Featuring an interview with Martin Dukes, author of YA fantasy A Moment in Time
Alex Trueman has just turned fifteen. He’s a typical teenager, a bit spotty, a bit nerdy and he’s not exactly popular at school, not being one of the ‘cool’ kids. His tendency to day-dream doesn’t exactly help him to be cool. either! But being cool isn’t as good as the talent Alex discovers he has – stopping time.
Yes that’s right. Stopping time!
Well, for everyone except Alex, that is, who finds that whilst everyone else is caught in a moment in time, he is able to carry on as normal. Maybe not quite ‘normal’, after all, he’s able to stop time, and whilst that’s not exactly as good as a certain ‘boy wizard’, it’s pretty close!
The only trouble is that reality for Alex isn’t always what is seems, and being plunged into an alternative can be a bit tricky, not to mention the fact that he makes an enemy almost as soon as he arrives, which tends to cause a problem.
Will Alex Trueman, nerdy daydreamer, be able to return to reality or will he be stuck forever in his alternative? Is a moment in time enough for Alex to discover the superhero he needs is probably himself?
A Moment in Time is the debut novel of author Martin Dukes, and is the first in a series of Alex Trueman Chronicles, which take the reader, along with Alex, into a bedazzling world of time travel, alternative reality and flying sea creatures. His further adventures include the past, possibly the future and definitely a fight to save reality itself.
Excerpt from A Moment in Time
Alex returned home to find a most unwelcome development, which had arrived through the letterbox in the superficially innocent form of a brown envelope. It might as well have been a letter bomb for its explosive impact on Alex’s day. It contained his school report. His mother’s set jaw and the glint of steel in her eyes when Alex walked into the kitchen signalled danger ahead. Alarm bells were dinning away insistently by the time the brown envelope was brandished in his face.
“This,” she said, tapping him on the head with it for emphasis, “Is your report.” She paused to let Alex dwell on this prospect. “It does not make good reading. Let me see,” she pondered as she snatched up her glasses and whipped the report out to read. “Mathematics… 3C… English… 2C… Design Technology, get this… 4D.” She read through the whole list in a voice trembling with outrage. “And here’s the grand finale,” she said, shaking the page. “The considered opinion of your form teacher. Do you want to hear what Mr Burbage has to say about you?”
Alex had absolutely no desire to hear this now, or indeed ever, but he recognised there was no point in saying so. A display of submissive behaviour seemed in order. He hung his head. “Alex is undoubtedly an intelligent pupil with a bright future, should he choose to exert himself,” she read. “Get that? Should he choose to exert himself.”
Her face came worryingly close to Alex’s as she stressed this last part. He was conscious of a little drop of her saliva on his chin, at first warm, now suddenly cold.
An Interview with Martin Dukes
-What inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve always read a lot. Before there were computers and the internet (yes, I remember those days all too well!) there seemed to be even more time for reading and I was one of those children who take a book everywhere they go, as an essential safety net against tedium. This has been a lifelong habit of mine. Even today, my car is furnished with a kind of mini-library of books in case I have to sit in there and wait for my wife. I’m sure there is a relationship between reading a lot and wanting to write, as any casual perusal of social media can demonstrate. It would be surprising if any author out there wasn’t also an avid reader. Books allow us to step outside of the world around us and withdraw into a private world of someone else’s imagination. The best books create a world of extraordinary richness and detail for us to explore. I was twelve when I first wrote a book to create such an imaginary world for myself and to give others the opportunity to share it with me. This masterwork was entitled ‘The adventures of George and his friends’, and told the story of a duck who set out in search of a fabled treasure in a legendary city. I still have it, in a battered hardback notebook, carefully hand-written lavishly illustrated in felt-tipped pen. I’ve been imagining, creating and writing about such worlds ever since, although fifty years were to elapse before one of my books found its way into print in the traditional manner.
-If you could visit your book’s world for a day, what one thing would you do?
My book describes the strange world of Intersticia, which exists in the slender intervals between moments in ordinary time. Accordingly, everything around me would appear to be frozen into immobility. My enjoyment of this situation would depend on my powers. Most people stranded in this place find that they are unable to interact with it. Food, for example, would be firmly fixed in place and so they would soon starve. If I were to be equipped with Alex Trueman’s abilities, however, things would be better. I would be able to unfix food and drink from their positions and use them for myself. Initially, Alex finds that he can step in and out of this world at will. If I could do this, I could spend as much time as I liked in this world and step back into ‘real’ time whenever I wanted to, finding that no time at all had passed by in the real world. I imagine I’d spend a great deal of time reading in Intersticia, where no one could make any demands of me!
-It’s two in the morning. What does your protagonist reveal in confidence? (Don’t worry, we won’t tell.)
