Computers rule the world in Jeff Norton’s dystopia for reluctant readers

The former Harvard business grad turned young adult novelist is set to release the first of his new metawars trilogy

The Icelandic ash cloud in 2011 caused most people a headache. West Hampstead author Jeff Norton was caught up in it and had to do all of his work online. The experience gave him the idea for his debut young adult novel. “I thought, ‘In a world where you couldn’t travel, everything will be online. Whoever controls that all of a sudden controls the world.’”

The 37-year-old came up with the idea for MetaWars, a trilogy set in a post peak oil future, where the internet dominates all. The first of the books is out in August.

It was a long time coming: the Harvard Business School graduate had spent the first half of his life in the corporate world, before moving on to work in the entertainment industry, developing books for film and television. His reluctance to read as a youngster meant he always had an ambition to write. “I couldn’t find anything that catered for me and so I wasn’t very good at it – and you don’t tend to like things you are not good at. A big part of doing this project was about trying to write something for the guy I was.

“I am very visual thinker. When I was a boy, I just wasn’t very interested, I wasn’t interested in the characters. I wasn’t interested in what I was being force fed at school. I didn’t really relate, didn’t really care.”

He was also spurred on by his experience working with the company that made the only books he did read as a kid: The Choose Your Own Adventure series. “They were pretty much the thinnest books you could get.”

That’s fair enough, but wasn’t the transition from media executive to children’s writer difficult? “I spent a lot of time mapping it out. Since it is set in the future, I had to map back what has happened to lead to that. It was almost like writing a history report on something that hasn’t happened yet. So I was thinking, ‘When did the United States default on its debt? There’s a part of the book where Florida becomes like Somalia and is overrun by lawless pirates. It’s thinking about what it would actually take for those things to happen. I guess that’s where some of my business background comes into play. I can think, ‘What are the macroeconomics that create a society where everything has to happen online?’”

Most Read

With the success of others like JK Rowling, wouldn’t it make sense that Norton, given his experience, would be pushing the books to become a movie? “In a way, I have completely taken my business hat off and burned it to the ground. I have made a lot of creative decisions in writing this that would make it very difficult to turn it into a film. It’s a crazy virtual world and it would be incredibly expensive to make. What I’m hoping is that, for �5.99, someone can read it and have a 100million dollar experience in their head.”

“In a way, I’m hoping MetaWars might be a gateway to things like Robert Muchamore or Anthony Horowitz or other authors who have got something for that audience.”

MetaWars: Fight For The Future is published by Orchard Books on August 2 priced �5.99.