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It's been a while.. but after reading Defender, and chatting a little to the author on twitter, I wanted to ask her some questions, and bring this book to our members' attention. 'On the cusp of sleep, have we not all heard a voice call out our name?' In a world where long drinks are in short supply, a stranger listens to the voice in his head telling him to buy a lemonade from the girl sitting on a dusty road. The moment locks them together. Here and now it's dangerous to listen to your inner voice. Those who do, keep it quiet. These voices have purpose. And when Pilgrim meets Lacey, there is a reason. He just doesn't know it yet. Defender pulls you on a wild ride to a place where the voices in your head will save or slaughter you. Can you start off by telling us a little about the book? Sure, it’s an imaginative thriller set seven years after a mass appearance of voices incited people to commit suicide, murder and mayhem. We are left in a world torn apart, where survivors live in fear of those who still hear their inner voice. Pilgrim is one such man. He is reluctantly drawn into helping 16-year-old Lacey travel hundreds of miles to her only living relative, but the journey will be fraught with danger. Think Cormac McCarthy’s The Road vs Mad Max vs The Walking Dead (minus the zombies). What do you see as the main themes in the book, and what inspired you to write about them? Family, death and abandonment all seem to crop up a lot. And they tie neatly together, too—the worst thing I can imagine is losing my loved ones (and the most permanent way of that happening is through death), and then being left all alone. It’s enough to break a person. How we handle that grief and find ways and means to continue with our lives is something I seem to explore a lot in my writing. I’m quite fascinated with psychology, too, whether it’s to do with violence or suicide, or the human consciousness, it all influences themes. These themes are dark, how did you handle the research aspect without it getting to you? I always joke that I score highly on the sociopathic scale (I’m not really a sociopath, I promise—I cry at more things than ever these days). However, I am great at compartmentalising. Anything that bugs me gets shoved to the back of my mind pretty easily. As I kid, everything used scared me—flushing the toilet (I blame the Gremlins poster for that), the dark, werewolves. Then, as I grew older, I seemed to go the opposite way. Horror was my favourite genre for both books and movies for many, many years. I also love True Crime. I think I’ve saturated myself in so much horrible stuff, I’ve desensitized myself to a lot of it. Not much bothers me these days. The most fascinating to me was the aspect of the voices controlling people – will we find out more about this in future books? Oh yes, there’ll be LOTS more on the voices. Do I reveal all in book 2? Of course not! I have to keep you all coming back for more, don’t I? Although the voices play a vital role in what will happen, I do hope it’s the characters and their journeys that keep bringing readers back. What was that thing Stephen King said? Oh yes: “I think the best stories always end up being about the people rather than the event.” I’m with you there, Steve. This is the first in a series of books.. did you always know that you had a longer tale to tell, or did it develop as you wrote this one? I didn’t know it’d be a longer series at the beginning, no. Defender (originally titled Pilgrim) was meant to be a standalone novel. And it worked as one. I just wasn’t ready to put it to bed and a friend of mine talked me into considering writing a sequel. It didn’t take much convincing, to be honest. I’d fallen in love with the characters by that point and I was as excited about the world and what was happening in it as you guys (hopefully) are. Which books do you like reading, and which have inspired your own writing? I’ve been through all the phases. I did the Sci-fi and Fantasy phase in my early to late teens, then I went through my Horror phase from late teens through to my twenties and now that I’m in my thirties, I’ll read practically anything: Horror, Fantasy, Contemporary and Book Club Fiction, Thrillers, Sci-fi. I find I’m more drawn to quirky, original novels with standout premises. The only areas I’ve never really read are Crime, Domestic Thriller and Historical Fiction, which I feel bad about. I know there’s a lot of great stuff out there in those genres, but we only have so much time, and I’m a sloooow reader, unfortunately. I’m lucky to read thirty to forty books a year. Can you continue to read whilst you’re writing a book, or do you need to stay focused just on your own world? This is such a great question! It depends. When I’m doing edits I find I stop reading altogether. I think I’m afraid it’ll knock my confidence, reading a really brilliant book and then comparing it to the mess my own book is in. No writer needs any more self-doubt than they’re already dealing with. I do enjoy reading when I’m writing a first draft, though. Becoming engrossed in a fantastically written book inspires me to do better with my own. It spurs me on to try and do better. And, finally.. what’s your favourite LEGO set you own?! Oh man, so many! I did write a blog post about this on the Defender Blog Tour (it’s here, if you fancy reading it: http://varietats2010.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/defender-by-g-x-todd-blog-tour.html?spref=tw&m=1),so I’m going to tell you about a set I allude to on there but don’t elaborate on. I bought a retired LEGO set from a guy on eBay (I won’t disclose the price because I don’t want people to think I’m nuts). It’s the LEGO Grand Emporium and is the British equivalent of Rackhams: a two-storey shopping department with changing rooms and escalators and everything in between. My greatest love in LEGO is their modular buildings (I have a dream of having a LEGO room someday, like Will Ferrell’s in The LEGO Movie, filled with a LEGO city of my very own), and the LEGO Grand Emporium is my ultimate modular build. I’m saving it for a very special occasion. Thank you to Gemma for her time, please pay her a visit on twitter - @GemTodd