(Actually, this section might be better called "Your Questions Avoided" because I'm not going to spoil anything here for anyone who hasn't yet read books!)

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5


Q. What does the title The Quantum Prophecy mean?
A. You'll understand what it means when you read the book!

Q. Why did you change the title for the American editions?
A. The US publishers - Penguin - didn't really like "The New Heroes" as a series title, and thought that "Quantum Prophecy" sounded better. Since it didn't make sense to have the book title the same as the series title, they suggested "The Awakening". I liked it (it works well with the events of the book) so that's what it became.

Q. When was the book published?
A. In the UK, Ireland, Australia, Canada and South Africa, The Quantum Prophecy was published in 2006 by HarperCollins.
In the US, the book was published in hardcover in 2007 by Philomel Books (a division of Penguin) under the title Quantum Prophecy: The Awakening. The paperback version was published in May 2008 under the Puffin imprint.
The German translation of the book was published in August 2009 by Random House.

Q. Where can I buy the book?
A. You can buy The Quantum Prophecy from most good bookstores, or from a number of on-line stores such as Amazon.co.uk or HarperCollins' own website.
The US edition of the book is available on Amazon.com in hardcover and paperback.

Q. How big is the book?
A. It's about 60,000 words. That comes to 320 pages for the HarperCollins edition, and 264 pages for the Penguin edition.

Q. How did this book come about?
A. It's a long story. By which I mean that the story of the story is a long story: the story itself isn't that long... If you really want to know, click here for all the gory details! (Note: there are no gory details!)

Q. My friend said that he read The Quantum Prophecy months before it was published! How is this possible?
A. Sounds to me like your friend read the Uncorrected Proof edition of the book! Publishers often prepare an early edition of a book to send out to reviewers and other people in the publishing industry. These editions aren't supposed to ever reach the general public but sometimes they escape. The uncorrected proof of The Quantum Prophecy features a couple of scenes that I decided were a little too long; they weren't moving the story along, so they got snipped. I also moved a few scenes around here and there, and rewrote a couple of others. Don't worry; nothing important was taken out - the "real" version of the book is the one that appears in the shops with a proper cover!

Q. How do you say Renata's name? Is the first "a" an "ah" sound or and "ay" sound?
A. Renata's name is pronounced "Ren-AH-tah" (well, it is in my head, anyway!)


Q. When was it published?
A. In the UK, Ireland, Australia, Canada and South Africa, Sakkara was published in 2006 by HarperCollins.
In the USA, The Gathering was published in July 2008 (hardcover) and April 2009 (paperback).

Q. Is is bigger than the first book?
A. Yes! Judging by the word counts, the second one is a little over 12% longer than The Quantum Prophecy. The HarperCollins edition comes to 335 pages, and the Philomel edition comes to 279 pages (The Awakening is 264 pages).

Q. What does the title "Sakkara" mean? Did you just mis-type "Sahara"?
A. Sakkara (sometimes spelled "Saqqara") was part of the ancient Egyptian city of Memphis, from around the year 3,000 BC. One of Sakkara's best-known features is the Step Pyramid, the oldest surviving pyramid in Egypt. In the second New Heroes book, there is a (roughly) pyramidal building. I decided to call it Sakkara because (a) I've always been fascinated by the ancient Eqyptians, and (b) there are very few words in the English language that contain two consecutive Ks - which means that as a title it really stands out.
Here's what my Sakkara looks like...

Q. Can you put the first chapter of Sakkara / The Gathering on-line?
A. Yep! Here it is!


Q. When was it published?
A. Book 3 was published in July 2007 in the UK and Ireland; a little later in other countries. The Reckoning was published in hardcover in the US in May 2009, with the paperback due in summer 2010.

Q. Why is it called "Absolute Power"? Is that a reference to [XXXXXXXXXXX]?
A. (Note: I've censored part of this question because it contains a spoiler for Sakkara!)
The title refers to more than one thing...

Q. Is Book 3 bigger than Book 2?
A. It's a little bigger - my editor and I worked very hard to keep the size down. There's an awful lot happening in Absolute Power and I could easily have made the book twice as big as it is, but I'm not a big fan of ponderous novels that are full of intricate descriptions of lamps or curtains. There is a certain famous fantasy novel by a Big Name Author that features page after tedious page of waffle about the hero's clothing; how the cloth was weaved, by whom, when it all happened, the background behind the decisions to use certain types of stitching, all that nonsense. It's not even mildly important to the plot...! Some readers love that sort of thing. I've always hated it!

