Will Hill's debut novel Department 19 was one of my favourite books of 2011 so I was incredibly excited to get my hands on sequel The Rising. It was by far my most anticipated book of 2012 and I can tell you now that it more than lived up to my expectations (I'll be posting my review later today). Anyway, back in February I was lucky enough to be invited to a special fan event at the National Army Museum to celebrate the release of The Rising.
I met up with some other bloggers and managed to have a quick look around part of the museum before the event started. I wish I'd allowed a bit more time to look around though because I've never been there before, I'm going to have to arrange another visit sometime. After a bit of a catch up it was time for the event to start and I have to admit that Caz (from Big Book, Little Book) & I were particularly excited to see the Department 19 Operators complete with their T-Bones! I have to say I really want one of those costumes for the next fancy dress party I go to lol.
Department 19 Operators
The event was hosted by Nick Lake (who is an author himself but also happens to be Will Hill's editor) and there was a Q&A session followed by a reading from The Rising. It was great to see so many younger readers in the audience and they were all obviously excited about their goodie bags with a lovely shiny hardback of The Rising in it - some of them even started reading it at the event!
Nick Lake & Will Hill
I took loads of notes during the Q&A so here are some of the highlights:
- Department 19 was the biggest selling YA debut novel of 2011 (I'm assuming that this was for the UK but can't confirm that)
- The main inspiration for the series was Bram Stoker's Dracula. Will first read it when he was about 12 or 13 and didn't really enjoy it but when he read it again at about 17/18 he thought it was amazing. He wanted to know what happened to the characters after the end of the story - how could they go back to a normal life after everything they'd seen?
- When Will decided to start writing he wanted to write about a very normal young boy who had his life turned upside down through no fault of his own. He decided to combine that with the question about what happened at the end of Dracula and Department 19 was born.
- When asked about his experience over the last year since Department 19 was published Will said he worked in publishing for 6 years so he knew how things worked from that side of the coin. He said it was totally different when it's your own book though! Once the book was published he didn't feel like it belonged to him anymore, it belongs to the readers. He also mentioned how nerve wracking he found it meeting readers and waiting to find out what they thought of the book.
- Will talked about his research trip to America to research locations for The Rising. His road trip took him 5 weeks to complete and he travelled over 7,000 miles through the Californian desert, New Orleans and Area 51. Some of his experiences from Area 51 are included in the story and after visiting there he felt it was completely plausible that something strange is going on there. He wasn't able to use all of his research material in the book though and Nick made him take out a lot of the New Orleans sections.
- When asked about the inspiration for Jamie Will said he wanted to make him as normal as possible. Jamie isn't the most handsome or popular boy and is probably quite similar to Will as a teen. Jamie doesn't realise how much he needs his parents until they aren't there anymore. Will wanted to create a real boy and he feels he has done that with Jamie - even making him a bit of a brat at times!
- Talking about the research he did for the series Will said he wanted everything in Department 19 to be as realistic as possible so although the T-Bone doesn't exist it would be technically possible to create one. He did a lot of research into pneumatic bolt guns, helicopters, weapons and the military before starting to write the series. He also spent an hour learning gun safety from a very scary ex Marine when he was living in LA.
- One of the kids in the audience had a fantastic question about whether Will prefers writing the emotional or gory parts of the story. Will confirmed that there is a lot of gore in The Rising (I can definitely vouch for that!) and said that he loves writing the action scenes. He finds the emotional scenes harder to write but the most satisfying when he gets them right. One of the hardest scenes to write in Department 19 was chapter 3 where Jamie has a big argument with his Mum just before she is kidnapped.
Caz & me with the D19 Operators
After the Q&A had finished it was time to get our books signed. Caz and I may have been among the few adults who queued up with the kids to have our pictures taken with the D19 Operators (we're just big kids really!!). We had a fab time and Caz even got to hold a T-Bone!!
After getting a little too excitable with the D19 Operators it was time to get our books signed & head home. I had a fantastic time at the event and would like to say a massive thanks to everyone at HarperCollins for inviting me!
They had a film crew there on the day so here is a video with some footage from the event:
Who was there:
Rosi & Nick - HarperCollins
Will Hill - Department 19 website
Leanne - District YA
Liz & Mark - My Favourite Books
Matt - Teen Librarian