Jeff Norton is a filmmaker, an author and also a creative producer. He has got experience in developing and producing for films and television. He is a co-founder of Awesome : “A creative incubator that originates amazing stories with compelling characters in immersive worlds “. His first book METAWARS was published in August 2012 by Orchard Books, a division of Hachette, publishers of ‘Twilight Saga’.
Maggie: You are a graduate of the Harvard Business School. You also studied Film Studies and Commerce at Queen’s University, Canada. Business Schools don’t really prepare you to be a writer, how did you become one?
Jeff Norton: In my undergrad, I studied both film and commerce, seeking to blend the art, science, and business of storytelling. I then went into advertising, where I spent five years in brand management, crafting stories that could be delivered in thirty seconds. I was very fortunate to get a scholarship to Harvard. An MBA is not an MFA, but the Harvard method of case study – putting yourself into the shoes of the case protagonist – was actually very fertile ground for fiction. Every day I would have to imagine myself in the situation of three or four new characters, and speak passionately and persuasively to a group of 80 incredibly smart people. It was actually great training ground for getting under the skin of characters and two of my classmates have also gone on to become writers.
Maggie: When did you decide to write MetaWars and how did you come out with the idea of MetaWars? I have to admit I really enjoyed reading it: action, adventure and interesting characters.
Jeff Norton: The original idea came to me when I was listening to a political speech. It was the autumn of 2006, and I’d just moved from Los Angeles to London, and David Miliband was speaking at the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) about individual carbon credit. As he spoke about the idea that every person would have to be accountable for their carbon footprint, the image of Jonah and his mother living on a retired London bus shot into my head. But it was much later, in the spring of 2010, when the Icelandic ash cloud stranded me in Portugal that I sat down to write the book. Suddenly, something I took for granted, easy air travel, was out of reach and I turned to the internet to stay in touch with family and friends. The book was inspired by the idea that in a world where no one could travel easily, whoever controls the web, controls the world.
Maggie: What was the hardest part of writing MetaWars ?
Jeff Norton: I think like many things in life, the hardest pursuits are also the most enjoyable. It was a complex challenge, but very stimulating, to craft the history of the future. I wanted the entire world of MetaWars to feel plausible, and its history to read as authoritative as a non-fiction account of the future.
Maggie: I heard that MetaWars will be a trilogy. Is that true?
Jeff Norton: It’s actually a four-book saga. Each novel is organized around one of the “Four Corners,” the four server farms that power the immersive internet called The Metasphere. I wanted to give Jonah and Sam a long runway to grow and evolve as characters. The series is very much a coming of age story arc for both of them and I want the reader to feel like they live through their transformation from adolescence to young adulthood.
Maggie: Do you have a specific writing style and is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Jeff Norton: I like to be very visual and intense. I wanted MetaWars to be extremely fast-paced (some people have called it ‘relentless’) and that’s important to me – I didn’t want to let the reader off the hook because Jonah is never off the hook in his adventure. It’s full on; and so is the writing.
Maggie: Would you like MetaWars to be made into a film?
Jeff Norton: Of course! I’d love to see MetaWars on the big screen, but it would be a very expensive movie to make – well over $200 million. The great thing about a book like this is that the reader can have a $200 million experience for only £5.99!
Maggie: Your book received very good reviews. What would you like to say to your young readers? To those who have read MetaWars and to those who are about to read the book.
Jeff Norton: Thank you. The reaction has been fantastic. I think it speaks to people in different ways.For readers who haven’t picked up the book yet, I’d say ‘what are you waiting for?’ It’s a great adventure story and really makes you think about where the world might be heading in the future. It’s a great book for anyone who likes books like Time Riders, Alex Rider, The Hunger Games or films like The Matrix, Avatar, or the Dark Knight trilogy.
For readers who have read the book, there is a lot going on the book and if anyone has any questions, starting in September I’m going to be doing a weekly video Q&A. Readers can send their questions to me on my facebook page or via twitter and I’ll respond via YouTube video.
Also, the publisher is running a very cool contest via www.metawarsbooks.com where readers can win great, high-tech prizes. Go online and pledge your allegiance to the Guardians or the Millennials.
Maggie: Thank you for taking to me Jeff.
Jeff Norton: Thank you Maggie for having me! It’s been a real pleasure and I’m so pleased you enjoyed the book.
Interviewed by Maggie Gogler