I am delighted to have JD Fennell on the blog today, answering questions about his debut novel, Sleeper. Set in London during the Blitz, Sleeper tells the story of sixteen-year-old Will Starling who is pulled from the sea with no memory of his past or who he is. Will soon discovers that he is no ordinary sixteen year old. He has unusual skills – like excellent self-defence and the ability to pick locks – and is being hunted by assassins and a ruthless killer known as the Pastor.
Hi JD, it’s great to have you here! Firstly, can you tell us a bit about the premise for Sleeper and what inspired the book?
Sleeper is a thriller set in 1941. It follows sixteen-year old Will Starling who is pulled from the sea with no memory of the past. In his blazer is a strange notebook with a bullet lodged inside: a bullet meant for him. The notebook is Will’s only way of uncovering who he is. He soon discovers it is more than that and that other people want it. As London prepares for the Blitz, Will finds himself pursued by vicious agents and a ruthless killer known as the Pastor.
Sleeper is inspired by my love of fast-paced thrillers with twists and turns. In other words, I wrote the book I wanted to read.
Why did you choose to set the book during World War II? Have you enjoyed other books set in this period?
I love the period and really wanted to set an action/adventure with fantastical elements during a familiar time in our history. The Second World War, in particular the London Blitz and a disintegrating London, was just the perfect setting for a thriller. I had to write it.
There are no books set in that period that spring to mind. There are, of course, many movies evoking that time in London wonderfully: Atonement is terrific and I recently enjoyed Allied.
I think Sleeper will appeal to YA and adult readers alike. Why did you write Will, the protagonist, as a sixteen year old? Do you find characters at this age interesting to write?
I definitely do. In an early draft Will was fourteen. This was fine, but I struggled to make him a convincing threat to the villains he crosses. I could have probably achieved that; however, as a writer and Will’s creator, I just did not believe it. Making him sixteen changed everything. Suddenly I had the freedom and scope to do more. For example, he could be broader and more muscular than a fourteen year old. He could pass as a young man and he could be more sexually aware. In essence, I had (and have) a wider canvas to paint.
The Pastor is a terrifying villain. How did this character develop? Was he integral to the plot from the very beginning?
He absolutely was and I loved writing him. The Pastor has no moral compass; he is consumed with a religious extremism and a set of beliefs that make him a very dangerous man to cross, as Will discovers.
Can we expect a follow up to Sleeper?
Yes, I am working on that now. Expect Will to return in 2018.
Your publisher, The Dome Press, just launched this year. Have you enjoyed working with a new, independent and growing publishing house?
Yes, I have. After having no luck with the big and small publishing houses, it was a relief to find a team of people who totally understood what Sleeper was and did not want to change it. They are an impressive publisher and I predict big things for them.
Finally, can you give a shout out to a book you’ve read and enjoyed recently?
I really, REALLY enjoyed Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet, an epic story spanning decades about the building of a cathedral. It is a page-turning thriller, a tragedy and a love story with a fantastic cast of characters. I cannot recommend it enough.
Great recommendation. Thanks JD!
With short chapters and non-stop action, Sleeper is a gripping, fast-paced read. It is ideal for YA and adult readers alike and will be especially loved by fans of Anthony Horowitz and James Patterson.
You can follow the rest of the blog tour here:
I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to JD Fennell for answering my questions and to Emily Glenister and David Headley at The Dome Press for asking me to be part of this blog tour!