MI6 talked to Young James Bond author Charlie Higson about the how the series will progress after SilverFin...

SilverFin: In Conversation With Charlie Higson (4)
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 a James Bond website, Charlie Higson discussed his work on SilverFin and the future of the Young Bond series in this serialized MI6 interview.

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?

They 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 the books.

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 to another.

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 size.

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 scenes.

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.

Above: Red

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.

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By Royal Command
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SilverFin : 01 - 02 - 03 - 04 - 05 - 06
Blood Fever : 01 - 02 - 03 - 04
Double Or Die : 01 - 02 - 03
Hurricane Gold : 01 - 02 - 03 - 04 - 05
By Royal Command : 01 - 02 - 03