Interview with Michael Grant!

So, earlier this month Egmont reached out to us about Michael Grant’s Soldier Girls series, and as part of that we had the opportunity to ask Michael a few questions, and here they are:

  1. For those that haven’t read the series, what three words would you use to describe it?

Intense. Accurate. Entertaining.

  1. What triggered you to write Front Lines?

Actually my father-in-law was pushing the Liberation Trilogy by Rick Atkinson on me, and I thought nah, I’ve read enough about World War 2, but then I started reading it and very soon decided that I wanted to write about it.  It’s just so much story!  So many fascinating and strange and intense stories.

  1. Did you have any real life inspirations behind Rio, Frangie, and Rainy, and if so, who were they? 

Rio is based a bit not on the actual Audie Murphy, who was the most decorated American soldier in the war, but on the idea of Audie Murphy who was this short, squeaky, somewhat effeminate-looking kid from nowhere Texas.  The Marines rejected him, the Navy rejected him, and even after he was accepted in the Army and had been through training and was deployed to Italy, his officers tried to keep him out of combat because he was this little guy who stood 5’ 5” and weighed less than eight stone, which incidentally is about the size of a typical American woman.  Murphy won every medal they had, including the Medal of Honor, which is our equivalent to the Victoria Cross, and is not the sort of thing they hand out as prizes in Happy Meals.

  1. What was the most challenging and the most rewarding part of writing Front Lines?

The most challenging bit was getting the historical details right.  Practically every page required me to go and check some fact.  I suppose the most rewarding part was the feeling of having done something a bit outside my comfort zone.  Also, I’d never written in third person present tense before. You have no idea how many times I had to go back and correct myself for slipping into past tense.  But going with present was part of making the books feel more immediate, less sepia-toned.

  1. What was your favourite scene to write?

I think less in terms of scenes than characters and relationships.  I liked the relationships within Rio’s platoon.  I liked Frangie trying the square the circle between her basic gentleness and faith, and the fact that again and again she is patching soldiers up only to send them back into the fight.  And I liked Rainy’s coldly analytical way of thinking.  I liked all my main characters.  I would definitely like to buy them all a beer and sit in a pub and listen to their stories.

  1. In what ways did writing Front Lines differ from writing your other series?

Well, normally I just make things up.  That’s sort of my job description:  make things up.  The only time I’ve had to do much fact-checking was for the BZRK series, but even there I had much more control over how everything played out.  For FRONT LINES I went to a lot of trouble to get it all right.  In addition to reading and sifting through war videos I went to a number of locations:  Sicily, Luxembourg, Oradour-sur-Glane, Buchenwald.  And all tax-deductible.  Yay!

  1. If the Front Lines girls lived in contemporary society, who would they look up to?

Well, they would have voted for Hillary Clinton.  I’m sure of that much.

If you haven’t started this series yet, then we would highly recommend it and you can read our reviews of Front Lines and Silver Stars, if you need extra persuading!



An Interview With Katy Cannon!

Love-lies-mincepiesFor the release of Love, Lies and Mince Pies, I got the chance to interview the author about the book and the other books in the series, Love, Lies and Lemon Pies and Secrets, Schemes and Sewing Machines, both of which are some of my all-time favourite contemporaries!

Maddie: What inspired you to write ‘Love, Lies and Lemon Pies’?

Katy Cannon: Basically, my love of cake! I was looking for a story that would encompass all the things I enjoy writing about most – a group of unlikely friends, great recipes and a good old-fashioned bad boy meets good girl with issues love story. The idea of a Bake Club just grew from there.

M: Did you have a favourite recipe from the book?

KC: I love them all! The ones I bake most often are the chocolate chip cookies and the double chocolate brownies, because they’re quick and easy (to make and to eat!). But my favourite is probably the Birthday Cake recipe, because that’s the cake my mum still makes for me every birthday.

M: What was your favourite part about writing ‘Love, Lies and Mince Pies’?

KC: Getting to revisit the gang and find out where they are now, a whole term after the events of Secrets, Schemes and Sewing Machines. When I wrote that book, my favourite thing was hanging out with the characters again, and it was the same this time. They’re all just such great fun to write!

M: Jasper was such a fun character in both books, the fact he’s getting his own story is fabulous! What did you particularly enjoy about giving Jasper a voice?

KC: I love that Jasper is everyone’s favourite, because he’s (not-so-secretly) a lot like my youngest brother. It was so much fun getting into Jasper’s head for a change, and figuring out what stresses him out, what he thinks about, and what his happy ever after looks like.

M: So, my fangirl heart needs to know, are Lottie and Mac living their happily ever after (with cake, of course)?

(*Spoiler Warning!*) KC: Of course! Mac is still living above the bakery, working out his apprenticeship at the White Hill Bakery and studying at the college, while Lottie studies for her A Levels. The whole gang hangs out at the flat sometimes, and someone is always baking something (usually Lottie).

M: It’s a tough decision, but do you prefer baking or sewing?

KC: Ooh, it is a tough one! I like sewing because I have something to keep at the end of it, but I think baking just edges ahead as my favourite because you get to eat what you make (and I do have a rather sweet tooth…).

M: What’s your favourite Christmas food?

KC: My Mum’s mince pies! They’re the basis for the mince pie recipe in Love, Lies & Lemon Pies – and in Love, Lies & Mince Pies, too, actually! They’re richer and tastier than any other mince pies I’ve ever tasted. I make them to her recipe every year, and as soon as I do it starts to feel like Christmas. But somehow, mine are never quite as good as Mum’s…

M: What’s the best advice you’ve been given about writing?

KC: Keep trying. I wrote for years before I was published, practicing, improving and learning all the way. It doesn’t come overnight – but if you give up, success doesn’t come at all.

M: And finally, would you consider writing any more spin off stories about the Bake Club gang?

KC: After the fun I’ve had with this one, I’m definitely thinking about it! I like the idea of checking in on them from time to time, seeing how they’re getting on. I’m not sure I’m quite ready to leave them, just yet.

Love, Lies and Mince Pies is being released on Katy’s website for all to see on within the next couple of days, but for now, sign-up to her newsletter for news and fun!