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:
- For those that haven’t read the series, what three words would you use to describe it?
Intense. Accurate. Entertaining.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.