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Author Anthony Horowitz, creator of teen spy Alex Rider, on why books matter

On CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast, Horowitz discusses his writing career and the TV series about his unlikely teenage spy, which hits Amazon Prime on Nov. 13.

Connie Guglielmo SVP, AI Edit Strategy
Connie Guglielmo is a senior vice president focused on AI edit strategy for CNET, a Red Ventures company. Previously, she was editor in chief of CNET, overseeing an award-winning team of reporters, editors and photojournalists producing original content about what's new, different and worth your attention. A veteran business-tech journalist, she's worked at MacWeek, Wired, Upside, Interactive Week, Bloomberg News and Forbes covering Apple and the big tech companies. She covets her original nail from the HP garage, a Mac the Knife mug from MacWEEK, her pre-Version 1.0 iPod, a desk chair from Next Computer and a tie-dyed BMUG T-shirt. She believes facts matter.
Expertise I've been fortunate to work my entire career in Silicon Valley, from the early days of the Mac to the boom/bust dot-com era to the current age of the internet, and interviewed notable executives including Steve Jobs. Credentials
  • Member of the board, UCLA Daily Bruin Alumni Network; advisory board, Center for Ethical Leadership in the Media
Connie Guglielmo
3 min read

Anthony Horowitz

Jack Lawson

When he was a boy growing up in England, Anthony Horowitz was sent away to boarding school -- a place he remembers as "extremely brutal, dangerous and very scary." His unhappiness led him to the library, where he discovered books, which he calls the "greatest escape." All that reading also led him to discover his own gift for storytelling. He became popular at school after the other kids liked hearing his stories so much. 

He also decided he'd be a writer when he grew up. And that's just what he did. Horowitz is now a best-selling and award-winning author, with more than 50 books to his name. And he owes some success to the James Bond books he read as a kid. That started a fascination with spies and spycraft and got him thinking how cool it would be if James Bond were a kid. And that, in turn, led to the creation of one of his most popular characters, a teenage boy named Alex Rider, whose story unfolds across 13 novels, six graphic novels and seven short stories.

Alex Rider is also now the main character in a new IMDb TV original series that's scheduled to stream on Amazon Prime starting Nov. 13. But Horowitz, in an interview for CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast series, notes that Rider isn't really at all like James Bond. Horowitz describes him as an ordinary kid with some unusual skills who's reluctantly drawn into the world of espionage and forced to become an agent for the British government. 

"He is somebody who is manipulated and lied to," Horowitz tells me from his home in London. "This is very much to the world of my book," he says. "I have a sort of view of the world that we cannot take what we see at face value -- and that all of us are in some ways being manipulated. That's what I write about."

In a wide-ranging conversation, Horowitz and I talk about creating Alex Ryder, the ABCs behind how he plots out the twists and turns in his mysteries, and his fascination with illusion, magic, secret places and things not being as they seem. Horowitz also tells me about why he likes writing for young adults -- "I have great faith and optimism in young people" -- and about why, at age 65, he still believes in the power of books and reading to inspire kids.

"My great hope is that the TV series will actually lead people back to the books, because that's where it all begins with me," he says. "I'm obsessed with books, and with young people reading books, and with literature, and with the power of literature to overcome many, many problems in the world."

"It is a remarkable way to use your brain to, first of all, turn hieroglyphics -- letters -- into words. To turn words into paragraphs, to turn paragraphs into chapters, and to construct in your head a world where you can see and hear and smell the characters that you know," he adds. "What I find valuable about young-adult fiction is my sense that kids who read will grow up to be more fulfilled adults. Actually, people who don't read and who have not discovered story and narrative lack a certain empathy and creativity."

Listen to my entire conversation with Horowitz on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. You can also subscribe to I'm So Obsessed on your favorite podcast app. In each episode, Patrick Holland or I catch up with an artist, actor or creator to learn about work, career and current obsessions.