AmeriCymru: Care to describe your novel Stormteller for our readers?
David: Sure. Stormteller is a fantasy adventure set 15 years into the future about two 15-year-old teenage boys and a girl the same age who live on the mid-Wales coast just north of Aberystwyth. It's a kind of romance and tragedy, it uses two Welsh myths or legends that are set in the location, and is deeply embedded in the local landscape, which I know very well, having lived there for nearly 20 years.
There are some detailed descriptions of the landscape, both the uplands and the coast itself, which come from my extensive walks and explorations. I love that area. I loved writing about a place I knew really well. It was the first time I had done this and was quite a revelation.
Although it's aimed primarily at young adults, many adults have read it and thoroughly enjoyed it, making it what the trade terms a 'crossover' novel in the same way that the Harry Potter stories were.
The two boys, Tomos and Bryn, are both in love with the girl, Eira. But unfortunately for Tomos she chooses Bryn. The young men are really contrasting characters although they look very similar.
Tomos' background is rich, privileged, having every modern device he could want in his home. His father is a successful professor in business studies.
Bryn was brought up in an eco-village, with a great appreciation of the natural environment and the need to not use fossil fuels. His mother taught him all about growing vegetables, keeping animals, recognising all the wild plants and how to survive by foraging.
Tomos' home is directly on the coast, in Borth, and is destroyed near the start of the novel by a storm surge, that gets attributed to climate change. (In my research I found that Borth was the most vulnerable part of coastal Wales to this kind of thing. It's since seen the benefit of some storm surge protection efforts, but I'm a bit sceptical about how effective they will be in the long term.)
In the story, these storms affect the whole coast of Britain, bringing power stations off-line and disrupting supply chains for shops. Very quickly the shops run out of food and normal law and order break down.
Hungry and in search of food, Tomos goes to Bryn's eco-village and joins the community, but not for long. The breakdown in law and order even reaches them, and he is forced to rely on Bryn's survival skills when they are chased over the Welsh mountains by marauders who wish to eliminate them as witnesses to murder. But things don't go exactly as hoped...
AmeriCymru: What role does Celtic myth play in the book?
David: There are two Welsh legends associated with the area: Cantre'r Gwaelod describes the drowning of Cardigan Bay by the drunken antics of a jealous gatekeeper who was in love with a girl that the local Prince married instead. I took this as an analog for rising sea levels due to climate change.
The second story is the origin of Wales' most famous bard and shamanic figure, Taliesin, who, as a baby, is discovered by the same Prince, having floated down the river Dyfi.
So my whole narrative about Bryn and Tomos and Eira is bracketed and interspersed with scenes starring the characters in these two myths. They all get the chance, every few hundred years, to have people in real life relive their dramas in the hope they can benefit from a different ending.
So the drunken gatekeeper wants to get the girl, and Ceridwen, who made the potion that turned the servant boy Gwion into Taliesin by accident, wants her disabled son, for whom the potion was originally intended, to receive the benefit of it. And so does the son (whose name is Afagddu), who is totally jealous of Gwion.
You can hopefully see how the triangular relationship between Bryn and Tomos and Eira is kind of reflected in the rivalry between the legendary characters.
In this respect it's a bit like Alan Garner's The Owl Service, which uses the Mabinogion story of Blodeuwedd and is also set nearby, around Devil's Bridge east of Aberystwyth. That's a great novel that I loved as a child. When I moved to the area I re-read it. I love the way it is so tersely written.
I am endlessly grateful that I met my lovely and talented wife Helen Adam during the research for the myths because she was writing a musical for children about Taliesin. I'm attaching a picture of her playing at a launch event for Stormteller.
AmeriCymru: Care to tell us a little about your other fiction titles - 'Hybrids', 'Doc Chaos'?
David: Doc Chaos came first. Initially scripts for a commissioned TV series, it evolved into a series of comic books and a novella. The novella purports to be the autobiography of this Dr. Frankenstein-like monstrous scientist who is the archetype of nuclear power. It's a romp, a crazy satire and a mad love story.
