I’m ecstatic to be on the blog tour for Sleeper! Alongside my review, I have a fabulous Q&A with author J D Fennel on my blog today!
J D Fennell
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.
Sleeper is an edge-of-your-seat read that beckons you into Will Starling’s world with the very first sentence. This book is not only fast-paced but also a hugely exciting tale, that beautifully encapsulates the authenticity of war and excitement of a thriller without losing its emotional depth.
When sixteen-year-old Will Starling wakes after being pulled from the sea, he remembers nothing from his life before. With only a notebook in his pocket as a clue to his identity, he travels to London in the midst of war, a frightening man called the Pastor following in his wake. As his memories return one by one, Will soon realises that the notebook is a dangerous weapon and he his far from any ordinary teenager…
I won’t go into it too much because I don’t want to divulge the plot but something I didn’t expect in this book is the supernatural aspect! It was brilliant! Bravo!
Sleeper is well-plotted and well-written. I can only imagine how much research was required to write this book! The descriptions were evocative and sharp, keeping the plot flowing nicely. Will is a great protagonist, strong and very intriguing! His past was a constant source of fascination for me!
Sleeper is an addictive read that will keep you up until the small hours. It’s an exploration into finding a lost identity and the dark journey one person will go on in a hunt for revenge. Brilliant!
Fast-paced. Exciting. Engrossing.
And now, here is the fabulous Q&A! Massive thank you to J D Fennell for his fantastic answers!
Can you tell us a little more about yourself and your path to publication?
Hi Ronnie. Yes, of course. I grew up in Belfast during the Troubles, which was a fractious and dystopian time that impacted everyone in Northern Ireland to some degree. As kids, we were not unhappy – we did not know any different – however, the angry roar of sectarianism was an unwanted feature of day to day life and one that started me writing. At primary school, my form teacher encouraged me to write as a form of therapy and a way to understand the world around me. This was a turning point for me, an epiphany if you like. Over the years I dipped in and out of writing, preferring sometimes to read and get lost in someone else’s world. Eventually, I started work on my first book, which I completed four years back, after several drafts. I was doing the usual circuit of writing festivals, pitching my book and meeting agents and publishers. I pitched to an agent from David Higham at the 2013 London Book Fair. She liked the concept and later read the novel and made some smart suggestions for change. We kept in touch and I worked on a new draft, which I later resubmitted with my fingers crossed. Alas, it was not to be and she decided the book was not for her. Deflated, but not beaten, I returned to the drawing board, convinced that I could make it better and hook someone else’s interest. So I rewrote the entire book, changing the story, the protagonists drive and giving him a darker purpose – revenge. And who doesn’t love a good revenge story? I worked hard on problem areas and finished the new version almost a year later. I took it to the Winchester Writing festival and pitched to four agents. Two were interested and one of them later signed me up. There was a further year of publisher rejections until it was eventually picked up by the Dome Press, an independent publisher based in Central London. It has taken some time to get here, but it was worth the wait. The Dome Press have done a terrific job designing the cover and overseeing the publishing.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I’m a planner, so I usually have every chapter mapped out before I start the book. Also, I write in my kitchen, sitting at the kitchen table overlooking the garden. I like to write in the early morning. However, if I 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. Before I go to bed, I think carefully about what I want to accomplish for the following day’s writing. Come morning, I then check over the plan, reread what I wrote the previous day, and try my best not to edit it. Then I begin.
What was the inspiration behind Sleeper?
It sounds almost cliched now, but I really did want to write the kind of story I love to read. I enjoy books set in the present day, however, I love extraordinary stories in set in other times: the past or the future. I also love fast paced thrillers and wanted to write one with a hero motivated by revenge, however, along the way he must make diversions for the sake of others.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes, from primary school, where I was encouraged to write. I have always loved books and come from a family who loved to tell stories.
If you could have written any other book what would it be?
I’m going to chose a title released last year and shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker Prize. The North Water, by Ian McGuire, is a disturbing, fast paced tale of an ill fated Yorkshire whaling ship bound for the Arctic CIrcle. It is the story of Patrick Summer, an ex-army doctor with a broken reputation, and the brutal and bloodthirsty, Henry Drax. The story builds to a gripping confrontation between the two main characters against the backdrop of a bleak Arctic landscape. Full of surprises, and wonderfully written, I absolutely wished I had written this book. The next best thing is to evangelise it and read it again.
Do you have any advice for budding authors?
Find your own way to write whether you are a planner, or, a pantser (someone who writes off the seat of their pants). There are no set rules. Do what works for you. The most important advice any writer will tell you is to finish what you start.
Who are your favourite authors?
There are so many: Thomas Harris, Emily Bronte, JRR Tolkien, Ian Fleming, Kurt Vonnegut, JK Rowling, Sarah Waters. I could go on.
How long did it take you to write Sleeper?
The first draft took seven months to complete. Several rewrites followed. All in I would say fourteen months, approximately.
Are you working on a new novel now?
Yes, I am working on the follow up to Sleeper: Liberator.
In three words, can you describe Sleeper?
Pacey. Revenge. Thriller.
I can’t wait to read Liberator!!
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Huge thanks to Emily Glenister, David H Headley and The Dome Press for my review copy and for including me on the blog tour!