In his debut novel The Daemon Parallel, young hero Cameron becomes aware of a strange, ‘other’ Edinburgh which is populated with fantastic creatures, monsters and very different versions of the landmarks and places we all take for granted.
After winning a New Writer’s Award from the Scottish Book Trust, Gill found The Daemon Parallel shortlisted for the 2011 Kelpies Prize, an award for Scottish writing aimed at a young audience. The manuscript was picked up by publishers Floris, who loved the book, releasing it to critical acclaim in 2012.
The Daemon Parallel is a fast-paced and exciting read, focusing on Cameron’s quest to bring his dead father back to life through magic he previously was completely unaware of. With plenty of action and a healthy dose of humour, we follow Cameron as he meets people who may or may not be who they claim to be, and visit some odd — yet strangely familiar — locations in the ‘Edinburgh Parallel’.
Gill has a finely-tuned ear for teenage dialogue, which helps breathe life into his characters, who the book’s target audience are likely to identify with immediately. Older readers familiar with Edinburgh will also enjoy spotting the often satirical references to the city, whilst readers of all ages will appreciate the underlying universal themes of the novel, as Cameron comes to terms not only with the parallel world he discovers, but also his own emotional growth.
We would heartily recommend The Daemon Parallel to anyone who enjoys a light-hearted and exciting adventure story with magical elements: with its clever plot, realistic characters and unique setting, it is one of those ‘just one more chapter’ titles which will keep readers gripped to its action-packed climax.
We caught up with Roy to ask him a little about his inspiration for The Daemon Parallel, as well as some of his thoughts on writing in general.
What gave you the idea for The Daemon Parallel?
The idea came from a vivid dream, about a boy walking through the streets of Edinburgh — but this wasn’t the city I knew, it was all dark and twisted, and filled with monsters. He got home to his Gran, and she didn’t seem that pleased to see him… Not like a traditional granny-figure at all!
The dream stayed with me, but it was only when I started asking questions of it that I realised it could be the beginnings of a story. I wanted to know what had happened to the city to change it into the dark place of my dream. I needed to know what kept the boy with this strange old woman — what hold had she over him? By answering those questions, I pretty soon had a first chapter — and good idea how it was all going to end as well.
What do you think is special and unique about Edinburgh?
It’s got a wealth of history, myth and legend that can all be used in story-telling — whether that’s just as a passing reference, or taking hold of something interesting and reworking it into something new. Coupled with this, there are very few cities that can boast such a visually striking environment in terms of architecture and landscape. When I was writing “Daemon Parallel”, if I got stuck I’d pace around the streets, or go for a walk over Arthur’s Seat, and I’d always find something to inspire me.
You seem to have a knack for being able to write realistic teen dialogue – what do you think helps you with that?
I think if you try and copy too much in the way of specific current slang or trends you are in danger of writing something locked tightly to one particular moment in time and place — or of getting things hopelessly wrong.
You’re maybe better to remember that teenagers are just people — with hopes, ambitions, fears, jealousy, anxieties, desire for friendship, love and family etc – like everyone else. Maybe those emotions just play a little closer to the surface! So you write the character, thinking about how they’d feel in any given scene, and hopefully not getting too hung up on their date of birth…
I also like to keep an eye – and ear! – out for TV shows with strong teen characters, and the sort of dialogue written for them. Buffy is a classic, obviously, but more also recent shows like Wizards vs Aliens and Wolfblood (both CBBC).
What do you think of the popularity of writing for young people the moment?
The rise of young adult fiction is a very good thing – anything that gets people reading, and breaks down the stigma of what books can or should be read by different groups is a positive development. It’s all writing — it all stimulates the mind. Read where your heart takes you!
Who are your favourite writers?
How long have you got? Diana Wynne Jones, Susan Cooper, Alasdair Gray, Ray Bradbury, Paul Magrs, Russell T Davies, Michael Chabon, China Mieville… for starters!
How important is it to you to be seen as a Scottish writer; do you think there are any particular characteristics being Scottish brings to writing?
I see myself as a writer who is Scottish, rather than a Scottish writer, if the distinction makes sense? The writing comes first – at least it does to me!
I have been a little frustrated that “Daemon Parallel” hasn’t been that widely stocked south of the border. I believe value judgements are made all the time on how interested English readers will be in a novel set in Scotland, which is a bizarre thing to happen (Barry Hutchinson blogged eloquently on this topic quite recently) .
Why would a novel set in New York or Venice or London be judged to be universal, but a novel set in Edinburgh thought only comprehensible to Scots? The ironic thing is, some of my most enthusiastic reviews have been from non-Scots, so this prejudice — if it does exist — is certainly not on the part of the readers…
I’m not sure there are any peculiar characteristics to Scottish writing. I think it’s often portrayed as dour, realist and dystopian, but that’s such a huge cliche. There are novels of every possible tone, subject and genre coming out of Scotland — it’s a shame more people don’t know about them all.
Finally, can we expect to see Cameron again? What are your current writing plans?
The next twelve months should see the release of a number of short stories, a radio play, and a continuation of Cameron’s adventures. His story has moved on by a year, so while existing fans should find some lingering questions answered, it should also be a good jumping-on point for new readers. All these projects are at varying stages of completion – I’m being kept pretty busy!
After that, I’d like to write more drama, and a further novel, perhaps for older readers.