Reader quotes and links to full reviews
Before we get into Dead Game, tell us about Claire Kinton.
Inside, I am an animated teenage artiste, risk-taker, singer, actress and comedienne. I just happen to be trapped inside the body of a very private person, a sometimes blonde, sometimes brunette, author of romantic, fantasy novels for young adults. I often seek solitude for comfort, have been told that I’m perceptive and, as my readers will quickly learn, am a very deep thinker. I was born in North London in 1978, was raised by both my parents and grew up alongside my older brother and sister. It was idyllic but not without its tribulations. After my schooling, I travelled the world for many years with my now husband, Gareth, finally settling in the Lincolnshire countryside where I still live, with Gareth and my three beautiful and spirited children. I’m not sure where they get their feistiness from!
What is Dead Game about?
Dead Game is really a big question. Where do we go when we die? It is about the life of a regular lad called Archie Fletcher who, at the tender age of eighteen becomes a Lance Corporal and is soon deployed to Iraq during the Second Gulf War. His plane goes down in a freak storm and he is thrust into a fantasy land called Transit, trapped somewhere between Heaven and Earth. His new mission is simply to cross the bridge to the other side of life, but this is no easy feat. With guardian angels, a cursed centaur and mythical saints, Archie must battle his way through Transit, discovering an underwater world of ancient secrets and brawling with wild lions, enraged charioteers and venomous plants. With the Moon’s trickery endangering his sanity and a three-headed dragon that never sleeps blocking his path, he must piece together his past before he is allowed to cross-over to the other-side, but when he crosses he must do so with a balanced heart. Dead Game is an allegorical story of bravery, acceptance, friendship, trust and love, but in the same breath it is the ultimate adventure propelled by the inconceivable motivation to survive.
What is your favourite virtue in your main character?
His kindness and amity
What trait do you most despise in your villain?
Her greed and possessiveness
What was the genesis for you to write such a moving and epic story for young adults?
I think it is without doubt real life events that generally inspire writers to write. The more powerful the event, the more emotion there is and the more experience a writer has to call upon. I’ve been writing since I was a child, usually making up mystical stories for my own enjoyment. Dead Game, however, ignited following the tragic death of my cousin, Charles, who served with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. He was deployed in 2003 to Paderborn in Germany and was killed, aged 24, in a freak transport accident the day after he returned from serving a six month stint for his country in Iraq. I was heavily pregnant with my first child when we heard news that he had been killed. As you can imagine, my family and I were stricken with grief, we are extremely close knit and he was like a brother to me. Like most, I found his death very hard to accept, I felt strangely guilty for being alive. Charles not being here was just so un-comprehensible, so I went on a mission to find him.
Not long after my first child was born I found myself in the comfort of a spiritualist church, practicing mediumship and I now believe that my cousin is as much the author of Dead Game as I am. I spent seven years at the spiritualist church, researching and developing my spiritual awareness. I have a very sceptical and questioning mind, but the evidence given to me in the past seven years proved to me, that we all do move on. Dead Game’s roots went very deep, as the story is loosely based on a very real family, who lived through the heartbreak and agony of losing someone dear.
Years on and three children later, living close by to a Royal Air Force base, I have forged close friendships with families whose young men and women risk - and all too often lose - their lives serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and in addition I have lost other young friends who are non-service related. How someone passes is really irrelevant, it will always be excruciating to bear. It was witnessing at first hand the heartbreak of loss that conjures a multitude of emotions, particularly in children and young adults that spurred me on to complete Dead Game. For some young minds it is not enough to say ‘He’s gone to Heaven’, they need to know why, what happens next, how long will they be gone? Dead Game is my way of answering these poignant questions in a fantastical and simple way.
Amid the mass of beings on our planet there are some who, every so often, will look up to the infinite stars exploding above them and wonder, ‘Where have we come from? Why are we here? Are we really just a heavy mass of bodies made up of blood, bone and skin, glued to the earth by gravity, running around creating a giant mess?’ Some of us have been born into beautiful, wealthy and secure homes, whilst others less fortunate find themselves in war-torn graveyards, succumbing to hatred and violence. Whatever our lot; content or dissatisfied, we all feel and we try to stay alive. But what if our bodies are frail and old or diseased, starving, even blown to pieces, indeed, after the trauma of death itself? What then? Every epic adventure begins with many an unanswered question. Yet questions on this scale will be answered with a thousand different voices. They are questions that go way beyond the point of all comprehension. Dead Game is my answer.
What kind of things do people say about Dead Game when they meet you?
Most try to avoid me, *grins*. In all seriousness, nearly all have expressed how much it has moved them. As adults we learn quickly, it is impossible to go through life without losing someone dear and with a bit of luck, most children won’t be faced with that sort of heartbreak until they get older, but on occasion it does happen. When people have read Dead Game, they bring their own grief to the story and they enrich the story with their own experiences. Many commented, saying how they felt they had taken the journey with Archie, feeling every triumph and disappointment. Whilst others have stated how radical the imagination is that went into Dead Game and then in the same breath others have said how the plot still manages to keep you grounded even though it is a fantasy and that the events are all totally believable. Reading all the Amazon reviews gives a great insight as to what people think of Dead Game. I would say the greatest opinion, which has been expressed time and time again, is how Dead Game has made the reader look at life slightly differently and how uplifted they felt when they read it.
