From the Author What happened to Junior science fiction?
Over the past few years I’ve promoted reading and writing at countless schools, libraries and literary events. Young readers – boys AND girls – are fascinated by science fiction, yet they rarely get the chance to read it!
So, I decided enough was enough, and I put my adult series on hold to write the kind of science fiction I would have devoured as a ten-year-old.
The result is Hal Junior: The Secret Signal, a funny, fast-moving novel set in the distant future. It’s written in a similar style to my Hal Spacejock books, and doesn’t talk down to younger readers. I set out to write a realistic portrayal of life in the distant future, as experienced by a boy of 10 or 11. Well, realistic apart from bungie-jumping with elastic shoelaces, and that home-made space cannon …
There are more than 30 illustrations, sight gags and technical diagrams scattered throughout the book, many of them explaining concepts in the text. There are also plans for the world’s most acrobatic paper plane.
Judging by the great feedback I’ve had from teachers and librarians, Hal Junior will really appeal to confident readers aged 9+
Simon Haynes was born in England and grew up in Spain, where he enjoyed an amazing childhood of camping, motorbikes, mateship, air rifles and paper planes. His family moved to Australia when he was 16.
Simon returned to Curtin in 1997, graduating with a degree in Computer Science two years later. An early version of Hal Spacejock was written during the lectures.
Simon has four Hal Spacejock novels, one Hal Junior novel and several short stories in print. Sleight of Hand won the Aurealis Award (short fiction) in 2001, and Hal Spacejock: No Free Lunch was a finalist in both the Ditmar and Aurealis Awards for 2008.
Simon divides his time between writing fiction and computer software, with frequent bike rides to blow away the cobwebs. His goal is to write fifteen Hal books (Spacejock OR Junior!) before someone takes his keyboard away.
Hal Junior History
I’m a stay-at-home dad for my two daughters, and over the years they’ve given me plenty of material for future Hal Junior books. I don’t know who they get it from …
The start. In 2010 I planned something different for NaNoWriMo. For each of the 2005, ’06, ’07 and ’08 Nanos I wrote 50000 words of Hal Spacejock novels, only some of which has seen the light of day. Instead of adding even more random scenes to my very large collection, I decided to write a childrens book. (This was also my intention in 2009, but I had to skip Nano that year – I was writing and editing Hal Spacejock book 5.)
So what made me think I could write a kids’ book when I’m not a teacher, librarian or childcare specialist? My work involves getting unruly computers – not children – to behave.
The answer is simple: I drew on my childhood for inspiration. My younger brother and I grew up in a small village in rural Spain, and ‘untamed’ doesn’t cover the daily scenes of chaos and destruction.
My parents were strict but there were plenty of incidents involving fireworks, air rifles, motorbikes, camping out, broken windows, death-defying stunts … and that was just on the way to school.
Life was one gigantic adventure, but we survived and went on to better things.
When writing Hal Junior I took all the things my brother and I used to get up to and toned them down about 80% to make them believable. I had a wonderful laugh writing this novel, and I believe my own childhood lives on in Hal’s character.
In the end I split my Nanowrimo effort into two and a half novels. The Secret Signal is book one, and once it’s published I’ll carry on with books two and three.