Alexander Gordon Smith

Archive for the Category Flying



I wrote this guest post for the CBI blog but I thought I’d put it up here too (to save me having to write another blog)!


Mini Me!

Getting to go on tour is one of the best parts of being an author, and there are certain places that I absolutely love to visit as much as possible – Edinburgh, New York, and of course Dublin. The first time I visited Dublin was a couple of years ago, and I flew in on St Patrick’s Day. My first event was on the morning after, and out of two schools that were supposed to show up one came with half a class, and the other one didn’t show up at all, apparently because the teachers were off sick…

It was still a wonderful experience, and I’ve been looking forward to coming back ever since, so I jumped at the chance to be part of the spectacular CBI Children’s Book Festival! My event took place in Ashbourne Library, and this time I had a full house of truly awesome pupils from local schools. I talked about writing, reading, making scary masks to cure writer’s block, playing video games, exploring haunted houses, coming up with ideas, how anybody can be a writer and, last but not least, how writing is the best job in the world because you get to shoot cow pats with shotguns and call it research.

There were some brilliant questions and a signing too. It was fantastic to see so much enthusiasm for books and for writing, and there were definitely some future bestselling writers in the audience. Remember, just never give up on your dreams! I followed this with an event at Wesley College, which was great fun (even though I had to fit my talk into twenty minutes, speaking non-stop at roughly thirty words a second, which I think left a few people dazed and confused). Thanks to everyone who came to my events, and to the delightful Aoife Murray for looking after me!

The day wasn’t over yet! I enjoyed pizza and drinks (and cake!) with the amazing David Maybury, Carrie Anderson and Juliette Saumande from Inis Magazine, and I got invited to the premiere of Frankenweenie, which was great! It summed up why I love this city so much – it’s always full of pleasant surprises, fun and friendly people, great food and drink (and cake!), and endless laughter. And that’s just what you need when you’re a horror author and you spend all day holed up writing about monsters, mayhem and murder…

Thanks to CBI for inviting me over, and to the amazing people of Dublin for making me feel so welcome. Hopefully I’ll see you all again soon!

Read the original post here, and check out the other stories on the brilliant CBI blog. Oh, and I also got interviewed at the Frankenweenie premiere, talking about how my dead cat came back to life, which you can see here!

Oh, and I didn’t poo myself with terror on the flights there and back, which I always consider to be a bonus!

US Tour Part 4: Furnace vs Alcatraz!

I was so excited to visit San Francisco, it’s such a cool place! I flew in on the Sunday (did I mention the flight from Pasco to Seattle was THE most terrifying flight ever?! The plane was doing a drunken jig for the whole hour) and took a cab straight to my hotel. It was right on the edge of a neighbourhood called the Tenderloin (although I have no idea why it’s called that), which was actually one of the places that people had told me to avoid when I was there because of the… interesting… locals. But I was curious to explore, so I set out for a walk as soon as I got there and everybody seemed very friendly and nice (although quite a few people did ask me if I had any Tylenol, and didn’t seem too impressed when I offered them a Lemsip instead). It was great to explore the city, although I didn’t have too much time because I had a busy few days lined up!

The awesome Martha!

It all started at 6.30 Monday morning, when I was picked up from my hotel by my driver, the wonderful Martha. She drove us up to the Alameda County Juvenile Hall for my first event. This was one of the ones I’d most been looking forward to, and it didn’t disappoint. I met up with the librarian, Amy Cheney, who is a remarkable person. She created the library inside the facility, and has been working non-stop to encourage the boys to read – and by doing so has single-handedly turned many of their lives around. We were due to speak to the youth in maximum security first, as they had been reading the series, but unfortunately they were in lockdown (how ironic is that?!) because there had been a riot the day before. It was such a shame, as it would have been so cool to be able to meet them. But I had two more sessions with the other boys and both groups were amazing. I talked to them about the books, and about how I’d gone off the rails when I was a teenager, how I used to get into fights, how I stole stuff from my parents and from my school, and how I’d failed at school first time round. They were a super audience, attentive and interested and full of questions too. They all came up and shook my hand afterwards. I signed a load of books, some for the library and some that the youth would get to take with them when they are released. And I had a chance to speak to some of the maximum security guys too, although it was brief. Afterwards, in the library, I read some of their creative writing – published in a magazine – and was blown away. There is a huge amount of talent there, and I hope the boys go on to use it (the girls too, although I didn’t get to speak to them). It really was a highlight of the trip, and a real privilege to be able to talk to the guys. Thanks Amy!! Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take any photos inside the facility, but here I am with Amy in the fantastic library!

