The lovely Phil Earle's third book, Heroic, is published in the UK this week (April 25th) and to celebrate I have a new interview with the man himself. Here's what the book's all about, courtesy of Amazon:
'For the past five weeks I'd prayed that I'd never see my brother's name spelt out in poppies. In the weeks that followed I often wished I had.'
Jammy and Sonny McGann are brothers, but that's where the similarities end. One is calm when the other is angry; one has a plan while the other lives purely in the moment. When Jammy returns from Afghanistan a very different man to the one who left, it's Sonny who is left to hold things together. But just how far will he go to save the brother who always put him first?
Inspired by S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders and by the battles facing young soldiers all over the world, this is a devastating novel about brotherhood and sacrifice, from the award-winning author of Being Billy and Saving Daisy.
Thanks as always to Phil for answering all my questions!
How has your life changed since your debut novel, Being Billy, was first published two years ago?
A fair old bit. I have one more child than I had before (so three now), am greyer, skinter, happier, fatter and a lot more annoying to my lovely missus. I’m also a part time worker now, having the luxury to write or do school events on Fridays. I’m a proper lucky sod in every way possible, not that I ever admit that. Except to you…
What kind of research did Heroic entail?
More than I’ve ever done before, which previously amounted to none at all. With Billy and Daisy, I knew the worlds the characters inhabited as I’d worked in kids homes, but with Heroic, I knew nothing about the Afghanistan war, or the stresses it put on the young men and women serving over there. My intention was to speak to soldiers who had completed tours, and contacted various charities who work with veterans living with Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder. Sadly, I didn’t get chance to interview any. Instead I resorted to watching as many war films as I could. Restrepo, Saving Private Ryan, it didn’t matter which war the film covered, I just wanted to get my head around the chaos that active service brings. I also have a friend who is a psychologist (he was the inspiration behind Ade in Saving Daisy) and he gave me a lot of insight into PTSD and its effects.
Heroic deals with some pretty hard-hitting stuff and will be close to home for a lot of people with family members in the armed forces. How did you approach this subject to ensure you did it justice?
I hope I approached it in the same way as the other books, with honesty. I’m not interested in sugar-coating the pill when I write. Bad things happen to good people. The joy in writing their stories is working how to put things right for them. I certainly didn’t approach HEROIC wanting to write about a subject or issue. First and foremost the book is a love story about brothers.
Just how much input do you have where your covers are concerned, and which is your favourite: Being Billy, Saving Daisy or Heroic?
Puffin are very kind indeed when it comes to my covers and give me far more input than is probably wise. It’s difficult to keep your nose out when you work in publishing too, but if anything I’m learning to let Puffin lead. They did a magnificent job on HEROIC without me interfering too much! Do I have a favourite? Probably HEROIC, but I would say that right now wouldn’t I?
Can you give us a sneaky hint about what you're writing next?
I’m working on something called ‘The Bubble Wrap Boy’, which is a complete re-write of the first book I ever wrote, when I was in my mid-twenties. It’s sort of about a very small teenage boy and an exceedingly large, dark family secret. As with all my stories it’s a laugh-out-loud-comedy-rom-com, or something like that. I’ll try and get a joke in there somewhere…if I can.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Want it more than anything else. If you’re only doing it to make money, don’t bother, your readers will see through you in a flash. And don’t give up your day job. It takes time, and it makes the spare time you have to write all the more precious. It focuses your writing and your passion for it.
Name three recent reads that we should all buy immediately. Go!
Now you’re talking. You should definitely read…
1. Every Day by David Levithan, as it has the best concept of any YA novel in a good long while.
2. Every Day by David Levithan, as he co-wrote Will Grayson, Will Grayson, which is a gem every teenager should discover.
3. Every Day by David Levithan, as I genuinely think it will be the finest YA published this year. It deserves to have that Fault in our Stars buzz, it’s that good. Is that cheating by the way? We don’t even publish it at work, so I’ll probably get into trouble for not picking some Bloomsbury titles, which are, of course, all bloomin’ marvelous too…
[Phil, you little cheat with that last question! But still, Every Day sounds ace and I'll look into it!]