Interview with The City’s Son author Tom Pollock
Today the Dolls are very excited to introduce Tom Pollock – author of the new young adult urban fantasy Skyscraper Throne trilogy – the first book The City’s Son is now on a shelf near you!
Tom is a long-time fan of science fiction and fantasy, and has failed spectacularly to grow out of his obsession with things that don’t, in the strictest sense of the word, exist. He studied Philosophy and Economics at Edinburgh University. He now lives and works in London helping to build very big ships. The City’s Son is his first novel.
You can find out more about Tom on his Website and follow him on and
For more about The City’s Son check out Noa’s review tomorrow (Thursday) right here on paperbackdolls.com!
PBD: The City’s Son is just such an incredible book. There is so much going on – the universe you created was just breathtaking – Where did the idea for The City’s Son and The Skyscraper Throne series come from?
Tom Pollock: The original impetus was to interpret a feeling I had into a thought. Like a lot of city dwellers, I have quite an intense emotional relationship with my home town. London has a presence, a weight for me. I feel like I’m in dialogue with it when I’m walking down its streets. It alters my mood. People often talk about cities being alive as a metaphor, Building the world of The Skyscraper Throne was about taking that metaphor and literalizing it.
Plus, and I don’t say this lightly, stampeding electric -wheeled Railwraiths are just cool.
*PBD: They are completely cool – This Doll (Noa) spent an hour trying to imagine Beth’s ride on one. :D*
PBD: The City’s Son jumps from different perspectives throughout the book – How did you manage to ‘jump’ between the different voices? Was there a reason you chose to write the book from the different character perspectives?
TP: There were a couple of reasons. I wanted to immerse the reader as fully as possible into the Fantasy London, to show it through the eyes of someone who understood it, intimately and familiarly, who for example would pick up on all the little cultural conflicts between the different Streetlamp colors. At the same time, I wanted to preserve the sense of discovery when the ordinary city and the extraordinary one met. So two main voices were born: Fil, Prince of the Strange City, immediate and immersive, first person present tense, and Beth, an ordinary sixteen year old girl with nothing to lose, 3rd person past.
As for the secondary characters, I just let myself drop into their heads when I needed to to get the story told. I know some people don’t like multiple viewpoint, but I’ve always been quite relaxed about it.
PBD: The book deals with quite a few adult themes – yet you chose to write this as a children’s book – do you think kids can relate to the issues raised in The City’s Son?
TP: I actually think that many of the themes in The City’s Son are quintessentially YA – family, identity, the sometimes obsessional love between best friends. It’s just these themes when treated realistically have a dark edge. Children and teenager’s lives can be dark, and I have to respect and reflect that. It’s a matter of faith. I need to earn the trust of the reader if I want them to follow me to all the weird and wonderful places I want to take them, if I want them to buy into street lamp spirits and pylon spiders. Showing them lives they recognize and can relate to, realistically rather in any kind of patronizing, sanitized way, is part of that.
PBD: There are just so many wonderful Young Adult and Children’s series out there which have become bestsellers with adult audiences as well as the younger crowd – why do you think there’s such a renaissance in YA/children’s books?
TP: I can think of two answers to this, and I’m not sure which is right. The first is economics. Wonderful books about teenagers have been being written for, literally, centuries, but Harry Potter and Twilight broke out and publishers, realizing the cross-over appeal of these books, began to market them more widely.
The second answer is sociology – adult life, certainly here in the UK, has changed in the last couple of decades. Statistically, you’re less likely to have a job for life, you’re less likely to stay with one lover forever, you have more opportunities to reinvent and redefine yourself later and later in life. Adults have more in common with teenagers than they used to. Maybe that makes YA themes resonate more.
PBD: Is there a character in the book you based on yourself or see yourself in?
TP: With one exception, I can see myself in all of my characters to an extent. I try to only write characters whose actions and motivations I can sympathize with, even if those actions have terrible consequences, and that pretty much inevitably involves basing a lot of the way they think on the way I think. Research helps. Talking to people helps. Empathy helps a lot, but at the end of the day, the only internal mental states you can observe are your own.
PBD: Graffiti has a major role in The City’s Son – have a history with graffiti or just excellent research?
TP: Ha! I wish, I love graffiti, especially the weirder stuff that uses it’s environment as a conversation partner as well as a canvas. Unfortunately I have zero talent for visual art. None. I can barely draw stickmen. I read books on graffiti, surfed the net and went to visit it. I also grew up around a lot of it. Iain Sinclair’s Lights Out for The Territory has an interesting bit on Hackney graffiti that was an inspiration.
PBD: I was flabbergasted (only word that does my feelings justice) by the end of the book…Is the piercing cry of that baby a sign of things to come?
TP: I’m very spoiler leery, especially when it comes to works in progress, but yes, that baby does feature in The Glass Republic. :)
PBD: Can you share anything about what’s next for the Skyscraper Throne series?
TP: Sure! It’s called The Glass Republic and Pen -who is sort of in the best supporting actress slot from book one, is the lead. It’s about beauty, betrayal, skyscrapers and scars, with the usual helping of monsters and some very unusual weather.
And now for a few Paperback Proust questions!
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST FEAR?
TP: Scorpions dude. I mean, I’d like to say something smart and metaphysical like ‘fear itself’ but seriously, When FDR said that he’d clearly never seen a scorpion.
WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE FICTIONAL HERO?
TP: Ashraf-al-Mansur, from Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s Arabesk books. Most of my favourite fiction’s pretty light on heroes, but Raf has the lot. He’s smart, funny, cool as a switchblade in an icebox, but also relatable and flawed and real. He just walks out of the page, dusts off his lapels and looks at you. I love him.
ON WHAT OCCASION DO YOU LIE?
TP: Far more often than I should. But I never get away with it, and usually crack and confess after about 40 seconds. I’m a terrible liar.
IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT YOURSELF, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
TP: I’d make myself more risk-loving.
WHAT DO YOU VALUE MOST IN YOUR FRIENDS?
TP: The capacity to forgive. They exercise it more often than I deserve.
HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO DIE?
TP: Falling from a really, really great height. Like out of an aeroplane. My last moments would be like flying.
IF YOU COULD CHOOSE AN OBJECT TO COME BACK AS, WHAT WOULD YOU CHOOSE?
TP: A boomerang.
WHO HAS BEEN THE GREATEST INFLUENCE ON YOU?
TP: I’d like to say my sister, but I suspect it’s my dad.
Thank you so much to Tom Pollock!
For those of you who want to ask Tom some more questions – he will be chatting to readers through a Ustream Chat later today – 4-5pm EST!
And there’s a GIVEAWAY
To find out how to log in check out Tom’s post Here