I still would definitely recommend this one to mid-grade/younger teen readers and on up. The book itself can stand on its own, but I think that if you haven’t read the first one yet, A Class Apart, you should certainly pick it up! Overall, I think I enjoyed this one more than the first. It didn’t seem to drag in the beginning and the ending was solid. I give this one 5 out of 5 controllers and if I had to rate the whole series I would give it 5 out of 5 as well.
1. Welcome Stephen to Mother/Gamer/Writer. For those readers who are not familiar with you or your work can you tell us a little bit about yourself?[/note]
Hi Diayll. Thanks for giving me the chance to ‘meet’ your readers. I’m the writer of a book series called Class Heroes. I’m based in the UK and I live with my wife, Rebecca, and two cats called Sookie and Rogue.
Class Heroes is about 14-year-old twins, James and Samantha Blake, who develop superpowers after being caught up in a suspected terrorist bombing.
I am an indie author, and being a writer is all I’ve ever wanted to do. I trained as a journalist and I currently run my own technical-communication business. But to be honest, nothing compares with the thrill of writing a thriller!
2. Do you have a particular writing style? Any odd writing habits?[/note]
I have been writing the Class Heroes books in an overlapping fashion. When I began the series, I came up with the setting and the general plot of what eventually became book 2, What Happened in Witches Wood. However, the story that I wanted to tell in Witches Wood felt too big to also be an ‘origin’ story. I spent a lot of time thinking about the characters of Sam and James to make them feel as real as possible, and then I came up with the story for book 1, A Class Apart, all the while knowing how it would link into book 2.
I think that approach worked quite well in maintaining the continuity of an overall story arc. So after I had come up with a first draft of book 2, I started mapping out the plot to book 3, so I knew where I would be taking Sam and James.
While I’m writing, I like listening to music. I find classical music provides the greatest inspiration. I was never really fussed about classical music before, but my wife got me into it. Now, when I’m writing an exciting chase sequence, or putting the twins’ life in danger, or trying to give a scene pace and verve, having something like Ride of the Valkyries on in the background really fires my imagination and gives my writing an extra kick.
3. Who would you consider your favorite authors, or where do you draw inspiration?[/note]
I’ve got a long list of authors that I really love. To name a few: Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books, Michael Crichton, Ken Follett, JG Ballard, and perhaps more unusually, Jilly Cooper.
All of those authors have their own distinct writing style, their own voice and their own quirks. I like the level of detail that goes into Crichton and Child’s books. And I like Jilly Cooper’s conversational style. When you’re writing, there’s always a temptation to try and emulate your favourite authors, which rarely works. I think it took me until book 2 to find my own authorial voice for the Class Heroes books – which is basically to let the characters do the talking – and I’m pleased with how that works.
4. What books are currently on your bookshelf?[/note]
I’m trying out Jo Nesbo, an author of Norwegian crime fiction. A friend bought me the box set of Redbreast, The Snowman and The Devil’s Star.
Redbreast is a slightly awkward introduction to the Harry Hole series, but Harry is a good character, and even though it feels a bit disjointed, I can see it’s worth sticking with. My friend loves the books. I’ve known him since we were two years old and we share very similar tastes, so I think I’m going to enjoy the rest of the series.
5. Where did you come up with the idea for the twins and their powers?[/note]
There were two elements to it, really.
I’ve always loved superheroes, and I think they work brilliantly in the visual medium, particularly when it comes to the spectacular things they can do, such as rooftop battles, wrecking famous landmarks and wearing inappropriate costumes. But I always thought there was room, outside the confines of the graphic novel format, to explore the impact on a normal person of suddenly acquiring powers.
Conversely, I’ve never been much of a fan of stories, typically aimed at teenagers, where a group of children take on hardened criminals and win, and finish the book with little more than a slight thirst for lemonade, rather than the more likely outcome of being beaten to a pulp. These days, we’d hesitate to let our children out of our sight, let alone be happy for them to hike to a remote island and take on the criminal underworld.
What I wanted to do with the Class Heroes books was embrace the first element, and correct the second. If you’re going to get superpowers, the most interesting time in life to get them would be when you’re in your early teens.
When you’re 14, you’re faced with so many choices. You’re trying to work out who you are, you’ve got a constant battle going on with your own body, and although you feel old enough to make your own decisions, you’re actually still living at home and being told what to do.
So imagine adding superpowers to that already explosive mix! The potential is just ripe to be explored in a book series. And because the twins have powers, it levels the playing field between them and the bad guys. 14-year-old Samantha Blake is stronger and faster than some big nasty villain but, at heart, she’s still a 14-year-old girl. Just having physical strength isn’t necessarily enough to take on a world that you don’t yet fully understand. That makes for good drama. It’s that conflict between power and naivety.