Why do you think it is a good thing for teenagers to be experiencing this kind of death whilst reading a novel?
To be honest, not all, but many adolescents tend to read over the emotional side of the story and follow the adventure and quest. Dead Game can be taken on so many different levels. That said I would feel it’s better to experience death through a book first before it becomes real life. It’s almost like a rehearsal for what all of us are going to have to face in our lives at some point. We are all going to lose someone close before we die and sometimes death is not always the most painful way. I almost feel books can make you go through it vicariously. I know that some readers who have written to me personally tell me what a great comfort Dead Game was to them and that they have returned to it time and time again for ease and pleasure, which means a great deal to me.
Do you believe in life after death?
Yes, I do.
How did your family, who the story is loosely based around, feel about you writing Dead Game?
I think at first it was a little strange, painful as well. Naturally, I let them all read it before I sent it to any publishers, I felt they had the right to tell me if they didn’t want me to publish the story because even though they personally are not characters in the book and the family structure is different, everybody, particularly our friends and family would be placing real life faces, with the characters in the book. It is a work of fiction and every single member of my family has said how proud and honoured they are that I have written it. A large part of me is one of the characters, Sarah Walker, and the up-to-date back-flashes that occur throughout the book are a part of my childhood memories, therefore parts of the story are based on real-life events.
You travelled quite a bit. Please tell us more about your travels, and if/how they impacted the creation of Dead Game and its world.
I have travelled a lot and my husband Gareth and I intend to travel a lot more once our children are a bit bigger. I feel travelling is a wonderful education on its own. I was just seventeen when my lone love affair with the world began. Starting in Hong Kong, I had no fixed itinerary, I had got the bug, and China, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand were only a stone’s throw away. I loved the Far East; it was where my irrepressible urge for travel really began. I came back to Europe and to England intermittently. I met my husband whilst snow-boarding and rock-climbing in France and we continued to travel for a further five years. Together we went back to Asia, then onto Australia, the United States and finally Canada. There are so many places I dream of travelling to still; the biggest dream though would have to be Base Camp of Everest. What is a life without a dream?
I’m sure all my travels certainly have a great impact on my writing. All writing comes from experience. Coming home and looking back, remembering those exciting days, they are still just as colourful. I still get that stomach churning feeling of being totally lost in an unfamiliar land, knowing nobody; I love getting lost then finding myself again. I don’t think those memories will ever fade. Archie, Dead Game’s main character, has such a zest for adventure and his emotion and fears are so real, I’m sure that comes from me recalling how I felt when I landed in a far and foreign land alone; all the anxiety bubbling away inside. Waiting Game, Dead Game’s sequel, is definitely drawn from my time in the Far East, being set mainly in Thailand as well as the fantasy world of Transit.
A lot of readers have said how Dead Game would make a fantastic movie, one review on Amazon used the word epic. Could you see this happening?
*Laughs* What is a life without a dream!
Why do you enjoy writing books so much?
It’s very simple... I love to tell stories.
I am deeply passionate about the art of storytelling. You can carry away so much from a good book and live several lives whilst reading it, as I hope the readers of Dead Game will. I have three small children to entertain every day so storytelling has become a bit compulsive in our house. When we read a book we are always taken on a journey that will make us feel, in one way or another. That’s what a story is supposed to do. Whenever I read a book, I yearn and delight in yelling out loud, or weeping, such as when a baby is born - the ooohhhhs and ahhhhs connect the reader to the story, whatever the exclamation. I love to be moved enough to laugh until my sides ache or cry until I have no more tears to shed. As an author, to be able to do that to someone else, through my own words, is magical.
However, as I’ve already said, Dead Game started off on a more personal note. I did not write it with the intention to publish it. It was only through the sincere belief of my amazing editor, Jo Field, and dear family and friends that Dead Game found its way to print. Initially, I had to make meaning out of a terrible tragedy that was haunting me and that was so devastating to my family. I knew writing a story was my way through that time. I tore it from my heart, with every word, character, twist and subplot. It was an emotional and gruelling fight at times to write it but I was compelled and driven to write on. Nobody could have stopped me. I needed to say something that couldn’t be said aloud, so I wrote it. However, in the same breath, it was a tonic, a healing process, a way of expressing how I felt. It was a way for me to answer questions that I, myself had. Some people think when we write for young adults and children we have to give them an answer at the end of the story, but Dead Game is really me giving them a very big question to think about and the story is merely my idea of what the answer might be. I really enjoyed the later part of writing DEAD GAME because it has really pushed me into places I never dreamed I would go. It has made me confront things I wouldn’t necessarily choose to confront. The whole process of writing it was a bit like I would imagine therapy to be; it really surprised me.