Who/what was the inspiration behind Island of Fog?
Eight children on a foggy island begin to experience frightening physical trans-formations. Are they freaks of nature, or subjects of a dark, sinister experiment?
With its ever-present fog, the island is a gloomy, dismal place. But according to the adults, the rest of the world is long dead; the island is all that's left. So when Hal and Robbie discover that the fog pours out of a hole in the ground in the middle of the woods, naturally they want to block it up. Imagine life without fog!
However, a terrifying creature appears out of nowhere and chases them away. Then their attempt to leave the island on a raft is thwarted by a gigantic sea serpent.
But this just the beginning. Before long, the children begin to experience changes. It starts with an itchy rash, or a hairy knuckle, or a few sharp fangs, and soon develops into full-blown transformations that astound and terrify the children. Then, inexplicably, a stranger arrives on the island...
It's hard enough being twelve and dealing with the unavoidable changes starting to manifest as one slowly develops into adulthood. Imagine adding to these a sudden transformation into another being! This is what Hal and his seven friends face on the Island of Fog, a place where these eight friends have lived all their lives. Shrouded in a mysterious fog, this island is home to only these eight children and their parents. Hal and his friends are determined to find answers to explain their transformations and also the mysterious fog. Keith Robinson takes us on an intriguing journey with a chockfull of surprises on the way. Island of Fog is a page turner and I look forward to reading the sequel.
Keith Robinson is an Englishman living in Georgia, USA. By day he's a self-employed website designer, a business he's owned and run since 1999. By night (or by day if he really doesn't feel like working) he's a fantasy and science fiction writer.
Island of Fog is a fantasy novel primarily for readers aged 9-12, but suitable for adults. The story is creepy and atmospheric, involving a group of children who live on a perpetually foggy island. They've never seen a blue sky or felt the warmth of the sun on their skin, and the adults tell them there's nothing left "Out There" beyond the fog; the world is dead following a catastrophic event. But when the children begin to experience strange and frightening physical changes, they start to wonder if they're part of some kind of scientific experiment...
Island of Fog is the first part of a trilogy, which continues with Labyrinth of Fire and concludes with Mountain of Whispers. However, the trilogy is just the start of the series; a fourth novel is planned for 2011.
Q&A with Keith Robinson
Who/what was the inspiration behind Island of Fog?
Who/what was the inspiration behind Island of Fog?
Back in 2002, almost a year after moving to the USA from England, it was an unusually foggy morning in February as I sat there trying to think of an idea for a short story. This depressing weather reminded me of back home! Fog seemed like a good atmospheric setting, and I suddenly wondered what it would be like if it were foggy all the time, and if a group of kids growing up in a small community had never seen a clear blue sky. This led to the idea of the kids being on an island, supposedly trapped because the world "Out There" beyond the fog was dead. I thought it would be neat if something weird started happening to the kids, perhaps physical mutations of some kind; maybe then they would start to question why they were there on the island. Were they part of an experiment? And if so, was the world "Out There" really dead after all? I thought the premise was creepy and I suddenly couldn't wait to have some of the kids building a raft to escape. The story easily expanded from a short story into a novel... and then a trilogy.
Who can you see playing Hal, Robbie, Abigail and Simone in a movie adaptation?
I always saw Hal as actor Haley Joel Osment as he was when he played the part in The Sixth Sense ("I see dead people"). The fact that the name Hal is similar to Haley is purely coincidental... or is it? Maybe there was something going on there subconsciously! I never saw anyone in particular playing the part of Robbie, but any tall, skinny, nerdy-looking actor would do. Miss Simone was very clear in my mind; she was always Rebecca Romijn-Stamos (of Femme Fatal; she also played the blue-skinned Mystique in the X-Men movies). Her character's name came from a movie called Simone, or S1m0ne, about a computer-generated actress. As for Abigail... I had no one in mind until recently, when I happened across a YouTube video of a very young lady singer/actress named Jackie Evancho, who I decided then and there was perfect for the role, especially as she could lend Abigail a characteristic faerie-like singing voice!
How did you decide on the transformations?
Some of the transformations were clear from the start. Without wanting to give away spoilers, Hal's alter-form was always in my mind, as was Robbie's and Abigail's, and Miss Simone's for that matter. I also knew what some of the other creatures would be, but hadn't assigned them to any particular character; that all kind of happened as the story evolved, so in some cases I was just as surprised as the reader to find out who was what!
