Chad Summers: Hero of Earth is a sci-fi comedy by a new Maltese-British writer Fleur Vernall. She speaks to Josanne Cassar about growing up in Malta, her inspirations and her love of humour
Fleur Vernall is originally from Fleur-de-lys in Malta. She attended Stella Maris primary school, then went to Sacred Heart Convent for her secondary school years and then moved on to Sixth Form in Msida for her ‘A’ Levels.
A pretty conventional upbringing by any accounts. So how did this mother-of-two end up writing (of all things) a book which she describes as a sci-fi comedy?
Fleur describes her childhood with warm nostalgia:
“I have really fond memories of growing up in Malta – long summer holidays, Twistees, Star Trek on the telly, figolli, hanging around San Anton gardens which then gave way to far too much time in St Julian’s and Paceville, wearing shoulder pads, bright colours, discos which then became clubs and travelling on the lovely green Maltese buses.”
She taught English to foreigners for about 6 years which was a great job where she met “lovely people”, both students and colleagues. However, as she reached her mid-twenties she felt the tugging urge which so many young people born and bred on this small island feel:
“I needed to spread my wings. As my mum is English, I had spent many a summer holiday or Christmas break in the UK and always felt a slight attachment to the country. So in 1995 I boarded a plane and left the sunny isle behind me.
” I lived in London first where I studied and got my degree in English. The capital city is really my cup of tea – it just has everything and at any time too. However after I had my two children, I decided to move to a more family friendly place and chose Cornwall as my grandparents lived there. This is where I then did a post-grad in broadcast journalism and four years as a freelance journalist followed. I worked at various radio stations in Somerset, Essex, the Midlands and even Guernsey!
“As much as I loved my job a change in my circumstances meant I needed to be a full time mum again. It was at this point that I moved to Stamford – a brilliant place to bring up a family – where I live with my partner Sean, my two kids and my stepdaughter.”
Chad Summers – Hero of Earth
This is Fleur’s first book which she started as a way to fill up her day when the kids were at school. “This urge to write just would not go away and so once I had an idea for a story I sat at my desk day after day until finally I had a book. Once I realised I had actually completed it I thought it would be a waste to simply leave it languishing on my laptop, and so after a lot of encouragement from my partner I decided to go the whole way and get it published.”
Fleur decided to approach Kindle, as it is an ideal platform for first time authors. “As an unknown it would be very difficult to compete with established authors. However, Kindle allows people the chance to try new writers without having to give up shelf space or spend a lot. Therefore it is a great way to initially launch myself and my book. However, my book will come out in the more traditional form this December.”
A sci-fi comedy is a very specific genre, which not everyone has a knack for, and Fleur readily agrees:
“I believe the genre chose me rather than the other way round. I enjoy a variety of genres both when reading books and watching films. However, sci-fi is a particular favourite and that’s niche enough. What I love about sci-fi comedy is the mixture of the two genres. I still remember the first time I read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – that wonderful melding of the imaginative with a smattering of science, punctuated by British humour. Having allowed my inner geek back out of the cupboard the sci-fi route was no surprise. The humour part appeared almost as soon as I thought of my hero – Chad Summers. It was only when I read out parts of my writing to friends that I realised I was on to something. Let’s hope I’m not wrong!”
Although Fleur has written the book with adults in mind, she does not feel there is anything in the book which is unsuitable for a younger audience, “so young adults would be able to enjoy it too.”
Asked about her inspirations, Fleur, like any avid reader, finds it hard to name just one. She rattles off a whole list:
“When it comes to authors – Austen, Bronte, Joyce, Margaret Atwood, Orwell, Philip K. Dick, William Gibson – just too many to mention. I love people who take risks and try something new, something exciting. Passion is a great part of creating something but you should also have fun with it. Directors such as Edgar Wright, Quentin Tarantino, Ang Lee, Baz Luhrmann, Scorsese etc just evoke great emotions and hit on themes that resonate with individuals.”
And does she draw on real people for her characters?
“Well, the majority of them are pretty zany. No one character is modelled on a particular person but I have taken inspiration from real situations. I love people’s mannerisms and their way of talking – accents in particular. It’s what makes us individuals; it’s what makes us human.
Chad Summers – Hero of Earth is the first in a trilogy of The Boodoo Archives. So those who get hooked on Fleur’s writing style will be pleased to learn that there will be another two books, and she is hoping to get the second one finished and out by next year.
Chad Summers Hero of Earth is available on Amazon. Here is an extract from chapter 1 on YouTube narrated by Fleur herself.