Successful Kickstarter project Gerry Anderson’s Gemini Force One promises to deliver an action-packed series of novels based on one of Anderson’s final projects. The first book, Black Horizon, follows the adventures of Ben Carrington, a young man struggling to find his way in the world. We caught up with author MG Harris, who is well known for her highly successful series The Joshua Files, and Jamie Anderson, son of the legendary Gerry and who spearheaded the project.
STARBURST: What is Gemini Force One?
MG Harris: Gemini Force One is an original concept by Gerry Anderson which he worked on during the last few years of his life before he became sick with Alzheimer’s.
Jamie Anderson: Dad had a rough time with his final couple of shows. He felt that he had the suits interfering too much. He thought that going down the book route would give him some more freedom to make it exactly how he imagined it. He started writing this new rescue series in the standard Anderson vein of rescue, tech and adventure. He started that in 2008, and by 2010 he was really struggling to continue with it because of his Alzheimer’s disease and that eventually stopped him entirely. We decided to pick up the baton and find someone to finish it off the way Dad would have wanted. In stepped the brilliant MG Harris.
What challenges did you face, picking up the project where Gerry left it?
MG: It is a challenge, but it’s not in the writing. You cannot go in and rewrite someone’s stuff. You pretty much have to start from scratch with the same philosophy. The ideas can be transferred. In this case it was through my agent Robert Kirby. Robert had talked with Gerry and there were recordings and notes - I could find out about the concept and where the story was going. But to actually write a novel, perhaps more than with a screenplay, you need to understand emotionally where that’s coming from. So I met with Jamie and I said “Why is he writing this sort of family dynamic?”, and Jamie was able to explain to me where that was coming from. Once I knew I could connect to that, I knew I could write it. All the rest of it was in my own writing; underground secret societies, technology and adventure action is the Joshua Files, but Jamie helped me really connect with the concept.
How similar is it to Thunderbirds? What will the fans recognise?
Jamie: Well the set-up, which is good against evil, combined with the secret organisation elements of Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet. Obviously, the action adventure feel, the technology and the pacing. There’s something about the speed of the action that makes it feel like it’s Supermarination.
MG: I wouldn’t call it new exactly. When I look at the original Thunderbirds, it’s all there but it’s kind of dated. It’s about bringing it all into the 21st century in terms of the global political situation. We have a different kind of terrorism. It’s not post-Cold War, so we don’t have someone like The Hood, who is more of a TV show villain. The villains are more believable. We have a mixture of natural disasters, incompetence and terrorism. There’s more emphasis on character, but you’d expect that from a novel.
How hard is it to write for Young Adults?
MG: That’s where my expertise comes in. I’m quite an experienced children’s author so I know how to make things appeal to children of 10+. Quite a lot of the characters are adults, but we do it all from a young person’s point of view. The fans who have read it have really liked it, there’s a magical Andersonian thing going on there. One of the things I wanted to not do was to make Ben the hero of every scenario, because that’s just not realistic. It wouldn’t give you an awful lot of respect for this agency if they always had to be saved by a 16-year-old. Part of it is about Ben learning to be a team player. You don’t want to undermine the agency’s creditability, so he’s always on his toes and out of his comfort zone.
Jamie: Dad was never a fan of tightly targeting something down to a narrow age range. It was supposed to something that the kids reading weren’t being written down to. That means the adult audience can enjoy it as well. The things that Ben has to deal with are things that an adult would also find extremely difficult. We haven’t played down anything. The kids who have read it so far have had nothing but praise for MG, who has captured the Gerry Anderson spirit.
What does the future hold in store for Gemini Force One?
Jamie: Obviously we’d like to make the most of as many medium as possible. I’m keen to see what the public’s response to the book will be first. I’m positive we’ll get a great response. We’d love to have a film version some day.
MG: A film version would be lovely. Or a TV series. It wouldn’t be cheap. To do it justice would be fairly expensive, but that was always Gerry’s dream for Thunderbirds. He did them as puppets because he had such a grand vision and he didn’t want to compromise and he did amazing things.
Did the Kickstarter help? Did it not put the publisher off?
MG: Our publisher is very happy that they’re going to be able to bring a book out in April that has already been read by 600+ people who really like it and are already talking about it. We raised so much money that we’re able to commission artwork from Andrew Probert, who designed the original Cylons from BattleStar Galactica, so there’ll be a full visual design to the website. We got badges, patches and a full merchandising stream all ready. The publishers just goggled at it because that would only normally happen for a book selling millions. It means that we start out fully formed and the publishers have huge confidence in the title.
Jamie: It had an effect on the creative process. The Kickstarter meant we didn’t have to make any concessions, no external pressure on the creative process.
Gemini Force One: Black Horizon is available from all good book shops from April 2nd.
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