How many books will there be in the series?
How long is a piece of string? Two-thirds of the way through writing Island of Fog, I decided this had to be a trilogy. But even though the trilogy is now complete, there's just way too much scope to call it a day, so the series will continue with as many standalone stories as I can muster without allowing things to grow stale. I expect Hal will be involved in every story, but I might switch out who he takes along with him on missions. It wouldn't be realistic to have his entire crowd of friends come along every time. Better to have a small group, for instance Hal, Abigail and Robbie in one story, then Hal, Emily and Dewey, and so on -- whoever seems appropriate for the story. This way, I can focus clearly on a small set of characters instead of spreading myself thinly over a crowd.
How many hours a day do you spend writing?
Not enough. I sometimes go for weeks without writing a single word. But I'm not the sort who writes for ten minutes at a time whenever possible. I prefer to write for at least two hours in one go, so I tend to choose a morning or afternoon when I know I have two or more hours ahead of me. When I'm getting stuck in, I try to write like this three or four days out of a week. That way, everything continues to bubble and boil noisily in my head, instead of cooling off and going cold, which is what happens if I don't write for weeks. My longest single writing session might last from 8am to around 3pm, almost non-stop. I typically write between 1500 and 5000 words per session.
Do you listen to music when you write?
Hardly ever. If I do, it has to be something without lyrics, usually something mellow and in the background. Lyrics throw me right off. Then there's the mood thing. If something slow and broody is playing, it's hard to write an action scene, and vice versa. I don't have the patience to set up my music beforehand to match the mood of what I'm about to write, so I just don't bother.
Name your favorite book and favorite movie.
One of my favorite books is The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I don't remember many other novels that made me marvel so much -- the solid writing, the premise of the story, the way the story unfolded, the intricacies of the mind-bending jumps in time told so clearly... and the overall sadness of Henry's life! The movie version is okay, but as movies go, pretty forgettable. Favorite movie? I can only go by impact at the time of first viewing, and for that I'd have to mention older movies like "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "Terminator 2"; both were amazing cinematic experiences at the time. Recently, favorite movies include "District 9" and "Avatar" (both with superb special effects and unique stories) and a number of the computer-animated movies, especially "Up" the recent "How to Train Your Dragon."
Has your daughter read all your books?
Nuh-uh. She's only six, and my books are for 9-12 years and up.
You run the Enid Blyton website, can you tell us a bit more about that?
EnidBlyton.net is not necessarily THE Enid Blyton website, just one of a few. Mine is a fansite, started in 2004 when I decided to revisit my childhood. I read and reviewed the children's mystery and adventure books that I grew up with, England's version of the Hardy Boys and Three Investigators. Enid Blyton (who died in 1968) remains one of the world's most popular children's authors, but is relatively unknown in the U.S. Her work has been translated into more languages than Shakespeare's, Stephen King's, and most other authors; she ranks in the top five behind Agatha Christie and a few others. Yet nobody I know here in Georgia, USA, has heard of her. I think my site was part of a yearning for my old homeland; it had been nearly four years since moving across the pond and I needed something English. My site grew quickly and these days nabs about 35,000 visits a month, and is among the top few at Google when you search "enid blyton." But I'm also the webmaster for the official EnidBlytonSociety.co.uk website, which contains a staggering amount of information about the author (all added by the co-owner of the Society using my specially-built content management system). And since I know the co-owner of the Society, who lives in Salisbury, England, I've held in my grubby hands Enid Blyton's actual handwritten notebook and various other rare or unique memorabilia. It's pretty amazing to glance through a notebook from the 1940s, where the famous author noted how much she sold a short story for that week!
What's next after this series?
I'm thinking about something totally different, perhaps resurrecting a novel I started years ago, or starting with something new. This won't be for self-publishing though; I'd like to run it by a few "traditional" publishers first. As I'm doing that, I'll return to writing the fourth Island of Fog book, probably starting around Christmas 2010, for publication during Summer 2011. Books 2 and 3 of the trilogy, Labyrinth of Fire and Mountain of Whispers, each took four months to write and two months to edit -- around 6-7 months in total. I expect Book 4 will be about the same. Hal's new life has only just begun. :-)
Reviewed by Imogen Rose at Thursday, December 10, 2009