He misses his dad. His dad has abandoned his mother for a younger woman and he has really mixed feelings about this. He feels fiercely protective of his mother and shares her hurt at what his father has done. At the same time, he still loves his dad and doesn’t want to cut off all ties with him. He likes to think of the happy times when his family was a single unit, although he knows that this world was a deception, that there were underlying stresses and tensions that must one day bring about the crisis that led to its breaking up. Alex finds thinking about these things very painful, so he tends to try to bury them in a dark corner of his mind until he can properly come to terms with them. Doing so allows him to function normally, although he knows there must be a reckoning at some future time. His mother wonders whether his dreaminess and introspection are likewise a response to a reality that Alex prefers not to confront. He prefers to dwell within a world of his own imagination and set the real world at a distance. He wonders whether his strange ability emerges from some deep antipathy to the world he finds himself living in and the powerlessness he feels here.
-Which of your characters would you go out for drinks with?
Alex’s best friend Henry plays a relatively small part in this, the first of Alex’s adventures, but plays a much larger role in later ones. Cheeky, irreverent and extrovert, he would make a most entertaining companion for a night out. He is somewhat larger than Alex, physically more mature and naturally good at sports. In fact, he is effortlessly good at most things. Whilst Alex (when he can be bothered) has to revise hard for exams, Henry can simply rock up on the day and get himself straight ‘A’s. Henry represents something of the culture at my son’s school. There, the clever boys set great store in seemingly effortless achievement. The highest pinnacle of success was to be awarded an ‘A’ for achievement and an ‘E’ for effort. Henry takes great pleasure in winding people up, particularly those who take themselves too seriously. He regards the world as his plaything and is very ready to be entertained by it, confident in his own intelligence and ability to extricate himself from any scrape he may find himself in.
-You’re in a tavern, and a dwarf challenges you to a duel. What do you do?
Like Alex Trueman I am terrible at sports. I have no physical ability at all. My bodily coordination, rather than being guided by some single intelligence, seems as though organized by a particularly fractious committee. Accordingly, if the dwarf were armed with any form of deadly weapon, I should fear defeat. If the duel were a fist fight I should insist that the dwarf, for the sake of fair play, should have one hand tied behind his back (I’m assuming here that I face an aggressive male of the species.) If it was to be swords, I fear that the lower parts of my body would be pierced through and through. Even pistols at dawn would see me doomed (aiming at a smaller target, you see).
-Is there a genre you could never write? Which and why?
I like to think that I could have a go at writing in most genres, although I think writing romance might be a bit of a stretch for me. I like to think that I have the imaginative power to do so but this is not a genre that I read, and so I would not feel confident in this area. Rather, I prefer to write romance as an ingredient in other contexts. My most recent manuscript contains romantic elements within a historical based fantasy setting, and this is where I feel most comfortable. I could certainly write an historical novel, given that history is one of my main interests, and will probably do so at some stage. I am aware that Arthurian Britain is a well-worn furrow, in literary terms, but the dark ages after the withdrawal of the Roman administration from Britain exercise a particular fascination for me, and I aim to set a story there at some time in the future. I think the most challenging genre for me would be crime. I imagine, that to write in this genre successfully, you would need to have an excellent understanding of police procedure and the law in general. My dealings with the police have been confined to being pulled over when speeding, so I doubt that I could pull it off without a great deal of initial research and groundwork.
About Martin Dukes
I’ve always been a writer. It’s not a choice. It’s a compulsion, and I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. Lots of childish scribbles in notebooks, lots of rejection slips from publishers and agents testify to a craft long in the making. In addition, it has proved necessary to earn a living by other means whilst those vital skills mature. For thirty-eight years I taught Art and Graphic Design, thirty-seven of them in a wonderful independent girls’ school in Birmingham, UK. For much of the latter part of this career I was Head of Department, which gave me the opportunity to place my own stamp on Art education there, sharing with the pupils there my own love of Art and the History of Art. Over a decade I was able to lead annual visits to Florence, Venice and Rome (some of my favourite places on the planet) as destinations on my Renaissance Tour. These visits created memories that I shall cherish for the rest of my life.
I love history in general, reading history as much as I read fiction. I have a particular interest in the ancient world but I am also fascinated with medieval times and with European history in general. This interest informs my own writing to the extent that human relationships and motivations are a constant throughout the millennia, and there is scarcely a story that could be conceived of that has not already played itself out in some historical context. There is much to learn from observing and understanding such things, much that can be usefully applied to my own work.
Teaching tends to be a rather time-consuming activity. Since retiring, I have been able to devote much more of my time to writing, and being taken on by the brilliant Jane Murray of Provoco Publishing has meant that I am finally able to bring my work to the reading public’s attention. I like to think that my ideas are original and that they do not readily fall into existing tropes and categories.
I am not a particularly physical being. I was always terrible at sport and have rather poor physical coordination (as though my body were organised by a committee rather than a single guiding intelligence!). I tend to treat my body as a conveyance for my head, which is where I really dwell. My writing typically derives from dreams. There is a sweet spot between sleeping and waking which is where my ideas originate. I always develop my stories there. When I am writing it feels as though the content of my dreams becomes real through the agency of my fingers on the keyboard. I love the English language, the rich majesty of its vocabulary and its rhythmic possibilities. My arrival at this stage could hardly be describes as precocious. However, at the age of sixty-two, I feel that I have arrived at a place where I can create work of value that others may appreciate and enjoy.
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Martin Dukes will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
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