Q. Is the Penguin edition of Book 3 the same as the HarperCollins edition?
A. Almost... But not quite. Aside from the usual changes for American spelling, the book has undergone a bit of a re-cut. Think of it like a "Special Edition" DVD: most of the changes are very minor and probably wouldn't be noticed unless both editions were compared line-by-line, but there are some quite big differences: one sequence has had its scenes moved about a bit, and another two have been considerably extended.


Q. What's in the short-story collection?
A. The New Heroes: Superhuman contains eight (well, sort of nine) short stories, a foreword by Michael Scott, an introduction by Michael Carroll, and two chunky articles, one containing background notes about the stories, the other being an overview of the series. Here's the contents list in full:
Foreword by Michael Scott5
A Note from the Author6
A Decade Without Heroes7
What I did on my Holidays10
The Offer14
The Footsoldiers32
Out of Sight58
Flesh and Blood77
Scholarship Boy139
Notes on the Short Stories143
Origins of the New Heroes series  148
One Million156

Q. Why is it only 160 pages? The novels are twice as long!
A. The New Heroes: Superhuman contains about 50,000 words (the novels are in the range of 60,000 - 65,000), but the type and margins are smaller so it all fits into fewer pages. The main reason for this was one of economics: a 160-page book costs a lot less to print than a 320-page book. If I'd tried to match the layout of the novels then I'd have had to charge more for each copy of the book. Plus it would be heavier, so the postage would be greater too.

Q. What do you mean "sort of nine" short stories? Are there eight or nine?
A. The first piece of fiction in The New Heroes: Superhuman isn't really a story... It's the text of a fake newspaper article I put together a few years back. The newspaper is available on this site as a Wallpaper image.

Q. Are the stories in the collection "official", or are they just, y'know, stories? I mean, is what happens in "Scholarship Boy" the truth about [XXXXXX XXXXX]?
A. Yes, you can consider all the stories in the collection to be officially part of the New Heroes / Quantum Prophecy universe! However, you should bear in mind that some of the stories are told from a first-person point of view, so those characters might not be telling the complete truth!

Q. My copy of The New Heroes: Superhuman is signed and numbered, but where's my personalised message?
A. Whenever I receive an order for a copy of the book I immediately send an e-mail to the buyer asking if they would like a dedication. If I don't receive a reply within a few days I just assume that they don't want one and I mail the book. The e-mail's subject line is "Your order - The New Heroes: Superhuman".

Q. Can you put more of the short stories on-line?
A. I could, but then what's the incentive for someone to buy the book? :)


Q. I thought it was going to be called Conspiracy of the Fifth King!
A. That was a working title only. Titles are often the last thing added to a book... I rarely worry about them while I'm developing the plot and writing the text. But every book needs a working title (so that the author and editors can tell one book from another in the early stages), and Conspiracy of the Fifth King was suggested by my editor very early in the development process. We stuck with that for the sake of convenience, but it doesn't really suit the book.

Q. Isn't the title going to be confusing? It's the same as the short story collection!
A. It's not exactly the same... It has a space between the two words! But, yes, there could be some confusion (probably will be, in fact). I've placed a warning on the ordering page for the collection in an attempt to minimise that confusion, but I'm sure that some people will completely ignore the warning, order the book, and become annoyed when they discover that it's not the novel. C'est la vie!

Q. Is it longer or shorter than the other books?
A. Super Human is about 80,000 words in length - which makes it about 1/3 longer than the first of the original books.

Q. Where does this one fit in with the rest of the series?
A. The events of the fourth novel take place about twenty-three years before the main storyline of the first book (note: that's the main storyline: the one with Colin and Danny... Not the prologue!).

Q. Why a prequel? Why not carry on from the end of the third book?
A. A lot of people have been asking me this lately! This is how it all came about...

My original contract with HarperCollins was for three books, but I'd designed the overall story to run to considerably more than that (the first three books can be considered to be one "slice" of the whole tale). When I was working on the third book, Absolute Power (AKA Quantum Prophecy: The Reckoning in the USA), my editor and I discussed whether I should wrap up the whole story or leave the ending partly open for a sequel. He agreed that leaving the ending open was the way to go, so I moved several plot points around (bringing some forward from what I'd planned for the fourth book).

