Q&A with Joshua Mowll, creator of Operation Storm City and the "Guild of Specialists" trilogy

N65770776282_2073142_7481915Week before last, I wrote about Joshua Mowll's Operation Storm City, the upcoming final installment in the "Guild of Specialists" trilogy, a series for ages 9 and up. I recently got to talk to Josh about the series--and everything from Bactrian camels and harsh boarding schools to robot chimpanzees and 1920s anxiety over dinosaur attacks.

To find out more about Josh and the series, you can catch up with him on his blog, Twitter, or Facebook--where he's also posted a ton of images from his far-ranging research trips (such as the one on the left, taken while in China's Xinjiang province).


Omnivoracious: I've read that a lot of research went into Operation Storm City, and that you actually travelled around India and Western China--at times even by camel! At what point did you go there in the process? Did you visit places (like the remarkable labyrinth in Lucknow, India) and think "I've got to use this place in the book"? Did you ever think, "Do I really need to be on this camel to write this book?"

1210729126880Joshua Mowll: Yes, I plotted the book first of all, right down to chapter synopsis level, very much with the expedition in mind. This gave me a very tight framework for planning, and allowed me to heavily research locations before I set off. Bumbling about Asia in the hope of finding what I was looking for would have taken a lifetime. So, in the weeks before I set off, maps of the Chinese deserts lined my walls, and I bought lots of books to check on exactly where best was to go.

It was a very targeted expedition trip. I had to miss out on all sorts of tourist diversions. For example, I travelled through Xian in China on a train but did not getting off to see the Terracotta Army, though I was so, so tempted. I made my plan and stuck to it.

The book went through several drafts when I got home, as is the way of things. I had thought I’d almost certainly need Bactrian camels in it (preferred method of transport in those parts of China), but in actual fact this sequence was cut. This was a shame really, because the camel stunk and I was badly ripped off by the owner.

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