MI6 talked to Young James Bond author Charlie
Higson about the how the series will progress after
SilverFin: In Conversation With Charlie Higson
22nd December 2005
MI6 talked to Charlie Higson earlier in 2005 about his work
on the Young James Bond series. Speaking for the first time to
James Bond website, Charlie Higson discussed his work on SilverFin
and the future of the Young Bond series in this serialized MI6
|Do you see SilverFin as a template for the rest of the
series, or can you see a time when you will adopt a different
structure, like a collection of short stories?
will all be novels, at least five books. The first and second
books are pretty similar in structure, but I don't want
them to become too formulaic.
I don't want them to become like the Harry Potter books
where you know exactly the time structure that takes place
throughout the book. So the third book for instance, will
take place over two days - similar to how Moonraker takes
place over a few days. But obviously, they will all be kept
within the same style and the same idea.
The brief, as it was put to me by Ian Fleming Publications,
was that kids do like books to be a set, to have them along
the same lines in each book. They didn't want them to be
too wildly different. They wanted [Young Bond] to be roughly
the same age throughout the series, and with Eton as the
background to it all.
But this, obviously, create some problems because of Bond's
obituary. But once you put a kid in a school system, it
can't always be summer term. So there is a relentless timetable
there, so inevitably, he will get a little older through
Above: Young James Bond
So will this "growing up" be alluded to?
Well, mathematically he will age, but he won't radically get
older in the books. One of my ideas for the series was that he
would get harder and more cynical as the books progress.
So you're not going to be in a Harry Potter dead end where
the character gets a year older every time...
No, I didn't want to be tied down to that. It would be great
to have the kind of leeway you get with, say making a television
series where you never know time-wise how one episode relates
Above: Lord Hellebore
Similar to the film in that respect then, that the
character is always around the same age.
Yes, exactly. The fact is that he is at school and he's
going through the school system, so it has to fit in with
that. But it's not going to be as relentless and structured
as the Potter books.
As with any set of books like this, and the films, you
do have to suspend your disbelief as to the amount of incident
that takes place.
The original idea was to start him off as a relatively
ordinary, innocent boy of 13 starting at big school. The
concept's been a little puffed up because his parents have
died. He will get tougher as the books go on. There will
be an element of disillusionment creep in, less of childhood,
moving towards what he is as a man. That was one of the
things that attracted me to this series. I didn't want to
start him as a superhero kid that could do everything, was
scared of nothing and could fight off people ten times his
In Fleming's books his is quite vulnerable, he does get
hurt, he does get injured and spends a lot of time recuperating.
He also gets emotionally hurt and he does get angry, which
we don't get to see a lot of in the films. I wanted to make
him a real person.
The characters of the villains in SilverFin seem better defined
than Bond's friends. Was this a conscious decision to slowly flesh
out the regular characters over a number of books?
Yes! The things you remember about the books are the villains
and the girls. The friends are there to do what they need to do,
talk to him, tell him what's going on... I hope kids can relate
to the other characters a bit. But I didn't want to give the impression
it was James Bond and his school chums having a lot of adventures.
So I did want James to stay the main focus even in the school
Perhaps that's where the likes of James Bond Jnr and the
likes failed, because it was more of a group adventure?
Yes. It's quite a tough thing to create a young character like
that who had enough personality and character to carry a book.
Kids haven't done a lot in their lives, but hopefully because
he's James Bond, he brings all that extra stuff with him. But
yes, there's always a tendency with kids things to put them in
a gang, perhaps because kids relate to that. There's been a lot
of children's fiction, good stuff, kids who are being bullied,
kids on the outside, kids who are a bit bookish and picked on,
but what I want to do with Bond is say that was great, but this
is a kid who can look after himself, fight for himself. It's nice
to do a full-on hero. I think that other fiction is very important,
but this is James Bond.
We saw some different numbers during the PR build
up for SilverFin from different countries, some saying 9-12,
some 10-13, some 9-13... Where do you personally think Young
Bond sits best?
Well it's a grey area as kids read differently and at different
levels at the same age. I was speaking to someone the other
day who said they were reading the adult books when they
were eight years-old. I would think, in an ideal world,
for reading by themselves, starting around eight, and at
the top end maybe fifteen or sixteen. The core readership
is probably ten to thirteen.
I didn't set out specifically to write "a kids book",
instead I set out to write a thriller in which the central
character was a kid. Obviously, many aspects of it have
to be adapted for it to be Young Bond, for instance if it
had have been an adult thriller the sex angle would have
been more pronounced. A thirteen year-old may be interested
in that sort of thing, but a twelve year-old may not want
to read about it.
Some of the language and some of the violence would have
been different too. But I haven't changed that much for
it to be acceptable, it's not a kiddy-kiddy series. But
in the book industry it's somewhat of a grey area, but they
have to have something on the back of the book so they know
what shelf to put it on in the stores.
I'm glad so many people are interested in it. I have noticed,
that from the beginning when lots of people were saying "this
is gonna be shit!", you get the occasional lone voice that
says we should wait and see how the series pans out. There have
been more and more who say let's wait and see, maybe he's going
to do it properly. The one that cheers me up is when fans say,
"I will of course be buying the books, but I will not read
them!". That I don't mind, as long as they buy it [laughs].
What was your first experience of Bond in any format?
The first film I can remember going to the cinema to see
was Thunderball, I was about 6 or 7 years-old. I remember
very vividly it coming out.
Which is your favourite Fleming novel?
Well, Casino Royale is interesting because Bond wasn't burdened
so much with the whole weight of the thing, he was just
doing something that he enjoyed. But probably From Russia
With Love would be my overall favourite. I really like the
opening about Red and Tatiana and it was very well written.
It was such a big leap from the previous book to that one.
Fleming seemed to get into it a bit more.
Stay tuned to MI6 for the next installment.
Many thanks to Charlie Higson.