And then, when it was too late to make any further changes, my editor left HarperCollins... :(

Unfortunately, his successor didn't have the same level of enthusiasm for the series, and since the books weren't mega-best-sellers, HarperCollins decided not to continue the series. From what I understand, the books sold well, but not quite well enough.

Luckily, the publishers of the US edition (Penguin) are very nice people and they requested a fourth novel. Now, since it's very tricky to give the fourth book in a series a really good push (the bookstores are much more inclined to stock a book if it feels new and fresh and all that), they suggested a completely new story that would stand on its own. I counter-suggested the idea of a prequel... Which leads us to Super Human.

The story is designed to act as a second jumping-on point for the series... Brand-new readers who've never even heard of the New Heroes or Quantum Prophecy books will be able to fully enjoy Super Human without feeling as though they've arrived late to the party. Hopefully, they will like it enough to pick up the rest of the books in the series. Likewise, readers already familiar with the other books will find a lot to enjoy in Super Human.

This actually worked out very well for the overall story: Super Human deals with certain events that I had originally planned to include as flashbacks in a later book.

Unfortunately, it does mean that the dangling plot-threads from the third book will have to remain dangling for a little while longer... But trust me, it'll be worth the wait!

Update: November 2011:
I've now finished the first draft of the seventh novel in the series: it is set after the events of the third novel (Absolute Power / The Reckoning) and, yes, it features the return of the main characters (Colin, Renata and Danny) from the first trilogy!

Q. Will any characters from the first trilogy will appear in the prequel?
A. Yep.

Q. Well?
A. Well what?

Q. Which characters?
A. I'm not saying! You guys all know by now how this works: I don't give out spoilers! Hints, maybe, but never spoilers.

Q. Give us a hint, then! Please?
A. All right... One of the main characters is mentioned several times in the other books, but that character never actually appears in those books (that said, the character did appear briefly in some of the early drafts, but their scenes never made it to the final drafts).

Q. How come it's not being published in the UK?
A. As mentioned above, HarperCollins - publishers of the original trilogy - are happy enough to leave the series with three books. It's possible that another UK-based publisher will take the book if it's a success in the USA.


Q. Does The Ascension carry on from the third novel, or from Super Human? That is, is it about Renata, Danny and Colin, or about Lance, Abby, Roz and Thunder?
The Ascension is a sequel to Super Human and features many of the same characters.

Q. Yay! And when's it going to be published?
30 June 2011 in the USA.

Q. And after that...?
A. Yep! I've finished the sixth novel - it'll be published summer 2012 in the USA - and I'll soon be starting work on the seventh.


Q. Is this one another prequel?
Yep! it sure is! Sort of.

Q. Oh, we're not back to that again, are we? What do you mean "sort of"?
Stronger is... Um... Y'know, it's hard to say much about it without giving away too many secrets! But I can tell you (as I've mentioned on the news page and elsewhere) that it's a little different to the other books. Or, to put it another way, it's very, very different to the other books.

Q. So, do you take lessons in avoiding the questions, or what?
Hah, good one! No, not at all. If you look closely, you'll see that I'm not avoiding any questions at all. I'm avoiding the answers.

Q. When will Stronger be published?
June 2012 in the USA.

Q. And what comes next?
A. Stronger was planned to be the last novel of the prequel trilogy, but plans change... I'd already completed the seventh novel - Crossfire, which takes place after book 3 and continues the adventures of The New Heroes - when I realised that one of the aspects of Crossfire was more than strong enough to be a book of its own. But for that to work without spoiling Crossfire it would have to be published first...
So that's what's happening: the next book will be called Hunter, and it'll be published (as far as I know) in early 2014, then Crossfire will appear after that. So, if all goes according to the current plan, the series will eventually look like this:

The Prequel Phase:
    Super Human
    The Ascension

The Original Phase:
    The Awakening
    The Gathering
    The Reckoning

The Final Phase:

(I do actually have titles for the last two books, but I'm keeping them secret for now!)


