Monday, August 31, 2015

Guest Post - Toby Downton, author of Solarversia

Drawn into an epic year-long virtual reality game, eighteen-yearold Nova finds her life fractured and her strength tested as she fights to become the last player standing in this action-packed novel inspired by the revolutionary Oculus Rif - and written by a groundbreaking digital innovator who is already turning fiction into reality. In the year 2020, London-based gaming company Spiralwerks will launch their ambitious year-long virtual reality game, Solaversia. Over 100 million players from around the world, each given a unique number in The Player’s Grid that corresponds to their individual profile, will compete against each other across the solar system to be the last person standing and win the £10 million grand prize. Nova Negrahnu and her friends Burner and Sushi cannot wait to start playing. But when an international terrorist organization sets its sights on the game and it’s creator, Nova finds her life turned upside down, as the line between simulation and reality blurs. Can she navigate between playing the game, coping with all the issues an eighteen-year-old girl faces and avoid the very real and present danger mounting outside Solaversia?

Getting Into the Mind of my Teenage Protagonist by Toby Downton

I never consciously chose to write Solarversia from the perspective of Nova Negrahnu, an eighteen year-old girl; I always felt that she chose me. 

Nova was there from the very beginning, asking - demanding - to be the star of the show. It was slightly daunting at first, writing from such a foreign perspective, so I tried a couple of things to get into her mindset.

First, I spent a lot of time reminiscing about school and university. I jotted down memories: the things that made me laugh and cry, the names of fellow pupils and teachers, and the way things worked back then (the prefect system, detentions, attending lessons and lectures). I wanted to know her fears and desires, to know her heart as well as her mind. Most stuff didn’t make it into the book, but I’ve learned that’s usually the way with writing. You search far and wide, hunting for gold in them thar hills. Most of what you find is dirt … but if you’re lucky, hidden among it, you might discover a couple of nuggets shining bright.

The second thing I did was to pay more attention to strong female leads, both in fiction and in the real world. Nova was always a force of nature: strong-willed, stubborn and determined. I wanted these traits to come across naturally, and worked hard to make her appear authentic. Fortunately, I had a (brilliant) female editor to help achieve this. I remember one scene in particular: Nova and her best (male) friend, Burner, were running from a horde of crazed circus animals when I had Burner help her through a smashed window. My editor amended the scene, leaving a comment that said, “Nova don’t need no help getting through no window.” She was correct of course. If anything, Nova would be the one helping Burner through the window. 

Looks like I still have lots to learn.

Thank you so much for joining us today Toby.

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About the author: Toby Downton lives in North London and is head of business development at Matter, a digital innovation consultancy he co-founded. He has previously worked at the London Stock Exchange and has also lived in Australia. Solarversia by Toby Downton (published by CreateSpace, RRP $14.00 paperback, RRP $4.50 ebook) will be released August 31st and will be available to purchase at online retailers including and can be ordered from all good bookstores. For more information please visit

From the Press Release:

The world of virtual reality is about to fundamentally reshape the way in which we live, work and play. The Oculus Rift — the much-lauded and potentially transformational VR headset, which broke crowdfunding records in 2012, and was recently acquired by Facebook for $2 billion — is scheduled to launch in early 2016. While its most obvious impact will hit the world’s 700 million plus gamers, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes the potential VR impact to be far more profound: “Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face - just by putting on goggles in your home.” 

The relatively new genre of virtual reality inspired science fiction, centered around the gaming industry is booming, with Ernest Cline’s bestseller Ready Player One already in production for a major movie adaptation directed by Steven Spielberg. Downton is emerging as a driving force in the VR revolution. Solaversia is just the first step in his thrillingly ambitious multi-platform story-telling experience that will explore the relationships between artificial intelligence, technology and the human spirit. Downton will be incorporating his tech-company - Spiralwerks - in the real world, developing Solarversia as a commercially available game, ready to storm the games market in 2020. Accompanying the publication of the Solarversia book, A Golden Ticket promotion will be launched this year, enabling games enthusiasts to win 100 specially reserved places within the Player’s Grid”, through competitions, charity auctions and book sales. 

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