Oh how the F2F chicks love to bring our readers a terrific interview! We’re like Elizabeth Vargas and Barbara Walters when we get together and try to come up with hard-hitting questions fans want answers to as well as thoughtful questions that invoke heartwarming answers. So we were ecstatic when Nialls Nation approached us about the opportunity to interview author Niall Leonard in anticipation of the release of his upcoming novel Incinerator, the sequel to Crusher and the second book in the Crusher trilogy via The Random House Group.
EXCERPT & ORDERING INFO HERE
The day Finn Maguire discovers his dad bludgeoned to death in a pool of blood, his dreary life is turned upside down. Prime suspect in his father’s murder, Finn must race against time to clear his name and find out who hated his dad enough to kill him.
Scouring the sordid, brutal London underworld for answers, exposing dark family secrets, and facing danger at every turn, Finn is about to learn that it’s the people you trust who can hit you the hardest. . .
Crusher is this year’s most talked-about debut thriller.
Lisa’s Review of Crusher
Discovering Niall Leonard has been another welcome part of this journey Kitt and I have been on since finding each other in the Twilight fandom. That journey lead us to some incredible authors who are now going mainstream and the reason we first launched this blog, not the least of which is Niall’s wife Erika (aka E L James). We have enjoyed their Twitter banter for a few years now, as well as reading interviews he has done as a result of his wife’s growing fame. So when Niall got his first publishing deal, we had no doubt the intelligence and humor we had grown to love would also be evident in his writing. And it is.
It will come as no surprise to those who follow this blog that I bought the audiobook version of Crusher. It’s what I do. It’s what I live for. (Sorry. I still have Anna Kendrick’s The Little Mermaid skit on the brain. lol) Crusher is fast-paced and keeps you entertained from start to finish. There’s even a little bit of romance for our hero, and I can’t help but hope that Zoe has found her way into Incinerator too once I get to listening to the audiobook. Since Niall has helped raise two boys of his own, it’s obvious he knows his way around their head space. It’s also obvious he knows his way around a good story. We’re big on not giving away any spoilers in our posts, so you won’t find any here. What you will find is a recommendation to buy the book and fall in love with Finn too!
U.S. Release Date: April 8, 2014
EXCERPT & ORDERING INFO HERE
Incinerator is the pulse-pounding sequel to Crusher, Niall Leonard’s debut YA novel and an Edgar Award finalist for Best Young Adult Novel.
Following the bloody deaths of his mother and father, Finn Maguire is determined to make a fresh start, running a boxing gym in the bruised and bitter heart of the city. But when loan sharks target his business partner and his lawyer vanishes with all his money, Finn is dragged down into London’s underworld once more, with only his fists and his wits to keep him alive.
F2F: It’s fantastic that Nialls Nation has been created to support your career, and we appreciate the admin including us in the opportunity to do this Q&A with you. Thank you for taking the time, Niall!
NL: You’re very welcome. I’m honoured to be asked and amazed at the efforts Nialls Nation makes to publicize the Crusher trilogy. Their work is beyond price.
F2F: Kitt always wants to know… How did you celebrate when you got the news Crusher had been picked up by Random House?
NL: I remember when I heard the news – I was vacuum-cleaning the floor in my father’s house in Ireland when my agent rang and told me that if I wasn’t sitting down, I should be. When she explained that Random House wanted to publish Crusher and its two sequels I was stunned – I understood then why she’d told me to take a seat. Of course, it was the same year Erika’s trilogy became a record-breaking publishing phenomenon, and extraordinary events just seemed to keep on coming, but I’ve never stopped being thrilled and flattered to be published, and I hope that thrill never fades.
F2F: Lisa always wants to know… Is there any significance to the name you chose for your main character(s)?
NL: Maguire was my mother’s maiden name and for me it always had a rogue-ish quality, maybe because my father used to grumble (in jest) that in centuries past the Leonards had been kings in their part of Ireland and the Maguires had moved in and taken over. I’ve used it quite often as the name of my hero in my work. ‘Finn’ is a bit of vanity because it means ‘fair-haired’ in Irish (though it should really be spelled Fionn). I’m fair-haired so it was a way of putting myself into the tale.
F2F: Did Finn start talking to you when you decided to participate in Nanowrimo, or had he been kicking around in your head for a while?
