Monday 21 March 2011

Launch Party for Department 19 by Will Hill - 16th March 2011

I was really excited to be invited to a launch party for Will Hill's debut novel Department 19 at the HarperCollins offices last week.  I went up to London early and met with Lynsey (from Narratively Speaking) for an afternoon of shopping in Foyles.  It was lovely to see her but unfortunately she was attending a different event so couldn't make the launch party.  After a bit of drama on the underground I eventually met up with Jenny (from Wondrous Reads) at Euston so we could travel to the event together.  I was fully expecting to get lost on the way to the HarperCollins offices but thanks to some very easy to follow directions from Geraldine we found them with no problems (in fact we were almost an hour early).  On arrival at the offices we were issued with really cool name badges (giving us level D2 clearance for the event!) and a Department 19 pack filled with all kinds of goodies.  Jenny and I spent some time staring in awe at the very impressive reception while we were waiting for more people to arrive (I didn't take any pictures but Jenny has posted one in her event report, link below)

When we were shown up to the 4th floor for the event where HarperCollins had laid on a lovely spread of drinks and nibbles for us to attack while we were mingling (I was impressed that I managed to stick to my diet and avoid digging in!).  It was lovely to catch up with some of the other bloggers who were there and also to finally get to meet some of the publicists who I have been emailing for months now.  I was also lucky enough to be able to spend a bit of time chatting to Will, his editor Nick and a couple of the bloggers.  I had quite a few questions about the sequel to Department 19 and I was quite surprised by how much information Will was happy to share (although there are still a lot of things I didn't feel quite brave enough to ask!).  I'm happy to discover that Matt is going to have a role in the sequel (we weren't told that outright but as Will said that Matt is the character who is most like him and Matt spent most of Department 19 in a coma I've jumped to my own conclusions!).  I did try begging to read the sequel now but Will is still in the revision process and not even Nick has been allowed to read it yet so I didn't have much luck there unfortunately.

It was soon time to sit down and we got to watch the Department 19 trailer (you can watch it above if you've not already seen it) before Alison introduced Will and Nick for a Q&A session. 

I made quite a few notes about what was discussed, the following is in my words & if there are any mistakes it is down to not being able to read my terrible writing!
  • Will was a massive horror fan when he was younger but found that there wasn't much available aimed at teens.  He progressed from reading Roald Dahl straight onto Stephen King (I was very much the same except I became addicted to Dean Koontz & had collected almost his entire back list by the time I was 15) and I think this is one of the main reasons he was inspired to write a horror / thriller story aimed at teens.
  • As a fan of Dracula Will found himself curious about what would have happened to the characters after the ending of the book and so the idea for Department 19 was born.
  • Will felt that vampires have become a little defanged and sparkly recently and wanted to bring back the more traditional non-cuddly version.  He also wanted to write about vampires that can't go out in the sun.  Will asked himself the question "would vampires really be the same person they had been when they now had all of these amazing supernatural abilities?" - you'll have to read the book to find out the answer to that!
  • Nick pointed out how much research Will put into creating his world.  He had only written the prologue and 2 chapters before he decided to create a full family tree for each of the main families in the series.  Although most of these characters will never appear in the series (and some may just warrant a paragraph entry) Will has created a 1/2 page bio for every person in the family trees.  He also created ID codes for every member of Department 19, a diagram of the base and a list of each of the commanders throughout the organisation's history.  I have a feeling that is just the tip of the iceberg as Will spent 5 years researching and building his world - that is something that really shows when you read the book.
  • Some information about the 2nd book in the series: it's currently 234,000 words and an 806 page manuscript (although Will did say he is working on trimming that down!).  Will describes it as a little bit like Empire Strikes Back - it starts to answer some of the questions raised in the first book but not all of them and it will leave you with new questions at the end.  The story is much darker than Department 19, the first book was a search and rescue mission the second is a fight for survival.
  • There are 3 books planned in the series so far.  Will knows exactly how the series ends (in fact he's already written the final scenes but he hasn't shared them with anyone) but he isn't sure how long the journey will be before we get there.  We can expect to see more vampires, some werewolves and even zombies in the series (Department 19 are the supernatural police force after all, not just the vampire police)
  • When asked if he has started to think about what comes after this series has finished Will described an idea for a story that he says is a cross between The Exorcist and On The Road.  This would be the story of a friendship between 2 teenage boys with a horror story overlaid and looks at the question "Are you the sum of where you came from or are you your own person?"
  • Character Larissa was only supposed to appear in 3 chapters but she quickly became Will's favorite character and ended up with a major role in the story.  Initially he felt sorry for Larissa and was enjoying watching Jamie struggle with the fact that she tried to kill him but he can't help really fancying her!  He found it interesting to put 2 damaged and lonely people in close proximity and see what happened.  Will also liked the idea of a female character who wasn't a victim which is something I'd like to see more of in YA fiction!
The Q&A session was finished off with a sneak peek at the newest video created as part of the Department 19 viral campaign.  Unfortunately they couldn't get the sound working on the night but that's probably a good thing as I'm sure I'd have embarrassed myself by jumping out of my skin (yes I'm one of those people who watches horror movies thinking "any second now something bad will happen" and I still have to climb down from the ceiling after the bad guy jumps out - my friends all laugh at how easy it is to make me jump!).  You can watch the video yourself here but make sure you have the sound turned on - it really is better that way!

After watching the video it was time for us to get our brand new very shiny copies of the Department 19 hardback (which releases on the 31st March) signed by Will and spend a bit more time catching up with everyone.  I think I ended up leaving at about 9pm and walked back to the tube station with the 2 Darrens before we all went our separate ways to come home.  It was a fab evening and I thoroughly enjoyed myself!

It wasn't until I got home that I had a proper look in the goodie bag we were given and I was very excited about the contents.  It included posters, postcards, a patch but the highlight was a fantastic Department 19 memory stick.  The memory stick was loaded with some great extras like the family trees, a diagram of the base, a guide to vampires and some deleted chapters that I was very happy to read!  Some of this content is available to download on the Department 19 website so make sure you check it out for yourselves.

I'd like to say a massive thank you to everyone at HarperCollins for inviting me and for arranging such a fab party!  Thanks also to Will for being so friendly and not getting too intimidated when we were hounding you with questions :o)  If you haven't already got Department 19 on your wish list you really do need to add it now!  It's a fantastic debut and I can't wait to get my hands on the rest of the series - check out my review here for more information.

Who Was There:
(I'm not sure if there were other bloggers there who I didn't get a chance to talk to but let me know if I missed your link & I'll add it for you)


  1. Sounds like it was a great event and your great report is as close as I got to being there too - so gutted that I couldn't make it along.
    Loved loved loved the book and, as soon as space in my reading time allows I will re-read it again.
    Keith B Walters

  2. Hi Keith, such a shame you couldn't make it to the event, it was a great evening. I'm glad you liked my write up though :o) I loved Department 19 too - I'm anxiously waiting for book 2 now lol



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