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Last Updated: Thursday June 02 2005 16:04 GMT

Hotseat: Charlie Higson

Charlie Higson
Author Charlie Higson was at the famous book festival in Hay-on-Wye to chat about his book SilverFin.

It is the first in a series of five about James Bond as a teenager.

Newsround put your questions to him, about everything from 007 to reincarnation.

Jack, 11, Bedford and Edmund, 11, Nuneaton: Why did you choose to write about James Bond as a child?

Ian Fleming wrote the original novels about James Bond. I was approached by members of his family to write the book. They liked my ideas and what I wanted to do with the character of James as a teenager. Other writers including Anthony Horowitz were also approached but I think he was too committed with the Alex Rider novels. Also, I have three boys of my own, aged six, 10 and 12, and I wanted to write something they might enjoy.

Andy, 13, Sutton: How did you feel when the Ian Fleming Foundation said you could write about James Bond as a boy?

It was great! It's not the sort of job you get offered every day. It was brilliant. Originally I was asked to write one book but not the first one. I was in the middle of doing a TV series at the time and I thought of it as something I would do further down the line. The idea was that other authors would also write a book in the series but in the end I was asked to write all five of them.

Chantal, 14, Sevenoaks: When you first read Ian Fleming's novels did you wonder about what a prequel to the series might be like?

I was about 20 when I first read From Russia with Love. At the time I didn't think about Bond as a boy although I did fantasise about being James Bond in the films. But that isn't going to happen, even though I am the age now that Roger Moore was when he started playing Bond!

Megan, 11, Isle of Wight: How did it feel taking a really famous book character and almost making him your own?

At the time, I didn't realise what a big thing I'd taken on; I just enjoyed it as I was doing it. I read Ian Fleming's books and had an idea about the character of James in my head. The fun part was being able to make stuff up and say what his childhood might have been. Also, when you are writing a book, the main character is always part of yourself. I hope people can believe in him.

Brooke, 14, Broomall, PA, USA: How did you come up with the idea of using eels as an important part of the book?

Ian Fleming tells us that James' family come from Scotland so I sent him back to his roots in SilverFin. There is always a really nasty animal in Bond books and films such as sharks, crocodiles and snakes. But they have been done to death and there aren't very many sharks in Scotland. So I decided on eels. They are something kids can relate to without having to send James to the far flung corners of the world to find a dangerous creature. Also, my wife hates eels. They are slimy and horrible. In the book they are mutant killer eels - just to make them worse!

Dan, 14, MA, USA: How did you get the idea of creating Lord Randolph Hellebore?

I wanted to get away from villains who are disfigured. It's a cliché to have a baddie with a scarred face or a hook instead of a hand. It's also insulting to disabled people. I decided to make the villain so good looking he was scarily perfect. Randolf Hellebore is tough and strong with gleaming white teeth and a good head of hair.

Paul, 16, Auckland, New Zealand: Were you inspired by other writers of the teen adventure genre, for example Alex Rider, or did you rely solely on Ian Fleming's adult character for inspiration?

Alex Rider is very much a modern-day teenager. He's a spy, like James Bond from the films. But James Bond in the books is a bit different. I was relieved when I found out the books were going to be set in the 1930s because I'm terrible with gadgets! I wanted to write a tough adventure story about an ordinary kid getting involved in exciting adventures. I'd already read all of Ian Fleming's Bond books but I re-read them to glean more information during my research. There's not much information about James as a child in the books but, in You Only Live Twice, M thinks Bond has been killed on a mission and writes an obituary. This tells us a little bit about James' childhood.

Chris, 16, Cleveland, Ohio, USA: Is Double M still the working title for the second book or has a final title been selected?

Double M is still the working title. I quite like it as it combines the double from 007 and M , who is head of the British Secret Intelligence Service MI6. But the title's not considered racy enough. Double M (MM) refers to the symbol of a secret criminal society in the second book.

David, 14, Loxwood: Can you reveal anything about the next book?

It's mainly set in Sardinia. It contains pirates, bandits, art thieves and a shoot out in a cave; everything you could want from a James Bond book. James goes to Sardinia on a school archaeological trip. I wanted to set the second book somewhere reasonably exotic. James Bond is known for travelling to such places. But it had to be somewhere James could get to during the summer holidays. That's why I chose the Mediterranean. I didn't want to use somewhere overly familiar like Greece or Italy or Spain. People don't know much about Sardinia. It's an interesting island with a history of banditry. I've been there a few times and I really like it. I saw an artist's impression of a cave there. Inside are the remains of a Neolithic village. I thought it would make a great villain's lair. I visited the cave last week and it's not quite as exciting as the artists' impression but the whole island is covered in remains of monuments and towers from the past, built between 2,000 and 3,000 BC. It's a fantastic setting for an adventure.

William, 13, Cary, USA: Are you going to include anything in the next book like you did about Red Grant's father at the circus in SilverFin?

Silverfin by Charlie Higson
Red Grant is a villain in From Russia with Love. Ian Fleming tells us that his father is a strong man in a circus. In SilverFin. James sees The Mighty Donovan lifting weights with his teeth at the circus. Little does he know that years later he will get into a tangle with Donovan's son. I put it in there as a reference to the adult Bond books. There are a few bits like that in the second book which Bond fanatics will be able to pick out. For example, there is a suggestion as to why the number seven is significant in 007. There are many theories as to why Ian Fleming chose this number.

Mark, 15, Middlesbrough: When's the next book coming out?

It's coming out in January 2006.

Sone, London: Who would you like to see as the next James Bond?

Hugh Grant would make a really good James Bond. He's handsome, funny and has that English charm. He'd be very similar to Ian Fleming's idea of James Bond.

Amandeep, 14, Hitchin: Any plans for a young Bond film or series?

Perhaps further down the line. The plan is to get the books established first.

Sophie, 14, Inverness and Megan, 12, Nottingham: Is it true that if SilverFin is made into a film, Orlando Bloom will be playing James?

No. That rumour went round because we signed in America with Miramax books and people thought it was Miramax films. Then somebody suggested Orlando Bloom for the role of James and the rumour spread. I can't imagine him playing a 13-year-old boy. It's tricky finding an actor of that age who would have the suave appeal of Sean Connery or Pierce Brosnan. He would have to be good looking, cool, tough and posh.

Bob, 12, Felixstowe: What do you think makes a good novel for teenagers?

When I was a teenager, I hated reading about ordinary people or anything to do with my own life. I used to love reading stuff which takes you to a different place. Books should make you think about things and open your mind a bit. As a teenager, you are really open to new and different things and should be encouraged to think outside of the normal world. I remember reading loads of long and difficult books I wouldn't read now. As a teenager, I had the brain space to manage them.

Tesni, 14, Bath: What was your favourite book as a child?

I used to read all the Professor Brainstorm books, historical adventure stories and the ancient Greek and Roman legends like Jason and the Argonauts. When I was a bit older I read fantasy and science fiction.

Marina, 12, Stockport: If you were to be reincarnated as an animal, what would it be?

I'd come back as an eel from SilverFin. I read a lot about them when I was writing the book and they are amazing creatures. I feel I've painted them a bit black in the book. As penance, I'd be reincarnated as an eel. I'd be a mutant killer eel though - that would be more fun!

Katie, 14: Do you like pets?

I had a golden Labrador when I was a kid called Sandy. I called it Sid for short. Now we have two cats called Blackie and Sootie, a hamster called Pygmy and some fish in the pond.

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