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We were thrilled to catch up with children’s author Joanna Nadin in the latest issue of PaperBound. Join us as we chat to her about her latest novel, No Man’s Land, and discover more about her books, characters, and writing tips.
You can read our interview with Joanna here, or in the latest issue of PaperBound Magazine on our issues page.
Can you tell us about your new novel, No Man’s Land, and a little about what inspired it?
No Man’s Land tells the story of a new version of England – Albion, run by a far right-wing government – and two boys, ten-year-old Alan and five-year-old Sam, who, a matter of weeks away from World War 3, are secretly evacuated from Bristol (now Brigstowe) to a women’s commune on the Tamar estuary between Devon and Cornwall – the eponymous No Man’s Land. What follows is Alan’s narrative as he tries at first to get used to a wilder life, then, when his Dad doesn’t show up, resolves to escape to rescue him, Sam in tow. It was written in a state of rage on the back of Donald Trump’s increasing abuse of power, and the UK’s vote to leave the EU. Trump has, thankfully, gone. But our world still feels apocalyptian at times.
No Man’s Land mimics our own current political climate and doesn’t shy away from a future Britain changed for the worse, not the better. It’s easy to empathise with Alan’s frustration of adults not telling him what was happening. Do you think we don’t give kids enough credit for how much they observe the world around them?
They hear and see so much – more, sometimes, than we do – and of course they realise what’s happening. That’s why we need to talk about it – to reassure them that despite the mess of the world, there is always hope.
There are so many interesting characters in No Man’s Land. One of our favourite characters is Dad. Do you have a favourite supporting character, and if so, why?
Dad is a favourite of mine as well. He’s modelled on the actor Joe Gilgun (I cast all my novels, so I can see the characters move and hear them speak better), whom I’ve always found mesmerising on screen – funny and moving too. My top favourite though Ahmed, who’s only in it for a short time, but who is bold and caring, and a great friend to Alan.
The book ends in a way that people might not expect. Did you plan for it to end this way (without spoilers)?
I did. I don’t start writing a book without knowing exactly where it will end up, so I’d plotted out the final chapter before I’d started the first. I knew I wanted it to be realistic, as opposed to a classic happy ending, but offer hope as well.
How do you hope readers will respond to No Man’s Land?
I hope readers will recognise some of what’s going on in the world around us at the moment, and where we could end up if we don’t make some changes. Most importantly, I hope they’ll find some courage within themselves to realise they can help make that change. No one hero or heroine is ever going to save the world – too many books tell us that. In No Man’s Land, as in real life, only by working together can we change things.
Can you sum up your book in three words?
Funny. Scary. Moving.
Along with being an author, you also teach creative writing. Do you feel your writing has improved/ developed through teaching? What would be your biggest tip for any aspiring young writers out there?
Of course. I learn so much from working with other, often hugely talented, writers, many of whom have gone on to be published. In fact, No Man’s Land was partially inspired after a class working on voice in middle-grade novels. My biggest tip is: read. If you read enough, you begin to absorb how story works. You’d be amazed at how many students think they can get away with not reading. It’s like a violinist imagining they can learn to play without ever listening to anyone else. On which note, practise as well. Writing is no different to violin here either, or sport. The more you do it, the better you get at it, so write every day, even if it’s a diary, even if it’s only a paragraph. Slowly it will become more of a muscle memory and you’ll find the right words leaping to your fingertips all of a sudden.
Joanna Nadin is the author of more than eighty books for children, teenagers and adults, including the bestselling Flying Fergus series with Sir Chris Hoy, the award-winning Worst Class in the World series, and the acclaimed YA novel Joe All Alone, which is now a BAFTA-winning BBC drama. She lives in Bath, and teaches at University of Bristol. You can keep up to date with her on Twitter and Instagram.
No Man’s Land is published by UCLan, available NOW!
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