NL: He’d been kicking around for a year or two. I emphasise this to people who wonder how I wrote the first draft of Crusher in a month. Writing quickly has never been a problem for me, but the planning and working out of the structure can take a while. In fact it took longer than it should with Crusher; from the start I thought it ought to be a book, and even wrote an opening chapter, but since I hadn’t worked out beforehand where the story was going I lost momentum and put the project aside. As a TV writer I’ve always relied on knowing the structure of a piece to allow me to keep me moving; also as a TV writer I’ve had clients breathing down my neck and that kept me focused too! Since I was writing Crusher for myself it was too easy to let myself off the hook, pretending that the piece would be better if I let it ‘mature’ for a bit, which was classic procrastinating BS. Nanowrimo was the kick up the ass that I needed.
F2F: Is Finn’s dyslexia inspired by anyone in real life?
NL: One of my brothers a few years back was diagnosed as dyslexic, and realized that that had held him back academically. I thought of that when I needed a reason for Finn to have under-achieved at school, to be taken for stupid when in fact he’s smarter than most, and to be angry and have low self-esteem; dyslexia fitted the bill. Of course If I’d realised how difficult it would make my job when he’s trying to solve mysteries, I might have looked for a different flaw..!
F2F: Why mystery? Were you a fan of the Hardy Boys or Sherlock while growing up?
NL: I was never particularly into mysteries when I was growing up, or even now. I was into humour and comedy, and have always believed that being able to tell a joke is like being able to tell a story with a twist – the answer has to be hidden in the tale itself, in such a way that nobody sees it coming until the very end. I’ve written a lot of murder-mystery thrillers for TV, and learned the craft on the job, approaching the problem in a practical way; you start off with a secret that motivates the murder, and find other secrets that have a similar theme, and you wrap the real answer inside the fake ones. The audience follows the hero as he or she unravels the puzzle. When it works well, and you take the audience by surprise, it’s a real buzz. But writing Crusher I learned that it’s an even bigger buzz when as the writer you take yourself by surprise.
F2F: Your wife, E L James, famously admits that your sons have not read her books, but have they read yours?
NL: They made a start, but if either of them ever got to the end, they haven’t told me, and I’ve stopped asking. It’s a painful irony for both Erika and me that our kids aren’t great readers – maybe that’s our own fault for giving them too many other things to do when they were young. Growing up I was quite often bored out of my skull and reading was the only escape. However, many of our sons’ friends have read Crusher and enjoyed it – including the lad whose dislike of fantasy and romance novels first inspired me to come up with a crime story featuring a teenage hero. That’s some consolation. (Many of those boys have read Fifty Shades too, from a rather different motive…)
F2F: We love the new cover for Crusher, as well as the covers for Incinerator and Shredder. The theme has a very appealing Saul Bass feel. How much creative input did you have in the design?
NL: The original Crusher cover featuring the lonely figure in the dark street was deliberately aimed at the adult thriller audience for which that sort of image is a staple – it was meant to convey that Crusher was not a typical young-adult book. However, for the paperback edition we decided to go for a radical revision and tie it up thematically with the covers of the next two novels.
F2F: The Fifty Shades trilogy blazed a trail with its simple monochrome covers, blowing away all the ancient clichés of romantic fiction imagery. I wanted my book like hers to have an iconic cover that could be recognized across a bookshop, or when shrunk to a thumbnail on screen. My other basic idea was that the text of each title should be ‘damaged’ in the way the title suggested, and the cover artists took that idea and ran with it, suggesting a simple three-colour theme and coming up with the modern-Saul-Bass look everyone loved.
F2F: Daniel Weyman did a great job narrating the audiobook version of Crusher. Will he be narrating Incinerator and Shredder too? Were you involved in the audiobook process at all?
NL: For the Crusher audiobook I was sent a shortlist of actors and I have to admit I rejected them all – they had boy’s voices and I wanted the more world-weary tones of a young man. I asked for a list of older actors and listened to about twenty: Daniel Weyman came top of the list – but that was the limit of my involvement, which surprised me. I never even got to meet him. I trained as a director and the idea that you send the actor cold into a studio to make his or her own way through the text, with no hints or suggestions as to how they should approach it, seemed like anathema – but in the world of books that’s how it’s always been done, apparently. And since it turned out so well, maybe a director would have just over-complicated the process!
