A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
In the final installment of this thrilling dystopian trilogy, Martha and Isaac are on the run, hiding out in the Rises among the poor and powerless. When a wall goes up around them, Martha must act fast. But breathtaking treachery reaches into the very heart of government…
Now the last book of this amazing trilogy is out in the world, I’ve already seen a request for a sequel. Does that idea fill you with joy or dread?
Both! As far as I’m concerned, it’s finished, it’s at the point where it felt right to leave Martha. It could carry on, but that would be someone else’s story. I suppose that would be quite nice to explore but also I’m itching to get into something new. It’s a joy to know people want to hear more about that world though, and I take that as a huge compliment.
Did you know how FINAL7 would end before CELL7 came out? If you didn’t know, did that make it harder or more exciting to write this last book?
I’d finished writing the whole trilogy when Cell 7 came out, but I didn’t know how it would end when I finished writing Cell 7. In fact, I first wrote it as a standalone, although I did feel it had scope for continuation. Then when I was given the opportunity to carry on, I began exploring ideas and where it could go. I knew where it was heading and key events along the way, but the specific ending evolved in my head as I wrote Final 7.
I loved the different voices in FINAL7, especially the Death Is Justice scenes and the way you tell the story through script-like dialogue. Which ‘voice’ came most naturally when you wrote from that point of view, and whose voice was hardest to get right?
Thank you, that’s great to hear. I studied scriptwriting at university and was also a finalist in a BBC Scriptwriting competition so I did particularly enjoy writing those sections. When I first started writing Cell 7 I found it difficult to switch between the voices and would need to take a break between them, even if that was just going to get coffee (and biscuits), that became easier as I got to know their voices better.
I don’t think there was one that particularly came most naturally or one that was harder, they all had moments they felt natural and moments they felt difficult. I did particularly enjoy writing scenes between Martha and Eve in Cell 7, and dialogue with Eve and Cicero.
First scrabbled idea for Cell 7, written last thing at night, just before bed.
As a journalist I’m dismayed at how badly the media behave in these books. Do you think mainstream media have become dangerous & negative forces in British society?
I think it’s important to make a distinction here; there are excellent journalists, especially investigative journalists, out there but some mainstream media (I believe) is irresponsible. Without mentioning any names, some national newspapers print misleading, antagonistic, or hate-mongering headlines – and that’s dangerous. Headlines, and stories, are powerful, and have a direct influence on people’s opinions and beliefs, and many people believe them without question.
It’s like the ‘Brexit bus’, the promise that the money the UK would no longer be paying to the EU would go to the NHS. Who (regardless of politics) is not going to like the idea of giving all that money to the NHS? And why shouldn’t we trust that we’re being told the truth? Likewise, why should we have to question if the newspapers are telling the truth, or if they’re lying?
I suppose one influencing factor is that newspapers are businesses – they have to sell papers to make money in order to survive. How can they do this? ‘Click-baity’ headlines? Gossip? Scandal? But then we, the public, need to be savvy about that.
I’ve been into many schools since Cell 7 came out and talked at length with students about media influence, and have actually been heartened by how aware of media manipulation they are. I do wonder if that generation (current teens) are more aware than older generations.
These books have a terrifying prescience about them at times, with the feeling of power given to audiences who vote on TV reality shows said to be impacting on their attitudes towards voting at polling stations, and ‘trial by media’ a theme in both the Oscar Pistorius and Meredith Kercher murder cases. Has creating the dark political dystopia of Martha’s world affected the way you see the real world?
If anything, it’s the other way round, that the world we live in, with its ‘trial by media’, influenced creating the society of Cell 7. I was watching the Oscar Pistorius case when I was writing Cell 7, I remember very clearly alternating between writing, watching, and texting my writer-friend Rebecca Mascull about the incredulity of the whole thing. Why televise the trial? Did that help justice or hinder it? Was he ‘performing’ when he cried? In my opinion, it became a spectacle.
It was similar in print media with the Meredith Kercher case, even down to referring to the suspect (Amanda Knox) as Foxy Knoxy. While I suppose it doesn’t matter that the UK public’s opinion of her personality is influenced – they’re not on the jury – but is it ‘right’ to turn a crime into some kind of entertainment? That’s not for me to answer, but I hope my books inspired people to ask the question and form opinions.
Crime and capital punishment are powerful themes in these books, as well as the corruption of politicians & the media who criminalise political dissent. What drew you to these issues, and have you said all you wanted to say about them?
There’s something about the idea of capital punishment, the opinions, the debate, the morals around it, that draws me to it – I can’t really explain that, it just does, and always has. Cell 7 initially came from a desire to explore that and to try and understand what people who are on death row, are going through. I had a very interesting conversation with a lawyer who was firmly of the belief that if we had a referendum on whether to bring it back ‘for certain crimes’, that the majority would be for.
You see this frequently with comments on news stories or on facebook, in fact, I saw it only yesterday regarding the perpetrators of the horrific Jamie Bulger case – people commenting on it said they should’ve been hanged.
My hope in writing such themes, is to inspire people to stop and think, to ask questions about the society they live in and world around them. To ask themselves if they agree. I have a bugbear about apathy. So many people complain about things, but few do anything more than that.
My ‘ideas’ board in my office
I imagine you’ve had deadlines galloping towards you constantly during the last few years, and I know you’re really active with running, cycling & swimming etc. plus all your work with Author Allsorts. What’s your secret to maintaining a work/life balance?
A quick answer would be ‘I don’t know if I have’!
I don’t like having things hanging over me so I do try and get things done as and when they come in. It’s about prioritising as well though – I had a year to write Day 7 and Final 7 – September to February for Day 7, and February to September for Final 7. I set myself smaller goals within that – so many words by half term, first draft by Christmas, etc – smaller chunks are more manageable, and within that I’d give myself daily word count limits and when I made them, let myself either continue (if it was going well) or knock off for the day and do something else. I did go over by a month, and by the time Final 7 was finished, I was completely drained.
The swimming, cycling, running is the complete opposite though, so it gives me a break and lets my brain re-set somewhat.
A good morning’s swim! (me on the right!)
What’s next? And would you consider another trilogy in future?
I’m working on something at the minute that’s been following me round for a couple of years and all fingers and toes are crossed for it. I’m very superstitious though, so don’t want to say too much! Yes, I’d definitely consider another trilogy – I like having the space and time to explore a character and story for longer. There’s an idea knocking away at the back of my brain, but it’s not quite ready yet.
Thank you so much for talking to me and for an advanced copy of FINAL 7. It absolutely lives up to its billing as electric, heart-stopping & high octane, with amazing twists & turns. Happy Book Birthday, Kerry. I hope FINAL7 is the massive success it deserves to be.
Thank you, Rowena! It’s been a pleasure.
Kerry Drewery is the author of the Cell 7 trilogy, A Brighter Fear, and A Dream of Lights. She’s twice been nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal, shortlisted for many awards and won the Spellbinding Book of the Year 2017.
Me and Luther in my office