Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Visit From Alexander Gordon Smith, Author of Lockdown and Solitary

A Ghost in the Cell

Hi Carrie, thanks so much for letting me write a guest post for your blog! As this is my first guest post on my blog tour, I wanted to talk a little about the main character, Alex, and the experience of being locked away inside Furnace Penitentiary with him. It was an incredible, life-changing time for both of us.

Alex existed inside my head long before the idea of Furnace came about. He’s me, in so many ways – the me that might have been if I’d taken a few more wrong turns as a teenager. I still think, sometimes, that Alex is a version of me that might actually exist in a different universe. This is why I’m so close to him – we’re twins, inter-dimensional brothers! I wasn’t exactly a bad kid, but I did steal stuff and hang out in biker bars and get into fights. Luckily I had a great family, and they pulled me free before it got out of hand. But the character of Alex stuck around inside my head, the teenage me who didn’t get rescued.

The idea of Furnace grew out of this character, this version of me. I wanted to write a horror story, something genuinely terrifying, and I was struggling to think of an idea that really worked. But Alex was still in my head. Whereas I’d grown up – I was twenty-eight when I started Lockdown – he was still a teenager. He hadn’t had the opportunity to play out his story, to see where his life would lead. I kept thinking about him, this teenager that was locked inside the purgatory of my mind, and eventually I realized that Alex wanted to tell his story. He needed to tell it. As soon as I understood this, the entire book – the prison and the terrible things that happen there – just appeared, almost fully formed. I had my horror story. I’d had it all along.

I started writing. It was incredible, really, as it genuinely felt as though Alex was telling the story and I was merely transcribing it. He was so real to me – a living, breathing person – that all I could do was capture what he was saying. Sometimes it felt like I couldn’t write fast enough to even do that, his voice a torrent, like he’d been waiting to tell this story for so long. It didn’t seem to matter that it was such a brutal sequence of events, that every page brought new horrors. I think the character was just grateful to finally be allowed to live his life, to see where it would lead him.

Like I said, though, it was a life-changing experience for both of us. Not long after I’d started writing, I suffered a personal tragedy. Anyone who’s read the dedication in Lockdown will have an idea of what it was. It was a really, really dark time, the worst in my life. I threw myself into the book as a way of coping with it, a way of forgetting.

I genuinely felt like I was imprisoned inside Furnace Penitentiary, locked away a mile beneath the ground in this hellhole. Like Alex, I had no way out, no way to escape this nightmare. We were both sentenced to rot at the very bottom of the world. I knew that if Alex didn’t find a way out of Furnace, then I’d never get out of this dark place in my own life. We needed each other. We couldn’t survive this alone. I think – I hope – that’s why the book feels so real: because Alex’s terror and confusion and pain and hopelessness were my terror and confusion and pain and hopelessness. It was completely and utterly real to me when I was writing. This is also why the friendships in the book are so important, so powerful. Because I was there, a ghost in the cell, relying on Donovan and Zee and Toby to keep me sane just as much as Alex was. If those guys hadn’t been in Furnace, I don’t know what would have happened to Alex and I don’t know what would have happened to me.

Writing Lockdown helped me get through this tragedy. It helped me to escape. And Alex? Well, I can’t say what happens to him at the end of the book, or the end of the series – I don’t want to give anything away! But I’m so glad he stayed in my head all those years, so glad he wanted to tell his story. Without him, I’d still be inside Furnace, I’d still be a ghost in that cell.

Wow!! Thanks for the awesome guest post! I'm honored to have you visit my blog. Now what are you waiting for reader?! Go pick up Lockdown and Solitary and get reading!


  1. What an awesome post. I truly say that this is a book I want to read, because I love strong characters and Alex sounds like he is just that. I will definitely be looking for this book next time I hit the bookstore. It also sound like a book my male students would love, and I am always looking for great book to turn them onto reading. Thanks!

  2. Amazing post! This has become one of my favorite series :)