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Friday, February 7, 2014

Author Interview + Giveaway: Stephen Henning

I would like to thank Stephen Henning for taking time out of his busy schedule to sit down and answer some questions for me!

ME: I know you’ve just published your novella Where’s Lolly? in December 2013 and I really want to talk about that. But first, I’d like my readers to know a little about you.

Where are you from?

STEPHEN: A small town in the UK called Ipswich, in the county of Suffolk. It’s about 60 miles east of London. It is just possible that people in the US will know about Suffolk, because there were a lot of US Air Force bases built around here during and after the Second World War. In fact, we’re very close to Rendlesham Forest, which might interest you Kelsey, as it is the sight of a notorious UFO sighting and various paranormal incidents. More of that later when I talk about one of the other books in the Class Heroes series.

ME: Do you have a day job and if so, what is it?

STEPHEN: I do. I co-run my own company. We create websites, write training guides, and user manuals for computer software.

ME: We’re going to talk about this book that you’ve written, but first, let us learn a little about how you got your start in writing.

How did you choose the genre you write in?

STEPHEN: The Class Heroes books are superhero novels, a genre that is just starting to gain traction in the market place. I've always loved superhero comics and films, and I've often thought the subject matter was crying out for an intelligent exploration of what it would mean if somebody got super abilities. In prose, you can tell certain types of story that would be almost impossible in comic form.

ME: What inspired you to write your first book?

STEPHEN: I've always enjoyed writing, and I wanted to write a book for young adults that would be exciting, but in some way resonate with them and speak to them about their own lives. I try not to sledgehammer this, but all the Class Heroes books have a running theme about how the world has changed for today’s teenagers in our recession-hit world. I don't know what it’s like in the US, but in the UK, kids are leaving schools and university with huge debts into an ever-more competitive job market, with the price of houses far beyond their reach. It’s appalling.

I think we're seeing a widening of the gap between haves and have-nots. In Class Heroes, possessing superpowers becomes an allegory for wealth. Think about what you could achieve and what you could have if you possessed these abilities. They are more valuable than simple money, and therefore it becomes a commodity that people would look at enviously. It puts the teenage protagonists in a dangerous position. And an exciting position, in terms of potential stories.

ME: Okay, now we can get to talking about Where’s Lolly?

Tell us about a little bit about Where’s Lolly?

STEPHEN: It’s a novella, so about a quarter of the length of the other Class Heroes books. It’s a standalone, so it doesn’t require any prior knowledge of the series. Also, it’s unusual because it is written from the point of view of the principal villain of the series.

Lolly Rosewood is a 16-year old girl with superpowers. And, as readers of book 1 and 2 will know, she is a psychopath. So it’s not your typical hero-triumphs-over-adversity story. In Where’s Lolly?, the eponymous protagonist has lost her special abilities, and finds that life is very different when you are on the run from the authorities and you have no friends.

I hope that it will act as a good jumping-in point for readers who are new to the series. This is Class Heroes #3. Book 1 was published in October 2011. Book 2 followed on directly from book 1. So I thought that having this slightly off-beat novella would be a good way for new readers to discover whether they like Class Heroes. It’s only just been released, I’m really pleased with it and I’m glad to say it’s had a good reaction from the people who’ve already read it.

ME: Can you tell us about the other books in your series, Class Heroes?

STEPHEN: The Class Heroes books follow the lives of 14-year-old twins James and Samantha Blake. Book 1, A Class Apart, sees the twins gain their abilities, but become trapped in a skyscraping hospital in London where all sorts of freaky events start happening. Patients disappear, their friends are turned into zombie-like sleepwalkers, and everything points to a hidden menace on the top floor of the building.

In book 2, What Happened in Witches Wood, the twins stay at their grandparents’ house in Suffolk, next to a scary wood, where they encounter the ghost of their long-dead Auntie Katie. They are also befriended by Sir Michael Rosewood, head of a large pharmaceutical firm, who offers the twins answers about how they got their superpowers. They also meet his daughter, Lolly Rosewood…

ME: Can you tell us about your main character?