6. Book two is written in a slightly different style than book one. Was that purposely done? Was it harder or easier to write?[/note]
Yes, it was a conscious decision. I pictured book one like a movie and that’s how I wrote it. Several reviewers did pick up on that and commented that it would make a good film. It was written from multiple perspectives, it was very action-oriented and I think it worked well for the type of story I wanted to tell.
Book two was a bigger book, but I wanted it to be a bit deeper too. I knew it had to be far more focused on the twins themselves so the reader really gets a chance to find out who they are and engage with them on a new level. I also wanted the storyline to be a lot tighter, to limit the point-of-view characters to five key characters whose individual stories closely intertwine. What Happened in Witches Wood is (hopefully) far more like a traditional holiday thriller book. And yes, it was definitely harder to write, but ultimately far more satisfying.
7. Who is more fun to write? Lolly or Sam?[/note]
To be honest, I love writing them both because they are polar opposites.
Lolly comes across as deliciously evil, but in Witches Wood, you get an inkling of where that’s coming from. She’s had a weird upbringing, which has left her totally amoral and that makes her completely unpredictable.
I’m really pleased with the relationship I gave her with the twins. They are the first people, more or less her own age, that she has encountered who also have powers. She thinks she is superior to everyone, and now, finally, she has met people who are her equals. She is trying to find her level with James and Sam.
Lolly knows she is pretty, she craves attention, and she thinks that all the boys fancy her, so James is both a mystery to her and a challenge. Whereas she sees Sam as a threat.
Sam is everything Lolly isn’t. Caring, sweet and likeable. Her innocence and naivety are very endearing. She’s not outspoken, or pushy, or ‘kick-ass’ in the way a lot of heroines are these days. She has a quiet self-assurance. She doesn’t feel the need to shout about how good she is. She is sensitive, vulnerable, naive maybe, but she knows her own mind and she won’t be pushed around. Those are the qualities in Sam that Lolly just can’t understand. She feels threatened by Sam in a way that she doesn’t properly understand herself.
Lolly will be returning in book 3, and this time she is a point-of-view character too, so we’ll get to learn more about what makes her tick, rather than just how other people perceive her.
Also, I have a lot of fun writing Sam’s relationship with her brother. They are very close, but there’s a lot of potential for humour in there. Everyone knows how petty siblings can be with each other and, looking at that from the outside, it can be very funny.
8. More people with powers were sort of introduced in What Happened in Witches Wood. Will they be brought into the story more in future books?[/note]
Oh yes. Those particular characters won’t be in book 3; there’s someone else on Sam and James’s radar for the next installment. Someone with an enviable power. It’s an ability that I think everyone would love to have.
However, the ever-growing story arc will bring those other characters back later in the series.
9. Was it easy to let Katie go at the end of the book?[/note]
Well, I don’t want to give too much away about the end of the book, for those who haven’t read it yet, but yes. Katie is a good character and it’s pretty heart-breaking for the twins to learn what happened to her in Witches Wood.
10. Do you find readers have different reactions based on which country they are from?[/note]
Not really. The reaction to the books has been really positive, regardless of location. I actually thought that basing the books in the UK might be tough for readers in other countries. James and Sam use a lot of slang, and their dialogue is very British, so I feared it might be hard for non-Brits to follow.
But I was delighted by how many people singled out the characters of the twins for special praise, and that mainly comes from people outside the UK. I’m glad they have a universal appeal.
To Learn More about Stephen Henning and The Class Heroes Series Please Visit:
Also, the books both feature a fictional news channel called 24/7 Interactive News. I have created a website for the channel, where you’ll be able to find some news stories and videos relating to events in the book. Think of it like the ‘bonus’ features you get on DVD releases.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions; it has been my pleasure having you on Mother/Gamer/Writer!
Thank you very much for interviewing me. I really enjoyed answering the questions. And it would be very rude of me to turn up at the party without a present. Normally it would be a box of after-dinner mints, but in the virtual world, it’ll be easier if I give away a copy of both books in the Class Heroes series:
- A Class Apart (Class Heroes #1)
- What Happened in Witches Wood (Class Heroes #2)
I can make the books available as PDF, ePub or Kindle.
And to make it a bit of fun, I thought I’d set a competition question.
Q. I mentioned earlier that my cats are called Sookie and Rogue. What (or rather Who) links the names Sookie and Rogue?