Q. Will there ever be a movie adaptation?
A. Maybe one day... We're waiting for the right deal to come along, with the right people. That is: people who want to stick to my story and not change it too much. I'd much rather not have a movie made than a random superhero movie that just happens to use my titles and character names.

Q. What about a comic-book adaptation?
A. Hmm... I'd love to see that happen, but it's not really necessary - superhero comics aren't exactly rare! However, with the right artists and publisher... It could be great!

Q. Which other books have you published?
A. For the Young Adult market, I've published the Pelicos Trilogy (The Last Starship, Reclaiming the Earth and The Dead Colony), Moonlight, She Fades Away and Renegade. For the adult market, I've published a science fiction novel called The Throwback and four romance novels under the name Jaye Carroll. Actually, these are only the books that have been published: I've written about another dozen!

Q. My friend told me that all of these questions are made-up! Is that true?
A. Well, your question was certainly made-up, but the rest are genuine!

Q. How did you create the character images in the Features page?
A. I designed the characters a couple of years ago by scribbling on sheets of paper until I came up with costume designs that I felt suited the characters. I used a great program called Poser (which allows you to create realistic characters and put them into all sorts of poses). The costumes were added by wrapping a "skin" around the characters (the "skin" being an image created in a paint program). For the extra bits, such as Titan's cape and Paragon's armour, I made 3D models and added them to Poser.
Update: On the Features page I've added a link to the male and female character outlines I used when designing the characters. (Thanks to Chuer Zhang for inspiring me to put the images on-line!)
Further update: Visit the SHS website and click on the Costumes section!

Q. I thought I might have super-powers so I jumped off the shed to see if I could fly and broke my leg! This is your fault! What are you going to do about it?
A. Em... Laugh? If super-powers really existed (which they don't) then jumping off the shed is a pretty dumb way to find out whether you have any! What if your power was invisibility? You'd be lying there on the ground in front of the shed, with a broken leg, and no one would be able to find you to take you to a hospital. And even if they somehow managed to track you down - by following the screams, maybe - how would the doctors operate if they couldn't see you? So... Please don't start believing that super-powers are real just because you've read about them in a book! The book is fiction!

Q. If you live in Ireland, how could you be an "Associate Professor of English, New Mexico Highlands University"?
A. I'm not! There are other Michael Carrolls out there, but some on-line bookstores don't seem to realise that there could be more than one writer with the same name!

Q. What's with all those eight-digit numbers that appear on the news page and your weblog?
A. They're dates! Because the world-wide web is international, it doesn't make sense to use the American date format (month/day/year) or the European format (day/month/year). Both of those formats are daft, anyway: after all, we always use hours, minutes and seconds in that order... So my dates are formatted as year/month/day, with the most significant unit first (I've been doing this for years but it hasn't caught on yet - maybe if you start doing it too...).

Q. Hey! I've just checked the Features page and some of the wallpaper images are missing! What happened to them?
A. Ah! I removed the full-length group image of the older heroes, and the older heroes' individual images, because those heroes only appear in the prologue of The Quantum Prophecy, which is set ten years before the main story! So, the book isn't really about them: it's about Renata, Danny and Colin! Also, the Features page was looking a little cluttered so taking them out saves space on the screen! You might also have noticed that the excellent sketch of the New Heroes by John Higgins is gone, too... This is purely because the characters don't look like they do on the cover of the book, and a few readers said they found it confusing! So for the sake of clarity I decided it was best to remove it (for now!).

Q. Can you visit my school or library?
A. Perhaps... It depends on where your school and library are located. I live in Dublin, Ireland, so if you're in Canada or Australia then that makes things a little tricky. But get in touch and maybe we can sort something out.

Q. Paragon is cool! May we have more pics of him in his armour, please?
A. You certainly may: click here!


Q. I have a great idea for a story! Why don't you write it and we'll split the money?
A. Certainly! But let's split the money fairly: Coming up with an idea is .0001% of the work, so you'll get .0001% of the money. This means that if the book makes $10,000 your share will be one cent.

Q. I've written a short story using your characters! Can I send it to you?
A. Please don't! While I don't mind someone using my characters in their stories (as long as those stories aren't published anywhere for profit), it would be better for all of us if I didn't read them: after all, your story might contain something I'm planning to put into one of the future books, and we don't want to get into one of those "you stole my idea!" arguments. If you do send me stories featuring any of my characters (or stories set in the world of the New Heroes) I won't read them. Sorry!