STEPHEN: Lolly has been a bit of an enigma. She makes a brief, but telling appearance in book 1. She’s far more prominent and striking in book 2. I had a lot of feedback on her, with people asking if she would be making a comeback. I’d already written quite a lot of stuff from her point of view for the next full-length novel, and realized there was a great opportunity to show people what this baddest of bad girls had got up to after the events of book 2. In Where's Lolly? our Miss Rosewood learns a lot about herself and we see behind her veil for the first time.

ME: How many books are you planning in the Class Heroes series?

STEPHEN: There will definitely be a Class Heroes #4 and #5. After that, as long as I still have exciting stories to tell and there are issues and themes that I think are important, then I'll keep writing.

ME: Have you started your next project yet? If so, can you tell us anything about it?

STEPHEN: Class Heroes #4 is currently being proofread. It’s set in London, where James, Sam and Lolly meet somebody else with an unusual power, while getting caught up in the machinations of a local drug lord.

I’m hoping to release it in the next few months.

Also, a friend of a friend runs his own animation studio. I'm talking to him at the moment about creating an animated movie-style trailer to launch book 4. It’s at the very early stages, but this friend has worked on some pretty amazing stuff for some high profile clients. So fingers crossed.

ME: Do you have any specific last thoughts that you want to say to your readers?

STEPHEN: They will have to make up their minds whether they like Lolly. She’s an unusual character, and you have to remember that actually she is the villain of the series, so whether you side might depend on what you think about her questionable morals. I also have to add a warning that the book is really only suitable for readers aged 14 and up, as there are some adult themes and some (not explicit) sexual content.

Oh. And after reading the book(s), I would be very, very grateful if your readers could pen a quick review to post on Amazon and/or Goodreads. I guess it goes without saying, but reviews are invaluable to authors. Thank you.


ME: What is your favorite movie?

STEPHEN: Impossible question to answer. I have several, for several reasons. But Star Wars, Spiderman (2002 Sam Raimi version) and, bizarrely, Death on the Nile.

ME: Are you reading any interesting books at the moment?

STEPHEN: I’m reading A Brief History of the Spy, by Paul Simpson. I’m really into espionage thrillers and factual accounts of spying at the moment. This one is a really interesting account of the activities of the spying networks in various countries over the last 60 years.

ME: What do you do to unwind and relax?

STEPHEN: I love doing fun, silly things with my wife Rebecca, going out to restaurants, spending time with our friends or playing with our cats.

ME: What book would you LOVE to see turned into a movie and why?

STEPHEN: I’d love to see The Day of the Triffids turned into a decent movie. There have been a few attempts at tv programmes and films over the years, but nothing definitive. I love that book and would love for someone to do it justice.

ME: If you could be any kind of creature (other than human), which would you pick and why?

STEPHEN: Cat. I just adore them. Fascinating creatures and they have a pretty good life.

Stephen Henning is the author of the Class Heroes book series. He lives in the UK with his wife, Rebecca, who – rather handily – is an editor and proofreader. Equally fortuitously, whether it be out of love, duty or genuine enjoyment, she also reads his books.

Stephen has always enjoyed writing stories, making films and having fun. The Class Heroes books encompass all three of these hobbies, in no particular order.

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Lolly Rosewood is 16 years old and she is on the run. She has arrived in London, penniless, alone and – worse still – she has lost her fearsome superpowers.

She is being hunted by the police and the Security Service, MI5. She has no friends and very few people who would want to help her.

Lolly needs money and a place to lie low, while she formulates a plan to rescue Sir Michael Rosewood, her father, who is being held prisoner by the British Government at a secret location.

There is one person who may just agree to help Lolly. An old friend of her father. However, time is running out because the Security Service are hot on her trail...


 Stephen has offered an e-copy of Where's Lolly? to one lucky reader! To enter just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Contest is International.
 a Rafflecopter giveaway


Mary Preston said...

I wish I had super powers. Interesting cover.