‘Travel well’ – Allan Boroughs on the importance of having adventures

Every so often Moontrug posts a photo up onto Facebook or Twitter which gives a glimpse into the adventures behind her writing – whether it’s learning to ‘play the bones’ inside a Romany gypsy’s wagon or hang-gliding over Rio-de-Janeiro…

caving Moontrug rappelling down a cave in the Brazilian jungle

And recently Moontrug has noticed that there’s another author out there who loves exploring and going on adventures just as much as she does. Cue Allan Boroughs, best-selling author of Ironheart. Boroughs openly claims that he likes to write books ‘in which a lot of stuff happens’ and having adventures – jumping out of his comfort zone and into unexplored territory – is what makes his stories come alive. As he says, ‘the key to a successful adventure story is to give the reader a sense of being “on the journey” and to achieve that, first hand experience is the most essential tool I have.’

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Moontrug met up with Boroughs to chat books and adventures and as Boroughs sat on the sofa chatting about swimming in the Antarctic Ocean (WITHOUT a wetsuit!) and camping with Mongols, it was hard to believe that ‘by day’ the man runs a Management Consultancy firm. Moontrug knows next to nothing about management, consultancy, finance or business but if she knew her consultant was a dare-devil explorer for much of his time, she’d most definitely invest/sign up/enlist/shuffle tight – whatever the management consultancy expression might be.

Ice plungeBoroughs seconds after his Antarctic plunge

Boroughs’ first book, Ironheart, follows the story of thirteen-year-old India Bentley whose father goes missing while prospecting for oil in Siberia. Little does India know that her father was actually searching for Ironheart, a legendary fortress containing the secrets of the old world. Along with tech-hunter, Verity Brown, and her android, Calculus, a killer from the old world turned protector in the new, India must make the journey to remote Siberia to try to find her father and finish his work. Now, Boroughs didn’t lock himself up in a candle-lit room and listen to whale songs until inspiration came. He went out and found it – and shamans, pirated ice rigs and a lost fortress were the result of his travels in Siberia, China and Mongolia.

ice caveBoroughs on a rib amongst the Antarctic icebergs

The sequel to Ironheart, called Bloodstone, is out January 2015 and Boroughs journeyed to Antarctica to research it. Although the trip got off to a tentative start in Chile (‘Getting off the plane I help an old lady with her bags and she responds by groping my bum’) he soon found himself writing beside penguins and watching enormous whales slink between groaning icebergs. Boroughs admits that he could have found out a lot of the research on the internet but he says, ‘These journeys are not just about collecting data… What first-hand research [gives me] is a much deeper sense of place that is grounded in all the senses. No Google search can ever tell you what it feels like to breathe the gin-clear air of the Antarctic, how a Siberian meat market smells or what fermented mare’s milk actually tastes like (yoghurt and cat pee in case you were wondering).’

penguinBoroughs writing beside a penguin

Even though Boroughs’ worlds are imaginary, he understands that children have ‘an obsessive need to test the walls of an imaginary world to see if they will hold the weight of their dreams,’ and so all being well, Boroughs hopes to journey to Venezuela to research the last book in the trilogy, Rain God. Moontrug is pretty sure a visit to Mount Roraima in Venezuela will help him build a world as evocative and brilliant as the one in Ironheart – and in the meantime, Moontrug is planning a trip to St Kilda, an isolated archipelago in the North Atlantic Ocean, home to hidden caves and mysterious ruins – just the sort of adventure material needed to build the sequel to Oracle Bones... 

roraimaMount Roraima in Venezuela