Me and Super-Amy!! We look a little weird as Amy was trying to teach me a trick to getting rid of my double chin by angling my head in a certain way!!!

Afterwards, Martha took me on a guided trip around San Francisco. It was great to see the sights – especially the incredibly steep hills, and a drive over the Golden Gate Bridge – although it was a whirlwind tour because we were on a deadline! But we did manage to grab a burger in an awesome fifties-style diner. I signed books in half a dozen shops, then we raced up to Berkeley for the second event of the day at Berkeley High School. It’s a lovely school, in an amazingly trendy part of San Francisco, and I spoke to a couple of hundred students in their enormous library. It was great fun!! There is a cool blog post about it here, and a photo of me strutting my stuff (not the best angle, I certainly didn’t do a good job of hiding my double chins in this one)! Thanks so much to Amy again for organising it, and to everyone at Berkeley High for being so awesome!!

Me and my chins doing my show at Berkeley!

To finish up the day, Martha drove me over to Kepler’s Books out in Menlo Park, which is a gorgeous independent book shop. I did an event there to a lovely crowd, signed loads more books, and had a long chat to the lovely Angela (a fellow Brit). I also recorded a little video for Kepler’s website, talking about Furnace 4, which can be found here! Thanks for having me, Angela!!

Tuesday was less busy, but no less fun! I had one event in the morning, at Ida B. Wells High School in the city. I spoke to a couple of classes about writing, about horror, and took a look at their creative writing projects too, which were amazing! Both groups were full of questions (although quite a few were about gangs and weapons!), and it was a nice, informal event with a lot of chatting about cool stuff! It was great to see so much enthusiasm for books and writing! Thanks to Dorothy for being so awesome! Thanks too to Jennifer, who was the contact from the San Francisco Library and who stayed for the show! Afterwards, Martha, Jennifer and I had lunch, then went on to my final San Francisco event at the John O’Connell High School. It was a wonderful hour, with the library practically overflowing. Another fantastic group of students, and so much excitement and enthusiasm. Thanks to everyone – especially Elaine the librarian – for making me feel so welcome!

It was mid-afternoon when we finished, but I had special plans for the rest of the day. I was going to Alcatraz! I couldn’t exactly go on a tour for the Furnace books and not visit the world’s most famous prison!!! And I wanted to see how the place compared to Furnace. Martha dropped me off at the pier and I took the boat out to the island. By this time it was absolutely chucking it down, but the gloomy weather was perfect for such a gloomy place! And it really IS gloomy. Although I don’t think Alcatraz the place could ever really be as bad as Alcatraz the legend – as a prison, it actually had a reputation for being tough but fair – and it was hard to get a true sense of the prison with four hundred other people there, it still had a strange atmosphere about it. The best bit was when, right at the end of the tour, I found myself in an aisle of cells by myself, with nobody else in earshot. Suddenly I got a true sense of the intimidating, haunted (and it’s definitely haunted), bullying atmosphere of the place. I knew that if I was there by myself, at night, something bad would come for me. It’s an amazing place to visit, just make sure you don’t miss the last boat out!! Oh, and take the audio tour, because it’s full of sound effects that really make you feel like you’re stuck in a nightmare!

One thing for sure, though, Alcatraz isn’t anywhere near as bad as Furnace!! For a start there are windows, with probably the best view of San Francisco I had while I was there! Oh, and there are no wheezers, mutant dogs, berserkers, blacksuits, rats or Warden Cross…

Me on the way to Alcatraz, wearing my awesome Bad Teachers biker hat (thanks again Steve!!) I appear to have a seagull stuck to my head...

At least they got a cell to themselves, not like in Furnace!!

