Good afternoon Mr McNab, welcome to the Teen Librarian site and thank you for giving up your time to answer a few questions!
Not a problem, I’m stuck at my desk doing the final edit to my new Nick Stone thriller, so this is a nice distraction!
I have been a fan of your work since I read Brave Two Zero way back in 1995 but am really behind with the Nick Stone novels.
Get reading then, you’ve got some catching up to do!
Are any parts of Street Soldier based on your experiences prior to and after joining the army?
Yes, quite a lot of this book is autobiographical, and as a result of that it’s a book that feels very personal to me. Like Sean, the main character, I got in with the wrong crowd as a teenager in London, ended up in prison and from there got into the army. Like him, that experience changed my life.
As an addendum to the previous question, are any of the characters based on people you know or knew?
Well, Sean is based in part on me I guess, although only the good bits. I’ve used bits of people i served with in the army for some of those characters, and also a few old mates i remember from my days getting into trouble in Peckham have influenced the characters who made up Sean’s ‘family’ of gang members before he got sent to prison.
Without giving out spoilers, some of Sean’s early decisions with his Corporal made me want to smack him upside the back of his head – are you aware of any such activities happening in the army?
There’s always going to be the danger of a few dodgy characters in any large group of similar people. The army is no different, they aren’t all angels, and they don’t all come from the easiest backgrounds, Sean included obviously. There is a big difference between wanting to make a few quid on the side and being part of something much worse, and the problem is that people might think they are doing the first of those things, when in fact they are involved in something much more dangerous, both to them and to others.
Street Soldier is the first book in a new series for teen readers, will it be a finite series or is it going to be open-ended?
Depends whether people like it, and whether Sean has more stories to tell. I’m already working on a follow up to this, so he isn’t going anywhere quite yet, but beyond that, you’ll have to wait and see.
Will any characters from your other works cross paths with Sean or is his universe self-contained?
That’s a great idea, it’s interesting to introduce characters where you don’t expect them. I haven’t done it yet from my adult books to the young adult ones, but if I do, I’ll bung you a credit at the beginning.
There were some threads left dangling at the end of Street Soldier can you drop any hints as to where will Sean end up next?
It’s a secret! If I told you I’d have to kill you. No, just joking, and it might all change, but all I can tell you at the moment is that he’s continuing with his army career for the foreseeable future and that the army will take him to new and exotic locations.
While reading the book I thought there were several similarities with the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz and CHERUB by Robert Muchamore but with a more realistic protagonist and lack of slick secret agent techniques and glamour. Can you recommend other books for readers who have enjoyed Street Soldier?
Yes, I hope my writing is more fact based and authentic than unrealistic spy stories. I’ve got nothing against those, they are all fantastic entertainment, but I guess that because of my background it wouldn’t work for me. I have done the gritty stuff, but not so much of the James Bond cocktails and fast cars. My highlight was a Peugeot 205 turbo when I was serving in Northern Ireland. Not quite the same as an Aston is it.
I am aware of your work with literacy charities, specifically Quick Reads and the Six Book Challenge, if you had one piece of advice on getting young people reading what would it be?
It doesn’t matter what you read, just get reading. If you don’t like it, bin it and pick something else up. Reading really can change your life, it did for me. It gives you knowledge and knowledge gives you power to make decisions and do what you want with your life.
I have heard that you sometimes visit schools and reading groups, if this is something you still do what is the best way to go about organising a visit?
Yes, I feel really passionate about getting out there and encouraging young people, and less young people, to make the most of education and opportunities being offered to them. Best way to organise something is through my publicist Laura. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Bet she’ll thank me for shouting her email address in an interview, ha!
Lastly can you describe Street Soldier in six word or less to grab a potential reader’s interest?
Offender turned soldier, Sean Harker, must protect the streets of London from a terrorist threat. Ok, bit more than 6 words, sorry.
Thank you again and all the best
No problem, thank you for the questions!
STREET SOLDIER, PUBLISHED BY DOUBLEDAY, IS AVAILABLE NOW!