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!

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Reviews: World Book Day Books for Older Readers

Both of these stories were available for £1 on World Book Day, March 3rd, and are still available as e-editions. 

26365537Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Romance
Published by: Pan Macmillan
Pages: 63
Rating: ★★★

This was a classic Rainbow Rowell story in that the romance was adorable, and follows the same kind of fangirl culture, similar to Fangirl itself. Elena, our protagonist, decides to camp out in front of the movie theatre a few days before the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. She’s already bought a ticket online, but it’s the ritual of devotion to the franchise, no matter how unnecessary. Gabe and Troy are the only other people in the line.  Not only is this a romance story, but a story about being a fan of something, and how we need to show the world we like something, especially online. Gabe even has this little speech about nerd/geek culture and how it’s cool to be part of a fandom nowadays. We could both talk for a long time about fandom culture, so we won’t, but just know it sparks some interesting thought.

The scenario was really unique and the characters were witty. It was something you could enjoy for an hour, and be sucked in by.

The one thing that niggled at us both was the convenience of the relationship between Elena and Gabe. It turned out that they both knew of each other before the line, as if that would make up for the shortness of the story. It just felt a bit incomplete.

9781471405679Spot The Difference by Juno Dawson
Genre: Contemporary
Published by: Hot Key Books
Pages: 84
Rating: ★★★★

This book was really refreshing because the main character, Avery, had acne. I’ve never seen that dealt with as a serious topic in a book before, which seems ridiculous because a lot of teenagers suffer from it, and if not from full blown acne, then definitely from the odd pimple or two. The plot revolves around Avery getting some treatment for her spots and becoming beautiful as they disappear. Because of this, she is accepted by the most popular crowd (which really brings to light how superficial popularity is in high school.) While this is happening, there’s an election for head boy and head girl, and Avery is persuaded to go for it.

There were some really lovely messages in this book, about loving the skin you’re in, and being true to yourself, and having loyalty to the people who have been with you through thick and thin. Although the story line could be predictable (because the adoption to the popular crowd is a trope) the characters and their actions were believable, so we didn’t mind.

This story could be read by every person in secondary school, because the characters feel a little ageless. They could be in Year Seven or Year Eleven, and the same dynamic would apply.

Overall, Spot the Difference worked excellently in a small number of pages. It could have been a much longer book, but it was just really concise and wonderful. We loved the humour and the positivity about being yourself, so this was definitely a favourite of the WBD books we’ve read.