My memories of PE lessons are a blur. No, I mean literally. From an early age I’ve had to wear serious glasses – a potential hazard – so at the beginning of every class I was compelled to remove them. I never understood how a half-blind child stumbling across a football pitch wasn’t a greater hazard, but hey, at least that way the ensuing carnage and humiliation were reduced to a soft-edged fuzziness.
My gym teacher firmly believed that the best thing to do in the depths of a Scottish winter was to make schoolchildren in thin shorts run around a frozen rugby pitch tackling each other. Based on their ferocity, I’d say that a number of my classmates were auditioning for a future Game of Thrones battle scene. Fair to say I was not a fan. For me all competitive sport felt like the scene in Flash Gordon (Gordon’s alive! That one) where Flash is forced into a duel to the death on a wobbling platform with deadly spikes a mile up in the sky, all for someone else’s twisted entertainment.
No surprise then that the narrator of the novel, Luke Parker, shares my feelings. But he goes further than I ever would have dared. Fuelled by a suspicion that his gym teacher is up to no good, he sets a trap for her, only to discover that all is not what it seems.
It’s much, much worse.
My Gym Teacher is an Alien Overlord is the sequel to My Brother is a Superhero. All of the gang are back in an adventure that takes our heroes to the limits of, well, their usual bus route. There are aliens, there are super-weapons, there are trampettes.
It’s the first time I’ve written a story with continuing characters and situations and I can tell you it’s a strange experience. It’s not quite like revisiting old friends and seeing what’s become of them, since it’s up to me to decide their fates. However, my characters are very loud and insistent, and I discovered that they objected vociferously to some ideas I had about how they develop and where the plot takes them. Being a writer is the only time it’s a good thing to hear voices in your head.
Some things didn’t change. For instance, I knew how this book would finish before I started (it had to set up the third in the series), but exactly how I planned to get there was a bit of a mystery. I had in mind a few ‘big’ ideas (I’d tell you, but they’d be spoilers) and the act of writing was very much like joining the dots, except blindfolded, hands behind my back, in zero gravity.
And then there were the trip-mines. In the first book I gave Zack the power of telepathic communication. Big mistake. It means that any time Luke is in trouble he can call on his brother, from anywhere. I expended a lot of energy (and drank a lot of coffee) figuring out how to get around this power. Now I understand why thriller writers hate mobile phones.
I wish someone had warned me about the hazards of telepathy. Oh well. In that spirit I’d like to end by offering you a piece of advice. Should your regular school or work commute be blocked by a gigantic mothership and you bump into an alien (overlord or otherwise), don’t believe a word he or she says. They don’t come in peace. They never come in peace. Keep watching the skies (and reading. Do that too.)