Q. Okay, then... I've written a completely original story instead. If I send it to you will you read it and let me know what you think of it?
A. Well, I could, but you have to be aware of several very important things... First, I don't have a lot of spare time (I work an average of twelve hours a day) so it could be a while before I got around to reading your story. Second, I would be compelled to be absolutely honest about your story! That means that if I thought your story was no good, I'd say so! If I thought it was the worst story I'd ever read, I'd tell you that, too. A writer has to be prepared to have his or her work torn apart!

Q. Um... Well, can you give me some tips on writing a good story, then?
A. Try to be original. Create your own characters and situations. A good trick is to pick a character who is the exact opposite to what you might expect: instead of making the hero of your space-opera a plucky, daring young space cadet who has a darned good reason for fighting the forces of evil, make him someone who is dragged into the fight reluctantly... There's a reason why almost everyone prefers Han Solo to Luke Skywalker! Of course, since Star Wars there has been an awful lot of Han Solo-type characters, so you need to go in a different direction, one that you're pretty sure hasn't been done before.

Remember, an idea is not a story: you need to flesh it out, give your tale a beginning, a middle and an end. Back in the days when I was editing fiction magazines I received an awful lot of short stories that ended with the hero starting off on a quest. Characters should drive the story forward, and the plot should drive the characters. If your heroes win, it should not be without a price. If your heroes make plans, it's not much fun for the reader if those plans work out perfectly; plans should fail!

See also: On Writing

Q. Can you give me some general tips on writing?
A. Certainly...

  1. Read! Writers who never read won't learn much. If you find a piece of writing that you particularly like, analyse it. Why does that piece work? How did the writer present it? Perhaps the scene was carefully foreshadowed earlier in the story. Go back and look at the clues the writer inserted. Or maybe the atmosphere of the piece is especially effective... How did the writer manage to do that?

  2. Write every day. If you can't think of anything to write, then try one of the following:
    - Pick something you've already finished and re-write it.
    - Pay attention to the news on TV or radio: pick an item that interests you and use that as the basis for a story.
    - Write a story that begins with this paragraph: "They came for me in the night. The door to my room was kicked open, and before I could react strong hands grabbed me, someone shoved a thick canvas bag over my head and then they were hauling me down the stairs, my bare feet kicking uselessly while I screamed in protest."
    - Alternatively, write a story that ends with that paragraph! Too hard? Of course it's not! You can find a way to make it work!
    - Pick an ordinary event, and imagine the worst-case scenario... For example: imagine what would happen if you arrived at school or work and no one remembered you, not even your best friends. Then you go home and discover that your house doesn't exist: there has never been a house at that location...

  3. Don't agonise over character names! If you worry about them too much, you'll find yourself spending hours looking for good name for your characters when you should be writing! Instead, call your characters simple names like Joe, Bob, Mary, and so on. They're easy to type and by not worrying about them you won't be slowing yourself down too much. Later, when you do come up with good names, you can use your word-processor's Search and Replace function.
    Alternatively, you can use my Name Generator.

  4. When you do decide on name for your characters, try to give each major character names that start with different letters... The reason for this was hammered home to me when I read Stephen King's otherwise excellent horror novel It: two of its major characters are called Ben and Bill. At almost every stage throughout the book I had to keep flipping back to see which was which. If, instead, Ben had been called Dan, it wouldn't have been a problem.

  5. The shift keys on your keyboard are there for a reason - so use them! Editors will not look kindly upon your work if you insist on using a lower-case "i" for the first-person singular pronoun. Start every sentence and every proper name with a capital letter.

  6. If you don't know what the word "pronoun" means, look it up in a dictionary. This also applies to every other word you don't know.

  7. Always avoid "text-speak" shortcuts like "ur" for "your" or "2" for "to". Sure, they're trendy and quite useful when writing text messages, but they have no place in a story!

  8. Punctuation: if you don't know how to use a particular punctuation mark, either look it up or don't use it. There is one space after a full-stop (called a "period" in America) or a comma, there are no spaces before them (in the old days, people use to add two spaces after a comma, and three after a full-stop... I don't care what your typing teacher tells you, those days are gone!).

