Sunday, October 14, 2012

EXODUS CODE: Q & A with Carole Barrowman

John Barrowman's sister Carole Barrowman is the writing power behind the team's successful books. She talked to us about the sibling's novel EXODUS CODE and about writing in general.

Q: You are an English literature professor. Was it difficult to write about medical theories, geological and geophysiological science?

CB: I was trained as a journalist before I switched to the field of literature so I learned how to do research. I love that part of writing almost as much as the writing itself. When John and I decided on the basic plot, then I went off and did my homework. Also, I have a mild form of synesthesia and over the years I’ve read quite a bit on the subject… at least enough to find the spaces for fiction to fill.  

Q: I love your homage to Sarah Jane Smith and the classical Doctor Who episodes! Has "The Masque of Mandragora" special meanings to you and/or John?

CB: The Doctor Who family was devastated when Elisabeth Sladen passed away and so John and I decided to find a couple of places in ‘Exodus Code’ where we could pay homage to her work and her legacy. I’m not sure any particular episode has special meaning. We just felt that as much as we could we wanted to connect our story with the DW and TW canons. Sarah Jane was the assistant that I watched most when I was growing up.

Q: As with Hollow Earth did you put some Easter Eggs in Exodus Code? I thought I saw a few familiar names. Would you give us a hint?

CB: Most of the extra layers in ‘Exodus Code’ had to do with things we thought that fans of Torchwood would recognize and appreciate. Like the scene with the SUV…

Q: And a more random question. How did Jack get his Webley back? I thought it was destroyed in Children of Earth? And he didn't have it in Miracle Day.

CB: Never underestimate Jack’s hoarding abilities.

Q: With all the work you do outside of writing novels (teaching, writing reviews for the press, The Morning Blend, etc) when do you find the time to write?

CB: First of all, my children no longer live at home and that has allowed me to expand the time I can give to my writing. When they were young, I wrote less but I never allowed myself to feel guilty about the choices I made. I don’t do guilt. I’m also a very disciplined and focused writer and again and I think that comes from training as a journalist. I try to write every day even if it’s only taking notes or creating a paragraph or two. I also draft a lot in my head when I’m not actually writing. Finally, I make sure I carve out extended writing time at least 3 or 4 times during the week. I think you need to give your imagination some warm up time if you really want to let it loose.

Q: What would be the one piece of advice that you would give an aspiring writer wanting to get published?

CB: Learn the craft. Writing is an art and a craft and both parts of that definition must be nurtured. The literary gods may have blessed you with talent, but that may not be enough to be published so learn the craft. That may mean writing a practice novel and having it critiqued, taking classes, joining workshops, reading books about writing, or simply talking to other writers. Either way, learn the craft. 


A big Thank You to Carole for doing this Q&A with us. :-)

My review of EXODUS CODE can also be read on this blog:


Monday, September 10, 2012

Review: TORCHWOOD: EXODUS CODE by John and Carole E. Barrowman


General review without spoilers

I have to confess, I couldn't wait to get my hands on this book. While I've read and loved the authors' young adult adventure "Hollow Earth" and also their collaboration for John's autobiographies, I was more than curious to see what they would make of a story set in the Torchwood universe. And they didn't disappoint me. Exodus Code is a fast-paced, action-packed mystery adventure that you can barely put aside once you have started reading (I did an all-nighter to finish it). It has everything that makes Torchwood great: the action, the strange happenings, the quirky humour, the sexual innuendo and the... Welsh landscape. (Yes, a big part of it is set in Wales!) Without giving away who appears in the novel apart from Jack and Gwen, I can say that John & Carole have every known Torchwood character down to a T. These characters come very much alive on the page, and you can easily see them acting out the scenes in front of your eyes.

The novel is set a few months after the events of Miracle Day, which is fading fast from people's minds as they want their normal lives back, when new disturbing and strange occurences across the Earth are threatening mankind yet again. At the center of Exodus Code we have Captain Jack Harkness, the enigmatic time traveller who once travelled with the Doctor and ran the Torchwood Institute in Cardiff for a while. There still is no new official Torchwood, but Jack has a powerful ally in the British government. He also finds old and new collaborators - and after a moment it gives you the feeling that they are a team, at least for this adventure - to stop a global geological and geophysiological phenomenon of a mysterious (alien?) nature that could mean the end of our planet. With the capable help of these people and the Torchwood software, Jack is able to solve the mystery, one piece of the jigsaw after the other. Only until he realises that, once again, happenings from his far and recent past have set the current events in action and nothing but another personal sacrifice can stop it. This leads Jack back to a village in Peru where the action-packed showdown with man and nature will reveal if humanity can be saved and if the sacrifice is not too high.

A breathtaking rollercoaster of a read from beginning to end, Exodus Code sets a new standard for a Torchwood adventure. And I think every fan would be happy to see it come to life on the small or even a bigger screen.

More detailed review with some spoilers - but not giving the plot away ;-)

This novel gives us another glimpse into Jack's past on Earth, when in the opening chapter we see him and a male lover investigating a strange geological phenomenon occurring at the Peruvian coast in 1930. Jack soon becomes the center of an Incan tribe prophecy, which will have huge consequences for the whole planet.