F2F: As a television writer turned novelist, would you rather see your books adapted into movies or a television series?
NL: I would say movies, because the stories are essentially so short and self-contained. Everyone demands so much of a TV series these days – multi-layered and deeply complex, with storylines that run for season after season. If I were writing Finn as a TV detective for a serial I’d have to do it differently…
Actually, that’s a really interesting idea. (A/N: We’ll see our names in the credits, right?)
F2F: Speaking of television, are there any British and/or American television series where you find the writing (bloody) brilliant?
NL: The dialogue in Game of Thrones zings off the screen. It manages to be convey ‘medieval’ without become stilted and self-conscious, and it’s always witty with it. House of Cards I love, even if it suggests that every politician except Frank Underwood is fundamentally honest and devoid of guile, which stretches credibility just a little. I’ve recently discovered Arrested Development, which has the merciless wit of Modern Family but none of the saccharine – although the saccharine in MF is superbly judged.
F2F: What’s next for you? Any projects you can share with us (besides trying to housebreak Mini – lol)?
NL: I am torn between a period detective novel series based an actual historical character I came across a few years ago, and a one-off novel about dogwalkers in a London park and how their lives interweave. The first will take, and has taken, a great deal of research – the second I research every day. Mini, though adorable, is a real distraction – puppies are a lot easier to keep entertained in a house with young children.
Just for fun…
F2F: Maybe not everyone knows that you were your wife’s original editor for the Fifty Shades Trilogy when it was fanfiction. Was there ever laughing involved while you pored over what you read that you haven’t admitted to her? C’mon, you can tell us!
NL: Erika literally sat at my elbow as I proof-read each chapter, and she missed none of my reactions. I edited punctuation without referring to her, often swapping ellipses for dashes and vice versa, but if I wanted to change any of the words we hammered it out between us. It was hard work for both of us, but we did laugh, and when we did we laughed together. I still find it hard to believe we actually collaborated so closely for so long without ever trying to hit one another with blunt heavy objects.
F2F: Have you ever written fanfiction and, if so, for what fandom(s)?
NL: I was going to reply ‘no’ to this question, but then I realized that when I started to write almost everything I produced was fan fiction, in the sense that it echoed the work of authors I loved. I’ve written stuff inspired by JRR Tolkien, Frank O’Connor, Sven Hassel (don’t ask) and Spike Milligan, among others. But of course many professional writers start out by emulating their heroes, and keep writing until they find their own voice. Fan-fiction is another way of doing that, with the added thrill of sharing the fun with friends and fans.
F2F: How did you propose to your wife? With each of you having such a great sense of humor, we’re thinking it might be a fun(ny) story. Although, we’re also fans of hearts and flowers 😉
NL: This is a very sensitive subject, and whenever I have told the story I’ve tried to make it funny, but Erika has never found it hilarious….
…and despite intense efforts over centuries of marriage I have never been forgiven. It seems I will just have to keep on trying… (A/N: We thank you for sharing the story with us, Mr. Leonard, but due to the unromantic nature of it, and our allegiance to Erika, we have decided not to publish it. We support your efforts to continue seeking forgiveness. LOL!)
F2F: Who has current bragging rights for trivia night at the pub? The guys or the girls?
NL: The girls have only come to the pub quiz a few times – and the last time they finished ahead of us by a point, which was suitably mortifying for the guys. However in the last year the boys’ team has won the jackpot twice, mostly on the strength of trivia, so we have nothing to be ashamed of. Sadly however the boys’ team seems to have gone their separate ways of late. Erika and I are planning to form a splinter group, just as soon as we can agree on a snappy name for the team…Don’t anybody hold their breath.
F2F: Okay, we won’t! But chick Lisa is holding her breath in anticipation of the audiobook version of Incinerator!
Available June 2014!
EXCERPT & ORDERING INFO HERE
Thank you so much to Niall Leonard for entertaining us with his enthusiastic and thoughtful answers! We wish him the best of luck with the release of Incinerator.
And be sure to “Like” Nialls Nation’s Facebook page! In addition to up-to-date information and working directly with Mr. Leonard, they do great giveaways!