  9. Plan your work before you begin. If you don't know where the story is going, then you're not ready to start writing it. Yes, outlining a story can be time-consuming, but it's not as time-consuming as spending hours on a story that you never finish because you got stuck.

  10. Finish what you start. Make a pact with yourself that you will always finish every story you start writing before you move on to the next one.

  11. When you've finished your story, put it aside for a week and then rewrite it. Yes, you heard me! Write the same story a second time, without looking at the first version! Now compare the two versions... Which is better? It's the second version, right? That's because in the intervening week you've had the story bubbling in the back of your mind and you'll have thought of new and better ways to present certain scenes or pieces of dialogue.

  12. Stuck in the middle of a story and not sure how to go forward? Well, that's almost always because you didn't stick to the outline (or, worse, you started writing without an outline!). Go back to the last "brilliant idea" you had that changed the path of the story, scrap everything from that point on, and take the other path (this time, properly work out the story before you start writing). If that doesn't solve your problem, you might have to go back further... Maybe even all the way to the beginning. But that's the way it goes when you're a writer: the essence of writing is rewriting!

  13. Keep your stories to yourself until you've written them! This is very, very important! If you tell other people your story before you write it then it'll be out of your system and chances are you won't feel the need to write it. You'll also run the risk of the listener saying "That's been done" - which really is not what you want to hear!

Q. I've written a novel but I don't know how to get it published! Any tips?
A. Yep! First, check your spelling and punctuation. Second, check your spelling and punctuation again. Third, get someone impartial to read it, and ask for their honest opinion. By "someone impartial" I mean someone who isn't going to automatically tell you that it's good. You're not looking for praise here, you're looking for criticism (There are plenty of companies that will evaluate your novel for a small fee. To save time, just flush a hundred dollars down the toilet instead - you'll get just about the same result.).

When you've reached the stage where you feel your novel is ready to make its way into the world, find a publisher who already publishes that sort of book (it's no good sending your medieval fantasy novel to a publisher who specialises in Westerns). Check the publisher's website: there will be a section called "Submissions" (if there isn't, move on to another publisher). The Submissions page will tell you what the publisher is looking for. Sometimes, the page will say "We are no longer accepting unsolicited manuscripts." Sadly, that means you're out of luck with this one. Move on to the next publisher. Keep searching - eventually you'll find one!

If you do find a publisher open to submissions, then you need to prepare your manuscript... Most publishers will be looking for a complete synopsis of the story plus a few sample chapters. The synopsis will tell them that you know how to construct a story, and the sample chapters will tell them that you know how to write.

Keep your synopsis brief: not more than two pages, single-spaced. It's tempting to write the synopsis like a "back of the book" blurb, but avoid that! It should tell the whole story, including any clever plot twists.

Do not try to make your manuscript look like a published book in order to fool the publisher into thinking it's ready to go - that never works! Print on one side of the page only, double-spaced lines, nice big margins all around. Include a cover sheet that contains your full contact details, the title of your book, the date, the number of pages and the word-count. Number every page: at the top of each page I put the title, my name and the page number, which looks like this...

Super Human / Michael Carroll / 221        

The reason I do this: if an editor wants to read my book on the train home from work, he or she won't necessarily bring the whole manuscript, maybe just a chapter or two. By putting my name and the title on each page it reduces the chance of the pages getting misplaced.

Q. Do I need to put "The End" at the end of the book?
A. It won't appear in the final printed copy of the book, but you can do it if you like. These days many writers don't bother, but I always do, partly as an indictator to the editor that there are no more pages (so he can be sure he hasn't left any on the train!), but mostly because after spending months on a book it's very satisfying to type those words!

Q. How long should a novel be?
A. That depends on the target market... Generally, for a Young Adult novel about 40,000 words is the minimum. An adult novel should be at least 80,000 words. Note that these values are fluid - check with your publisher. But whatever you're writing, if you've reached, say, 250,000 words then it's time to stop and take a long, hard look at what you're doing! Yes, there are many books that are that sort of size, but I've yet to read one that needs to be that big!


Q. I want to send you an e-mail: how can I get in touch?
A. First, please read the questions and answers on this page because your question might have already been answered!

Then send your e-mail to the following address:

But PLEASE check the questions above FIRST!

To clarify: If you are getting in touch, please bear the following in mind:

You can also occasionally find me on these sites...