Around about the time the Erth Dragons were being developed, I was also tinkering with another exciting idea I’d had. I’d always been a fan of the TV series The X-Files. If you don’t know it, The X-Files was all about two FBI agents who investigated paranormal mysteries such as alien abduction. One day I said to Jay, “I’d like to write an X-Files for a much younger audience. What do you think?” She thought it was a great idea. So we started to explore it.
I came up with the basic premise of a young boy, Michael Malone, being recruited by a shadowy organisation called UNICORNE, who deploy a series of special agents to probe any situation that might be considered weird or spooky. The UNICORNE agents all have some kind of unusual gift (e.g. telepathy), none more so than Michael himself, who has the extraordinary ability to alter his own reality (though he doesn’t know it until it’s explained to him by the head of UNICORNE, a mysterious figure called Amadeus Klimt). As a nod to the X-Files, in which one of the agents has seen his sister captured by aliens, I decided that unbeknown to Michael, his father, Thomas, was secretly a UNICORNE agent who disappeared on a mission to investigate the discovery of … wait for it, dragon DNA.
So began a very dark, convoluted series of adventures. At the end of the third and final book Michael does discover the truth about his father. Along the way he encounters ghosts, a shape-shifting crow, an army of telekinetic soldiers controlled by an evil mind and much, much more. These books are quite chilling in places. Ideally, I wanted them marketed for a young adult audience, but my publisher decided they were better placed in what’s known in the industry as ‘middle grade’. To this day, I think they’re among the best books Jay and I have ever come up with, though I probably made a vital error with them. When we were discussing covers, titles etc., I insisted that the series should be called The UNICORNE Files. My publisher didn’t agree. They didn’t want to feature the word UNICORNE, or any kind of unicorn image, fearing that it might put some readers off. They were probably right. In hindsight, I wish we’d simply called the series The U-Files and left it at that. I’d love to see these books rejacketed with that title, but it’s unlikely to happen, and sadly I have no say in the matter. But the people who like these books REALLY like them. And once you’ve grasped the idea of what’s going on with Michael and his reality shifts, they’re pretty gripping. My favourite is the second one, Alexander’s Army. Be warned, it is SCARY!