I am thrilled to welcome JD Fennell to my blog today to talk about his new book Sleeper which is published on 28th April 2017 by The Dome Press. Before we go any further, here's the synopsis of what is a very exciting, action packed thriller for Young Adults.
Sixteen-year-old Will Starling is pulled from the sea with no memory of his past. In his blazer is a strange notebook with a bullet lodged inside: a bullet meant for him. As London prepares for the Blitz, Will soon finds himself pursued by vicious agents and a ruthless killer known as the Pastor. All of them want Will's notebook and will do anything to get it.
As Will's memory starts to return, he realises he is no ordinary sixteen-year old. He has skills that make him a match for any assassin. But there is something else. At his core is a deep-rooted rage that he cannot explain. Where is his family and why has no one reported him missing?Fighting for survival with the help of Mi5 agent-in-training, Anna Wilder, Will follows leads across London in a race against time to find the Stones of Fire before the next air raid makes a direct hit and destroys London forever.
Let's talk to the author himself and find out more about the man behind Sleeper! Welcome JD Fennell! Thank you so much for coming on my blog today and answering a few questions for me!
Can you sum up the story of your novel in three words?
Deception. Revenge. Destruction.
Can you sum up the main character Will Starling in three words?
Driven. Brave. Rage.
Which celebrity or fictional character would you most like to read your book and why?
Tintin. I am a huge fan. Over lunch we could do some book talking and he could provide me with his perspective on how he would have dealt with the problems and villains Will faces. Plus I would get to cuddle Snowy.
Can you tell me about the inspiration for your novel?
I love a revenge story and really wanted to write one. Despite being set in 1941, Sleeper is not a war tale, however, London during the blitz was the perfect dramatic backdrop. I also love fast paced thrillers and spies and wanted to set my book at a time when mobile phones and computers did not exist.
What does your writing day look like? Do you have any specific rituals or routines while you are writing?
I like to plan my writing, so I have every chapter mapped out before I start the book. I usually know what I am going to write the night before. I like to write in the early morning. I work in my kitchen, sitting at the kitchen table overlooking the garden. I have no rituals as such. However if I walk into find unwashed dishes, then I won’t be able to write until everything has been cleaned and tidied. It’s like I am shifting the clutter from head and clearing a path for the next block of words.
Did you have a particular favourite song or soundtrack while you were writing "Sleeper"?
‘Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye’ (the Gracie Fields version) is referenced a few times in Sleeper, so I would often listen to that to get a feel for the period. I usually write without music, however, if I am jotting down ideas, or editing, I will listen to music that gets me into a particular mood. I love movie soundtracks. Hans Zimmer, especially. I also like Muse or Radiohead.
This is the first novel in a trilogy. What's your favourite trilogy and why?
Oh that is a tricky one. There are so many. That said, I would have to pick Lord of the Rings. Tolkien’s epic fantasy kept me happy for many, many hours when I was in my teens.
Which three novels have made the biggest impression on you either as a reader or a writer?
Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights blew me away with its passion and brutality - a novel way ahead of its time. Ken Follet’s Pillars of the Earth is such a wonderful epic story with a fantastic cast of characters. Finally, a more recent title, is Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, a heart wrenching story of four friends in New York, which I could not put down.
In your novel, Will Starling has lost his memory. Can you tell me a bit about why you chose for your character to have lost their memory and whether writing about someone with gaps in their memory proved to be more of a challenge than you anticipated or less difficult than you thought?
Early on I had mapped out the plot, however, it was just not right. Something was missing. Will was navigating a familiar world and it was all just too easy. I was not convinced and almost abandoned the book. However, I couldn’t quite let it go and started to brainstorm ideas about making this journey more difficult for Will. In an almost epiphanic moment I hit on the memory loss idea and something just clicked. I got really excited and started working out how I could do it. From a writing perspective it was challenging but also fun to reveal Will’s earlier life at certain times. The bonus for the reader is they discover the world as Will does, which hopefully doubles the suspense and provides an ambiguity to Will.
Do you have a particular memory that you would like to lose? Or keep?!
