there is a lesson to be leant from the adventure it is that it will take more than machines to heal this internal damage before the story can come to an end.
SPYLARK by Danny Rurlander is out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)
Huge thanks to Laura and Chicken House for inviting me to take part in the Spylark Blog Tour. Do make sure you check out all of the other stops, and read my review here.