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Crash Landing: Book 4

Robert Muchamore

In the ROCK WAR series, a group of talented teenagers compete to win a once-in-a-lifetime recording deal in the Rock War challenge.

The competition offers a dream ticket to stardom and fame for the winners - but as well as the adventure and excitement of their journeys come the downsides of fame. Is this really what they want from life?

We asked ROBERT MUCHAMORE to tell us more about CRASH LANDING and the ROCK WAR series - and what he will be writing next!

Q: How has your experience of writing the Rock War books compared with writing your Cherub series?

A: CHERUB stories often deal with issues like human trafficking and terrorism that have to be taken seriously. Writing Rock War was more fun, because it's mostly about a group of kids who want to be famous and do crazy stuff!

Q: Was Rock War more inspired by your love of music, or the draw of X-Factor...?

A: It was my love of music and the fact that heaps of young people were obsessed with X-Factor and other reality shows.

Q: How much did you learn about the music industry as you wrote the books and with what you know, would you recommend young people to go into it?

A: I read lots of stuff about the music industry, and I even spent three days on a film set so I got to see what it was like having cameras around, and how productions work.

Professions like writing or music are very desirable and loads of people want to do them. I used to treat writing like my hobby and it eventually became my job. So I'd say there's nothing wrong with following your dreams, but be realistic about your chances of success and keep other options open!

Q: You have written four Rock War books. Did you keep to your original plan for each book and were the winners and losers as you expected, or were there surprises in the writing?

A: I planned the whole series out. But when I told some people who was going to win they were like, 'NOOOOOOOO I'll kill you if you do that,'.... So, I changed some stuff after I'd written the second book.

Q: The final book, Crash Landing, shows that fame isn't everything it's cracked up to be. Was this sideways look at fame always going to be part of the Rock War books?

A: In 2011 I was a successful author; a millionaire and I'd just moved into a beautiful house and was travelling all over the world and stuff. But I was so unhappy that I got severely depressed and ended up spending time in a psychiatric hospital.

I think that was a huge influence on the way I wrote Rock War. I didn't want anyone to read it and think, 'My life will be great if I get a swanky car and have a million followers on Twitter!'

Q: One of the characters ends up in a young offender's institution and your descriptions of what he experiences are pretty hard hitting. Why did you want to explore this?

A: Sometimes my stories are driven by an idea. For example, I was fascinated by religious cults and that became the basis of CHERUB: Divine Madness.

Other things, like this, really come from the plot. The Rock War kids were getting pretty out of control in the second and third books, and the story would have been unrealistic if none of the characters got punished.

Q: Fame also offers a great lifestyle. If you could have the lifestyle of one of the characters in Rock War, which one would you choose?

A: I think the second book where all the kids living together at Boot Camp is really appealing. I'm not saying I'd want to live like that all the time, but I have great memories of school trips and being away from home with all your mates!

Q: Often in YA fiction we see young people in isolation so why do you also involve a lot of family and adults in this story?

A: Adults are a pain for children's writers! It spoils the story if Harry Potter must ask a grown up's permission every time he goes on an adventure (No Harry, you can't fight Snape. It's after curfew and you have to go tidy your room...).

This is why so many kid's book heroes are usually orphans, or are in an environment like a boarding school where their parents can't boss them around.

But after writing the CHERUB books where the agents are all orphaned kids, I did think it would be more interesting to write a story where the parents are involved most of the time.

Q: You show us some more realistic families, including Jay's large family, and Summer with just her Nan. Do you feel that we see enough representatives of 'real life' in YA books?

A: I always think it's a shame that kids' books divide into escapist fantasies and the kind of gritty issue books about teen pregnancy or gang violence.

Blending family life into a fun story is one of the things about Rock War I am most proud of.

Q: Do you have a favourite character in the series?

A: Summer. I just liked her as soon as I started writing her!

Q: If you could go to any one of the events you describe in the series, which one would you want to be at?

A: I have a fantasy about standing on stage at a stadium, and banging a drum or plucking a guitar, and hearing it amplified through all the massive speaker stacks!

Q: Do any of the Rock War books stand out as a favourite?

A: I planned the Rock War quartet as a single story. In my mind, I see it as this epic 1,200 page book, so I don't really see them as separate books.

I do like the idea that there's a 'Muchamore universe', and all my books link together. So there are cameos from CHERUB characters in Rock War. And in the book I'm writing at the moment, I needed a sponsor for a drone race, and I decide to use Rage Cola from Rock War!

Q: What are you planning to write now that the Rock War series has ended?

A: I really enjoy writing, so I think I'll probably be writing something for as long as I'm capable!

After writing 28 series books over 13 years, I decided it would be interesting to do a standalone book.

Killer T is a thriller, set in the very near future when people are starting to use cheap gene editing technology to alter their bodies.

It will be out in September 2018, and I'm currently working on another stand alone book for 2019.

Q: Is there one place where you feel most comfortable when you're writing?

A: I always write at my desk in my office, though I have a dodgy back so sometimes I end up lying down with my laptop!

Q: What book and film would you recommend to our YA members?

A: It's so hard recommending stuff to people you don't know!

I recently re-read Junk by Melvyn Burgess, and I think it's still probably the best YA book ever.

I tend to prefer indie type films to ones with superheroes whizzing around. I also love heist movies, making Logan Lucky the best thing I've seen at the cinema this year!

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