I’m interviewing Nick Green, author of YA science-fiction “Project Firebird”. I hope you enjoy the interview, and welcome to my blog, Nick.
Q: Please tell us about yourself.
Nick Green. Rank, civilian. That’s all you’re getting.
Q: Tell us about your book.
What happened to ‘please?’ (Just kidding). Well, Project Firebird is the first book in a much larger story, the Firebird trilogy. I’ve always wanted to turn out a really big story, something approaching the scale of The Lord of the Rings, only not with hobbits (I think they’ve been done, haven’t they?). Firebird isn’t quite on that scale, or on the truly ludicrous scale of something like ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ (Game of Thrones) – but if you put all three books together they’d be about 700 pages, which is quite fat enough for me.
However, when I started on Project Firebird it was only intended to be a standalone book. The original working title was ‘The Doomsday Crew’, because it’s about a group of talented people who are specially selected to safeguard and revive civilisation following a world-changing catastrophe. The people chosen are young teenagers, for two good reason. The first (in-universe) reason is that younger people are more bullish, resilient and resourceful, and less prone to despair and disillusionment. Deep down, they believe they are invincible. The second, more prosaic reason for them being teens, is that I’m a YA author… so they kind of had to be, didn’t they? But I hope my given reason holds up, inside the story.
Our protagonist is Leo Lloyd-Jones, who is very much the odd one out in this elite team. To put it bluntly, he’s a thug and a juvenile delinquent. However, whether by accident or design, it turns out that the very flaws which make him so ungovernable in our civilised world, will prove to be invaluable qualities in the world they’re about to enter. That was really the core of my idea: that the social outcast of one era may prove to be the hero of another. It’s all about being born into the right time to make use of your talents.
Q: What inspired you to write Project Firebird?
I partly answer this in the question above. So I’ll give a slightly different answer. I was motivated to write it because I’d hit some serious obstacles in my writing career. My first book was a middle-grade thriller called The Cat Kin, the first in the Cat Kin trilogy. I’m still very fond of that series, and it’s probably my most successful work to date, at least commercially. Book 1 was originally published by Faber, and they were all set to take on the sequel, and theoretically any further instalments. However, in publishing nothing is certain unless it’s carved in stone, and sometimes not even then. I’d finished the second Cat Kin book when Faber told me they no longer wanted it – so I thought I’d wasted a year’s work. Not very nice.
Eventually I did find a replacement publisher, and all three Cat Kin books are out now, with Strident. But another ramification was that my agent at the time (someone at Curtis Brown) started to lose interest in me now that the Cat Kin contract had stalled. When I wrote a new book (The Storm Bottle) the agent wasn’t very interested in promoting it to publishers. So, refusing to give up, I wrote Project Firebird to try and win the agent over again. Unfortunately, we parted company before I finished it!
I’m now with a new agent, who is much more proactive (she represented the late Diana Wynne Jones, and several other favourite authors of mine), and she’s still looking for a traditional publisher to take on the Firebird trilogy. But in the meantime, I’ve put it on Kindle myself to try and build up an early fan base.
Q: How much time per week do you spend writing/editing your work?
It’s hard to answer that because I work in binges, whenever I get some spare time, and then there are long periods of ‘fasting’ where I’m not able to sit down and work at all. But I will say that I probably spend more time editing a book than I do writing it. My mantra is, ‘Writing is rewriting’. The first part isn’t really writing, it’s just trying to get the story down as best as one can. The actual writing – as in the craft of it – must come later. I call the first draft ‘the dirt pile’. The task of rewriting is to try and turn that dirt pile into a building that someone might want to live in, at least for a while.
Q: If you could meet three authors, which authors would you choose?
I’m going to interpret this question slightly differently, I think. First of all, I’m not sure you ever really can meet an author. You can meet a person with the same name, the person who legally receives the royalties, but you can’t ever meet the person who wrote the books. That person doesn’t really exist. They’re like Jay Gatsby – made up, a fake persona. You couldn’t expect to meet J R R Tolkien and get lots of fascinating insights into Middle Earth. You’d be more likely to get a cantankerous rant on how poorly his students are pronouncing Anglo Saxon words. Similarly, Leo Tolstoy wrote amazing books but was by many accounts a thoroughly unpleasant chap, or could be.
So the three authors I’d most want to meet would be Catherine Butler, Susan Price and John Dougherty. These are authors whom I know online through our membership of the Scattered Authors society, but I’ve never actually met them face to face. They’re all fantastic writers but that’s not why I’d want to have dinner with them – I’d want to meet them because they come across so well as people. I hope they’re not reading this – they’d be very embarrassed.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
‘Firebird’ was a massive effort to finish, so I’m recharging at the moment by having a go at a slightly younger piece of fiction, for the lower end of Middle Grade. It’s not that it’s easier to write for this age group (in many ways it’s harder) but it’s very different, so it’s using different writing muscles, so to speak. It’s a breath of fresh air. I don’t want to talk in detail about it though, as the idea is still very much in development.
Thanks for inviting me to chat!
About The Book
Author: Nick Green
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
How do you save the world when it’s already too late?
Don’t ask Leo Lloyd-Jones. Ask him how to steal a car, or why he got excluded from every school in Salford, but don’t come to him for help. This whole thing must be a daft mistake – and if anyone finds out, he’s done for.
Earth is on a deadly collision course that nothing can prevent. The only real hope is Project Firebird, deep inside a blast-proof bunker that shelters the brightest and bravest young people. Leo has got mixed up with the likes of Rhys Carnarvon, the celebrated teenage polar explorer, and other child prodigies chosen to keep the flame of civilisation.
Among them is the streetwise Paige Harris, a girl Leo likes a lot (but not in that way). Paige is desperate to rescue her little sister from London before the catastrophe strikes. But no-one is crazy enough to try that. Almost no-one.
Leo is about to find out why he’s here.
Nick Green lives in the UK. He is the author of seven fiction books to date, including the middle-grade CAT KIN trilogy published by Strident. His other books include THE STORM BOTTLE, a fantasy adventure about the dolphins of Bermuda, and most recently the FIREBIRD trilogy, a YA science fiction epic.
There is a tour-wide giveaway for all three books in the Firebird trilogy in Kindle format.