The novella was originally published by Hooligan Press but a new edition has recently come out as an e-book only, together with a new short story set 100 years or so in the future when climate change and nuclear power have virtually wiped out everyone. Stylistically, think William Burroughs meets comics writer Grant Morrison in his Invisibles stage.
Hybrids was a novel that won a national competition by HarperCollins 'to find the next JK Rowling'. Or that is how it was billed. Clearly I do not have her hair. It's about teenagers merging with frequently-used technology due to a virus for which there is no known cure.
Johnny Online is turning into a computer and Kestrella's hand is a mobile phone. Hybrids have to be registered. If they're not, they become outlaws to be hunted by the Gene Police and taken to the sinister Centre for Genetic Rehabilitation. It aimed exactly at the Hunger Games generation, but it came out first.
Currently there is interest in turning it into another television series.
AmeriCymru: In addition to your works of fiction you have also written on Energy Management. Can you tell us more about this work?
David: Not only that, but books on solar technology, living sustainably on the land, and upgrading your house to save energy and carbon emissions. I've always had this twin career and passion for environmentalism.
I guess it started when, as an 11 year old, I won a national environmental essay-writing competition by lamenting how the fields next to my local playground were being covered with housing sprawl. Nowadays I'm also an environmental journalist and non-fiction book writer.
So Stormteller represents an attempt to combine my interests in environmentalism with my interest in writing Speculative Fiction for young people.
Since Stormteller appeared, it has been labelled by some critics as 'cli-fi', which stands for climate change fiction, and is apparently a hot new genre. That's fine by me. I've been invited to be on a panel at this year's Hay Festival discussing cli-fi.
AmeriCymru: What can you tell us about your work in the fields of carbon-free energy and sustainable development?
David: My most recent non-fiction book, published at the beginning of this year, is called The One Planet Life . It is about living sustainably in the countryside: about zero carbon buildings, land management, growing your own food and keeping animals, low carbon transport, and renewable energy.
It is based on a unique and pioneering Welsh planning law which allows people to build homes on agricultural land provided that they fulfil certain criteria about feeding themselves, improving biodiversity and reducing their ecological footprint.
It's a world-beating policy and to write the book I went and interviewed a lot of people who are doing this. The book has an introduction by the former Welsh Environment Minister, Jane Davidson. Again, we are talking together at this year's Hay Festival about this.
As a result of this work I am a patron of The One Planet Council .
Train stuck near Towyn in the winter of 2013/14 (Photo by Mark Kendell)
AmeriCymru: Where can one go to purchase Stormteller online?
David: It's available both as an e-book and in print from either Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk or the publisher, Cambria Books .
AmeriCymru: What's next for David Thorpe?
David: I'm hard at work on a new novel, which I'm hoping will be the ultimate time travel story. It's set around the end of this century and in Nottingham, the city where I grew up. It's called The Moebius Trip.
I'm also researching a sequel to The One Planet Life, about living sustainably in the city. The crucial thing about this is measuring whether what is being done is actually sustainable.
AmeriCymru: Any final message for the members and readers of AmeriCymru?
David: Stormteller tries to give a message of hope. Just as it's implied that the characters in the Welsh myths trying to change the endings of their stories have the possibility of doing so, I wanted to give readers, especially young readers, the feeling that climate change and its worst effects are not necessarily inevitable. I want to give them hope that it's possible to do something about it.
I'd hate to be young now with the feeling that the older generations have left me this terrible legacy of catastrophic devastation that may well occur during this century in many parts of the world as a result of their burning too many fossil fuels. I would be extremely angry and depressed.
Emotionally it's very difficult to deal with these feelings. Many people try to pretend it's not happening, they deny or ignore these feelings. They don't talk about them. They carry on living their lives because of course that's what we all really want to do. We resent it when people tell us that we should save energy, not drive so much, not fly everywhere, etc.
But people must be brave and need to realise that there are real benefits to living sustainably. Your quality of life can be so much better, and so may everyone's, not just the few. We can save money. We can stop species being made extinct. It's all very possible. You just need to wake up and join with others who are already doing it.
I believe that fiction provides a way to talk about these things without turning people off, without being preachy. I hope that Stormteller does this.
David Thorpe reading from 'Stormteller' at the book launch.