When the crowds were gone, Alcatraz was a SPOOKY place. There were ghosts there, no doubt.

And there were DEFINITELY ghosts in here!!

At least the prisoners didn't have to eat slop, they don't know how lucky they were!!!

So another fantastic leg of my US tour, and a wonderful, exciting city that I would recommend to anyone. Oh, and I was so pleased to be able to visit City Lights Books, one of my absolute favourite book shops. I studied the Beats when I was at uni, and have had a love affair with the place since then – and a poster of it in my kitchen for the last ten years. It was awesome to be able to see the shop for real (even though I didn’t actually have time to go in, just five seconds to leap out of the car for a photo)! I want to say another huge thanks to Martha for going above and beyond the call of duty and taking the time to show me so much of the city, you were awesome!!

Next stop, Philly!!





US Tour Part 2: Space Cars and Zee Puppies!

Wow, what a week it’s been! There are certain times in an author’s life when you are just so thankful you do what you do, and this week really is one of those!! I honestly do have the best job in the world, and it’s all down to the awesome people who read my books!

So my tour events began on Monday in Seattle, and what a way to kick things off! I was doing an event at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, just north of the city. It was a joint event, alongside the fantastically lovely Robin Wasserman, whose book Frozen (which I am currently reading) is truly brilliant. We met in my hotel for dinner and a chat, then headed over to the book store together. Now usually when I travel to events I either get a taxi, or just walk. But my publisher sent a car to pick us up. It was huge, and silent, and it felt like riding in an Imperial Shuttle out of Star Wars. It even had my name on it!! So cool!

I felt like Dark Vader getting picked up for work!!

The space car whizzed us both up to the shop, which is a really cool place. There was already a small crowd waiting, including two of my most awesome fans EVER, Elise and Jillian! They were wearing Furnace shirts, and Elise had even bought me a birthday present of a Seattle mug full of chocolates (yay!) and a photo of her puppy, who is called ZEE! Yes, she named her dog after Zee in the books, which is truly the coolest thing ever!! I even had a chance to meet Zee after the show. He is so cute!!! I have never met two such dedicated, enthusiastic fans, and feel totally honoured that they love the books so much!!

Me, Elise, Jillian and Zee. HOW CUTE IS THAT DOG!!!!!!! Photo courtesy of Kristina Ebert!

Awesome Furnace Shirts (we need to make one for the puppy too)!

I wanted to take him home!!!

Also at the event was Kristina Ebert, who runs the wonderful Kristina’s World of Books blog. She was kind enough to interview me before my tour (read it here)! Kristina also wrote an article about the event, which is great!! Check it out here! It was great to meet you, Kristina!! There were loads of other amazing fans there too, and it was great to meet so many awesome people! The best thing about the event was that afterwards Robin and I just sat and chatted with everyone for ages (and played with the dog). It’s so nice to be able to do that, rather than being ushered out and on to the next event! I really did have a fantastic time! Thanks to everyone who came, and thanks too to Jennifer and the rest of the staff at Third Place!

Me, Kristina and Robin! Photo courtesy of Kristina Ebert!

On Tuesday my school visits began, and the first stop was at Kellogg Middle School in Shoreline. I absolutely love doing school events in the States because the audiences are always so enthusiastic and fun, and this was no exception! I did my talk and chatted to the students for a bit, then headed over to Eckstein Middle School for an equally brilliant afternoon of talks. You guys were all awesome, and it was so great to see so many keen readers!! There’s a report about my visit to Eckstein over on their school blog, including a link to a video where I talk about puking macaroni cheese all over myself! A huge thanks to the 500+ kids I spoke to today, plus Liz and Jay and all the staff in the libraries, and Jan who kindly drove me around!

I flew out to the Tri-Cities area on Tuesday evening, expecting to see forests and finding myself instead in the desert! It really is beautiful here, though, and the dust in the atmosphere creates the most amazing sunsets – including the most incredible sky I have ever flown through (I would have taken a picture but I worried that if I turned my phone on the plane would fall out of the sky).

And this post is getting so long that I’m going to talk about the CAVALCADE OF AWESOMENESS in the next one!!