Tag Archives: bristol

Can’t move for drones

When I had the idea – or rather when James the hacker had the idea – that my character might hack a drone, I had a very rough picture of what a drone was. A thing that flew around snooping, or a toy for a well-off kid. It didn’t take much research to realise that drones are crop-sprayers, wildlife trackers and, much more menacingly, killers. Quite how they kill is fairly brutal, as is the number they accidentally kill. The writers’ cogs started to whir.

The Avon Gorge – from a quadcopter

While I was writing, drones appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme  every week – flying over football matches, nearly colliding with aeroplanes, delivering Amazon parcels, annoying the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority). In Alabama, you can get a licence to hunt drones – if they dare to buzz over your land.  Gosh!

After I’d delivered the book – not by drone – and the proofs had been handed back, the new Homeland series started with (SPOILER) a drone strike on a wedding party in Pakistan. I mention a similar event in my book. Did we both happen upon the same idea? No. It’s a well-documented true story, that we both adapted.

The Suspension Bridge plus Bristol balloon

I’ve been visiting secondary schools with my new book, Hacked, talking about hacking and drones and hard decisions. Dan, my hacker, appears at first to be making poor choices, but – hopefully – the readers’ sympathies are firmly with him. Whether there is any sympathy with the drone pilots, pulling the trigger from thousands of miles away, I don’t know. They hardly feature. What I do know, when I describe the way the unmanned aerial vehicles roam, armed with Hellfire missiles, is that all the kids in the audience that like gaming (most therefore) think it sounds brilliant. Understandable, because it mirrors their own experiences. The pilots – despite the label – don’t leave the ground. They sit looking at a heads-up display full of data with a controller at the ready, coffee by their side I expect.

I’ve changed the way I talk about the ‘drone wars’ because of the reaction from the audience. Leaving any shred of an idea that a drone operator would be a cool job would make me very uncomfortable.

If you’re interested in reading a huge article:


Dan, my hacker, could have just as easily hacked the International Space Station, or his local cinema. But I didn’t want to trample on Mars and Dan isn’t that fussed about the whole film thing. That’s the trouble with characters, they do their own thing.

Redland Green, Bristol Met, Writhlington, St. Bede’s, John Cabot Academy.

The library gang from Bristol Met

Highlights of my tour of Bristol so far –

Barney from Redland Green bought the book, read it in two days, talked about it to his family, and then started reading it again.

Three children from Bristol Met wrote reviews:
‘Your book was great. It was funny and serious.’ Rahimah
‘HACKED is a modern book with a 21st century plot.’ Regina
‘A good read all round.’ Cameron

Sophie from Writhlington – first in the queue

Lots of children from Writhlington bought books.

A girl from St. Bede’s taught me about pathetic fallacy. One of the boys couldn’t believe he lived in the same road as the main character in my book.

John Cabot Academy were full of beans, despite our session being first thing in the morning. There were so many hands in the air we could have filled another hour.


HACKED launch party

IMG_4897IMG_4853Tuesday 18th November


Foyles Cabot Circus.

I wore a silver skirt that I bought in a charity shop. Robb Norton, the go-to man at Foyles, organised the space for me, introduced me and coveted my skirt.IMG_4867

Kath was the first guest.

We had wine, Maltesers and flying saucers – they were a tribute to the drones in the story. I gave a wee talk. IMG_4861IMG_4881IMG_4920IMG_4883IMG_4939

The best gags were the one about hacking a toaster and my excruciating tale about writing about teenage fumblings.

I read Chapter 4, because I like the last line.

“If I could time travel, I’d nip back and warn myself – stay away from Angel.”

The only person to heckle was my husband. He was also the cameraman. My sister was the wine waiter. Maya was in charge of sweets.

The oldest person there was my mum – 89, the youngest was Kate – 10.

The people who helped me write HACKED – James the hacker, Mike the judge, Seal the brain, Rob the logician, Felix the sceptic, Honor the meticulous, Jess the steady one and the three ugly sisters – Amanda Mitchison, Rebecca Lisle and Christine Purkis aka writing group – were all there. (James asked not to be identified.)

Oscar the plotter was missing in deepest Cornwall.

There were three school librarians – who came to check me out before letting me loose on their kids.

Granny Pat brought all four grandchildren.

We sold all but four books.

I signed copies for lots of children that  read the Tribe books but are now at secondary school and ready for teenage stuff.

I used a purple pen bought from Harold Hockey – that awesome Bristol shop.


The last people to leave were Jo and Liberty – they also bought the most books!


We trooped to Giraffe afterwards and ate Mexican burgers.

Good job, as Angel would say.