I would like to lose the memory of reversing my car and busting my rear bumper (for the second time) on a metal pillar (It just popped out of nowhere!). I would like to keep a single compilation of all the times I made my mum laugh out loud. That could count as one memory, couldn’t it?
Ah, what a perfect memory to keep! Thank you so much for sharing! And thanks so much for all your interesting answers! I've really enjoyed hearing all your answers! I wish you all the best with the publication of Sleeper and with the rest of the trilogy.
Don't forget to follow the rest of the Blog Tour for Sleeper by JD Fennell.
MY REVIEW OF SLEEPER
This book is the perfect blend of Alex Rider, Jason Bourne and The Da Vinci Code. As the main character, Will, is 16, the story is aimed at Young Adults but it is exciting and with enough intrigue to appeal to anyone who enjoys a fast paced thriller.
Fennell wastes no time sucking you straight into the story, opening in London during the Second World War and in the thick of the Blitz. As if this setting wasn't dramatic enough, we are thrown head on into the action and barely allowed to draw breath as the story hurtles along. There is a lot of dialogue in the novel which creates pace and tension as well as revealing more details about the characters effectively. The key characters are well drawn, memorable and convincing. Told in third person, we stay generally at Will's side and it is very easy to align yourself with him and become embroiled in his search to discover his past as well as outrun the villainous "Pastor".
Although the setting is during the war, the story feels very contemporary and even though the historical detail is always present, I did find myself forgetting that I wasn't reading about a story set in more recent times. To me, it seems as if Fennell has achieved something clever - an historical thriller that will still feel relevant and accessible to a modern audience and as gripping as any current spy / thriller / action film. The search to understand VIPER will capture the imaginations of many young adults. There is enough of a mix of physical adventure, MI5, spies, secrets, a country at war and the slightly more mystical angle of the 'Stones of Fire' to engage and entertain almost every young adult.
I think the most appealing thing about Will's character was his intuitive reactions to certain situations and his discovery of certain skills which unnerved him and unsettled him - as well as frequently saving his life. Fennell creates suspense and tension with Will's shock and surprise at how his body responds, what he realises he does know and understand but at the same time knowing there is so much he can't remember or understand. It's great for the reader to be in the same position as the hero as together we try to piece the jigsaw together - and always under the constant threat from the enemy. Will Starling is a hero and a great role model. He is likeable, intelligent, thoughtful and brave. He is undoubtedly set to become the new Alex Rider or Jason Bourne.
Will doesn't work alone though and along his adventure he picks up several other 'agents -in -training' and this provides yet more intrigue and dramatic twists. I enjoyed the whole 'agent in training' section - as I'm sure any aspiring spy or secret agent will! It did remind me a little of Harry Potter with classes on espionage, radio operations, physical training and self defence. Again, imaginative and exciting ingredients to guarantee a wide audience of readers.
Obviously I can not possibly reveal the significance of the title but the concept behind the premise of the novel is an original concept; one that blends fantasy, sci-fi, action and adventure in a way that feels not beyond the realms of possibilities but ethereal at the same time. It works. I think what helps ground the book is the small details about location and place. Street names in London and landmarks in the city are referred to constantly and this keeps the story firmly rooted in reality. It also shows how different the capital is during war time which also makes it interesting from an historical point of view as well as in terms of plot.
This is a gripping read. The images on the cover capture the atmosphere of the book really well. But watch out - if you are hoping for a finale that ends with all the ends neatly tied up and resolved, think again! Fennell has more plans for Will Starling and I think anyone who reads Sleeper will be delighted to hear this!
Sleeper is published on 28th April 2017 by The Dome Press
JD Fennell was born in Belfast at the start of the Troubles, and began writing stories at a young age to help understand the madness unfolding around him. A lover of books, he devoured a diverse range of books - his early influences include Fleming, Tolkein, Shakespeare and the Brontës.
He left Belfast at the age of nineteen and worked as a chef, bartender, waiter and later began a career in writing for the software industry.
These days he divides his time between London and Brighton, where he lives with his partner and their two dogs.
To find out more about The Dome Press click on the following link for their website: thedomepress
For more recommendations and reviews you can follow me on Twitter @KatherineSunde3 or my website bibliomaniacuk.co.uk