The story then moves to Wales in the present time with Gwen, Rhys and Anwen trying to settle in to a "normal" life without Torchwood. Gwen is not happy, but this restlessness and her rage can't be normal. Is she loosing her mind? This isn't only happening to her but to other women too. She sends out a cry for help to Jack who rushes to Swansea. But it's not soon enough for Gwen, and she ends up in the psychiatric ward after having attacked her family and mutilated herself. Rhys is devastated, and Jack moves in with him and his family to find out what's going on with Gwen and all these other women, not only in Wales but all over the world.

Parallel to this sudden mental illness in women, something is going on with the planet. Earthquakes are happening in unusual places and geysers are shooting up in the oceans. Are these events and the women's illnesses linked? No scientist or government official would dare to say. But Jack, who seems to be the only man also affected by this attack on his senses, is on to something.

What's the strange sign of three interlinked circles that Gwen has carved into her arm? And who's the beautiful girl Jack can't get out of his peripheral vision? And what is the significance of the mountain puma? Jack tries hard to retrieve a memory back from his past that is nagging him, but it is difficult to pin down. He needs help with his research.

Help is on its way in the form of the team of the survey ship "Ice Maiden", whose captain's relationship with Jack has its roots way back in Torchwood's past. After reinforcing the ship's research abilities by linking them with the Torchwood software (and your mind will be blown away at the way that's done!), the newly constructed team heads to Peru where everything started and everything will end, one way or another.

The book is an adult novel, not shying away from describing gory details, using swear words and sexual language. Though sadly we won't "see" Jack's only explicit sexual encounter in the book with the Ice Maiden's cook. ;-) But it's a refreshing mix of sexual openness with Torchwood's (and certainly also John's & Carole's) usual unbiased approach to gender. We have gay and lesbian couples and sexual situations described with no fuss. Jack is his flirty self when he is not suffering too much, addressing his sexual innuendo to men and women alike.

As I said before, the authors had no problem with making the Torchwood characters real; not only Jack and Gwen, but also Rhys, Mary and Andy, as well as a certain recently promoted CIA agent showing up in a few short scenes. Gwen may be reduced to this madwoman in hospital for a while but she is strong and fights it, and her role becomes quite pivotal in the end. She is still this earthy woman, very much the descendant of Gwyneth who once sealed the rift in Cardiff (in Doctor Who).

Also, her relationship with Jack is coming across beautifully. It's a deeply loving one for both of them. While this is not romantic love, they are even closer than brother and sister. The former Torchwood members are acknowledged in Gwen and Jack's memories and you can feel that Jack is still mourning Ianto very much. The story is also a huge homage to Doctor Who and the person that John Barrowman describes as "the mother of all companions", Sarah Jane Smith.

There are some fan Easter Eggs hidden away: As with Hollow Earth, John & Carole use references to people and maybe places that have a meaning to them. While I was not actively searching for those, I came across some familiar names used for people in the novel. And I'll let you all find out for yourself. ;-)

What I also admired was the cultural, medical and scientific knowledge shown in the novel. Someone has done their research very well, and I suppose that this was Carole at work. I was Googling medical, geological, geophysiological, and marine biology terms left and right while reading Exodus Code. Don't get me wrong, it's not necessary to do that to understand the book. Everything is described very well and in a vivid manner with all the scientific facts packed into suspenseful human interaction. But I was just curious to see where science ends and science fiction starts, and can assure you that the transition is flawless and beautifully done.

The only thing I have to complain about was the end that seems a bit rushed. Yes, we have the big show down at the O.K. Corral or rather the Hacienda del Castenado with the conclusion at the mountain top, which is a satisfying ending to the story. But I would have loved to see a bit more of the fallout and aftermath, in general and in particular. A reunion of the Cooper-Williams family, for instance, would have been nice to witness.

All in all, Exodus Code is one of the most thrilling books I've read in a while. The novel will be out in the UK this Thursday, 13th September 2012.

Exodus Code is dedicated to all the Torchwood fans:

Review by Bettina Brauer

Monday, June 4, 2012

THE GREATEST SHOW IN THE GALAXY, Peterborough, 12th & 13th May 2012

The Greatest Show in the Galaxy was by far the best convention experience ever. Sadly it can never be repeated as the event company who was organising it went out of business shortly after. They needed to attract much more visitors to brake even with all the amazing celebrity guests they had. But that doesn't change the fact that it was a fantastic convention for us as it reunited the whole original TORCHWOOD team for one weekend, years after they had stopped filming the series together. We got to meet John Barrowman, Eve Myes, Gareth David-Lloyd, Burn Gorman, Naoko Mori, Indira Varma, Freema Agyeman and Lachlan Nieboer at the signing table and the photo shoot and had two Torchwood panels with them on Saturday and on Sunday.

Here are a few pictures and our videos from the Saturday panel.


And here are our pictures from the Sunday panel. (Sadly filming was not allowed on Sunday.)