Carter Roy, an Interview
(conducted by Jack Dawkins, Esq.)
[This interview was originally conducted for the Scholastic UK publication of The Blood Guard. Due to space considerations, it was shortened ... though perhaps not nearly enough. For better or worse, it appears here in full. —The Editors.]
Dawkins: First, a word about our setting. For this interview, my subject chose a café, of all places. Now, don’t get me wrong: I love coffee. It’s the water of life for someone such as myself. But most cafes don’t serve anything like a proper meal, just tarts and scones and cookies and piles of sugary things that are woefully inadequate to fill the belly of one such as I, a man of taste, a gourmand, a—
Roy: Are you seriously going to jabber on about cookies?
Dawkins: No need to get so melodramatic. If you’re pressed for time, we can start the interview proper. Now let me just find my questions. [shuffling of papers] Now, let’s start with your height. You’re a giant teetering monster of a person, aren’t you?
Roy: I’m six foot four. That’s hardly monstrous.
Dawkins: No, but it’s not your height alone that seems, er, otherworldly. Perhaps it’s your fishy pallor, or those enormous ears of yours.
Roy: How about I tell you where the idea for The Blood Guard came from?
Dawkins: Oh, I see! You mean your strange insistence that you came up with this story from whole cloth. Not that you, say, were a mere, mean instrument to record the true-life adventures of my friend Ronan Truelove.
Roy: Yes. That is what I’m saying.
Dawkins: So tell me then, Mr. Roy, where did you get the idea for this story of yours?
Roy: Like so many other ideas, it came from reading books. I came across a few paragraphs in a novel by the YA author Carol Matas about the tsadkikim, these thirty-six pure souls whose existence on earth redeems the sorry lives of the rest of us.
Dawkins: So in this other novel, was there a group like the Blood Guard?
Roy: Oh, no—not at all. That novel was about a small Hasidic community split apart by a court case. No, the Blood Guard came from me. I liked the idea of the thirty-six, but then I thought, but what would happen if those people were all taken out of commission? Would the world be in danger of ending? And if so, how could you stop that from happening? Clearly, these thirty-six pure souls would have to be guarded. But by whom? Some sort of secret military order, I decided. And who would those people be?
Dawkins: I bet they would be brave, fearless, dashingly handsome sorts! Selfless heroes! Ones with an appetite for real grub, though I have to say, this pumpkin-vanilla scone is surprisingly tasty.
Roy: Anyway, I read that novel back in the mid-nineties. A long time ago. All that time, I kept the notion of the thirty-six and their protectors stashed in my idea folder and took it out every now and then, turned it over a bit, tinkered with it, and then put it away. Until one day, a writer friend of mine said something about a character’s mother being the most dangerous woman on the planet. That sounded to me about how a kid would talk about his mom after she revealed her role in the Blood Guard. And once I had Ronan’s viewpoint in my head, the rest of the story came together.
Dawkins: So I take it you’re a reader? That might explain your pale, pale, pale complexion.
Roy: I am not freakishly pale. It’s winter. Of course I don’t have a tan. I’d like to point out that you don’t have much color, either.
Anyway, yes, I am a big reader. Always have been. Books, I like to say, saved my life. I’m the youngest of five children who grew up in tough circumstances. Books and novels opened up a bigger world to me, gave me room to imagine a different life for myself. They filled in the holes of my childhood. My mom saw that I liked to read, so she made sure that I always had something near to hand.
Dawkins: Yes, yes, yes, very inspiring life story and all that. Reminds me a bit of a novel called Matilda.
My other favorite authors were Edward Eager, who wrote witty light fantasies such as Half Magic and its sequels. In those novels, he always has a very deliberate tip of the hat to the writer he called “the master,” E. Nesbit. She, too, was one of my childhood favorites. In the United States, one of her novels is called Five Children and It and in the UK is called The Psammead, but whatever you call it, it is fantastic—fun and funny and just dizzyingly smart. I also loved the novels of Beverly Cleary (I must have read The Mouse and the Motorcycle forty times), Bertrand Brinley’s Mad Scientist’s Club books, and a lot of series fiction.
More modern favorites are Philip Pullman, E.L. Konigsburg, William Gibson, Alice Munro—really, I could go on for pages about favorite writers.
Dawkins: I am afraid of precisely that— So let’s just change the subject before you go on more about books. How about we talk about movies? Sometimes reading The Blood Guard feels vaguely like watching a movie. Car chases! Sword fights! Was that deliberate?
Roy: I love movies. That was my other great passion from childhood, and I made many short films as a kid. One of them, a Claymation super-8 short called The Bionic Mouse, won the California Student Film Festival. So naturally, when it was time to go to college, I went to film school.
Dawkins: Shouldn’t you be making movies, then?
Roy: A good question. I guess I just got distracted.
Dawkins: I ask again: why all the chase scenes in the book?
Roy: I sort of see the whole novel as one long chase, with little breaks for comedy, character, and plot. I like how, in a story, when a character is being pursued, there isn’t time to figure out what’s happening. First the character has to save his skin, and then he can worry about why someone is after him. It just propels the storytelling and turns it into a breakneck thrill ride. Or at least, I hope that’s what it does.
When I think of movies that do this—North by Northwest or The Bourne Identity or a great Frankenheimer movie called Ronin—I remember being on the edge of my seat wondering about the why of the story even as I was reeling from the action. So I put together The Blood Guard in much the same way.
Dawkins: And your ideal getaway vehicle? Should, say, this interview end in some sort of hot-blooded pursuit by a pack of nasty sword-wielding folks?
Roy: Do you know something I don’t? [Laughs nervously]
A scene from the dramatic climax of The Bionic Mouse