The new thriller that everyone’s talking about
Secrets and lies… secrets and lies…
Fourteen-year-old twins, Kaine and Roxy, used to be close, but now they can hardly bear to be in the same room.
Roxy hates the way her brother behaves – Kaine might be brilliant at football, but he’s always in trouble and seems determined to tear the family apart.
And Kaine despises the way his supposedly perfect sister dominates their parents in her ambition to reach Wimbledon.
But the twins are both hiding dangerous secrets of their own, secrets that could destroy everything they are working towards – and both Roxy’s and Kaine’s survival hangs precariously in the balance.
Gripping, twisting and real; this book is UNSTOPPABLE.
Has being a journalist helped you as an author?
It’s been a huge help in that, having worked as an editor and a journalist with the England Football Team for seven years, when it comes to writing stories about top-level sport, I feel confident I can tell my readers realistic and authentic stories. I’ve been lucky enough to be around world class athletes so I try to bring those experiences to life through the characters in my novels.
Your books focus on sports, why is it such a strong theme in your writing? What are your favourite sports and are you any good at playing them?
I find that I want to write about what I know about, what I’m passionate about, what intrigues me and what offers a platform for great drama. Sport offers many of those opportunities. Having said that, my stories, deep down, aren’t really about sport. They are about people trying to achieve their dreams. The sport is the canvas which allows me to tell their story,
Yes, I love swimming, football, tennis and cricket. I play football twice a week. Keeps me sane. I hope.
What was it like to step away from Jamie Johnson's world to write Unstoppable? Will you return to writing Jamie Johnson books?
A bit nerve-wracking because I’m comfortable with Jamie and know him so well that, in a sense, he writes the stories for me.
Yes, I would love to write more JJ books in the future. That would be great.
Can you tell us, briefly, what your latest book Unstoppable is about?
Unstoppable is a story about a family under pressure. The dad, Daryll, has just lost his job. The mum, Samantha, is working all hours to try to bring in the money. Meanwhile, the two 14-year-old twins, Roxy and Kaine, are starving for success. They are both outrageously talented. Roxy has the potential to be the best young tennis player in the country and Kaine has an actual shot at being a Premier League footballer. However, with time and money so short, their parents simply can’t afford to support both kids’ demands anymore. It’s getting to the point where they are going to have to choose between the twins…
What happens when the person who should be your closest friend – and who has been next to you since before you were even born – has now become your biggest rival?
Why did you want to focus on knife crime and gang violence in this book?
It wasn’t so much that I wanted to focus on these areas, it was more that, as I thought about Kaine’s story and began to see his world start to crumble around him, I understood that some difficult and dark moments would present themselves to him. This was his true journey and we needed to explore it the novel.
How did you go about researching gangs and knife crime, have you spoken to young people about the effect these have had on their lives?
For the last 12 years, I’ve visited around 2000 schools. On these visits we talk about important subjects like ambition, parental separation, peer pressure and the challenges that we face. Every conversation I have had at schools for the last decade has, in one way or another, been research for this book.
I then supplemented these conversations by talking to police, teachers and youth workers too.
Were you also nervous about getting it right? What were your main concerns about writing this book?
Yes, I was. That’s probably why I spent about five years writing this book! There are so many delicate subjects covered in the story that I wanted to take my time to do my absolute best to deal with them in the most sensitive way possible.
How did the twins Roxy and Kaine's characters develop, and why did you decide to make twins hate each other?
They grew over that five-year writing period. Roxy seems as though she’s doing great on the outside but she’s really struggling. Anything that is less than perfect causes her huge pain and disappointment. Kaine is a real rebel and troublemaker but on the inside he’s a really sensitive young man and has experienced a lot of hurt.
In terms of their relationship, we are all naturally interested in the connection between twins. I wanted to explore that and I also thought it would be an interesting take to have them be in discord because that’s not the first place our minds go when we think about twins.
Why did you give them a mixed race background?
That was just how the characters appeared to me. I could see and talk to them very clearly. Roxy and Kaine were made from all those conversations I’ve had with inspirational young people at schools over the last decade. I decided to stick with them as I saw them.
Which of the supporting characters stood out for you?
The twins’ grandmother, Remmy Augustine – or Mamma, as she is called.
Quite a few people have commented on her.
She’s such a strong and inspirational woman and she’s the one person who can get through to Kaine, which is no mean feat.
I also think that the relationship between grandparents and children is a really special one.
Sometimes there’s a line of communication there which is clearer than that between kids and their parents.
I had a really strong grandmother too. I think there was probably a bit of her coming through in Remmy.
What would you like your readers to take away from Unstoppable?
That’s up to the readers. Always.
One boy who read the book made a comment which has stuck with me.
He said: “It showed that no-one’s perfect and nothing’s perfect but things can still get getter.”
Can you tell us a bit about what you cover during your school / library events for Unstoppable, for our teachers and librarians?
I introduce myself and explain that I love doing my job and that reading and writing and sport are such a huge part of my life and have given me so much.
Then I explain that, when I was at school, I had major struggles with my reading and writing. I was very low on confidence and didn’t think I would ever be a reader, let alone a writer (and that even my first football match was a bad experience too!)
After talking for a little while, I open the session up for questions as soon as possible.
Pupils and students can ask me questions about anything they like: reading, writing, getting a book published, interviewing Messi and Ronaldo, where characters come from, how the Jamie Johnson TV show is made, my own childhood, where the story of Unstoppable came from…
I’m happy to discuss whatever they would like talk about. I always find the best sessions are those which become honest conversations.
Where is your favourite place to write, and what are you writing now?
Anywhere that is close to nature, ideally the sea.
I find it both soothing and stimulating at the same time.
What am I writing at the moment? That’s a secret. For now.
What one thing is most likely to get you away from the keyboard?
Some exercise! (or food)…(or a good book)
Tell us one thing that our members won't know about you?
I may or may not eat my lasagne horizontally, as opposed to vertically.
Let’s leave it at that.
Don’t try to get to the truth.
Let it remain one of life’s mysteries.
Questions from www.ReadingZone.com