Karla Brading hears from a writer who, once upon a time, was employed as Tony Blair’s special adviser and whose latest book, No Man’s Land, depicts a society rapidly descending into a wartorn dystopia.
Joanna Nadin is no stranger to the realm of fiction writing. With more than 80 books under her belt, she’s seen awards for her Penny Dreadful series and Flying Fergus books, as well as achieving a Carnegie nomination for middle-grade novel Joe All Alone. The list of Nadin’s commendable and well received novels goes on and there’s not a doubt in my mind that the gripping survival story No Man’s Land will be a firm favourite among readers.
In a world where children are no longer certain who are the heroes and who are the villains, 10-year-old Alan and his little brother Sam are sent to a farm. Holding on tight to the promise of their father’s return for Alan’s birthday, the boys are urged to participate in chores in the meantime, surrounded by secretive and strange new adults. War is coming, it seems. And when the boys’ father fails to show, as agreed, they feel they have no choice but to brave the wilds of a tense and violent world, in search of him.
So, how does writing such a deeply unsettling children’s book compare to Jo Nadin’s previous projects? Was No Man’s Land new territory, or has she written dystopian worlds before?
“This was completely new territory for me,” she admits. “In fact, I’d always sworn I would never go near fantasy or dystopia as our current world was too rich in story to bother. And then Brexit happened, and Trump, and it felt as if we were living in a speculative novel, and the need to deal with it, and explain the mess of it to younger readers, became urgent and unignorable.”
The protagonist, Alan, and his brother Sam are completely stripped of comfort: thrust into a land of hard-headed adults living lives the boys are unused to. Their mother is dead. Their father, incapacitated. What inspired Alan’s lonely plight?
“In order for Alan to be forced into the position where he has to pluck up courage and take a stand, I needed him to be rid of all those who would otherwise make those decisions and take those risks for him. It was less inspiration and more necessity to tell the story.”
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The world (our own earth, distorted over time with maddening ideals) is terrifying, depending on who you are, and what you believe in. Characters are picking sides, and the youth are blessedly oblivious; shielded from the horrors society is dictating. The little ones learn snippets of these horrors along the way and it feels as if there’s so much more for them to discover, the older and wiser they get! Will there be another book in the No Man’s Land setting?
“I don’t know that I’ll return to No Man’s Land necessarily,” Nadin says, “but my next adult novel is set a few miles down the Cornish coast in Fowey, and I suspect my next MG book will have a political aspect to it too.”
How will Dr Jo Nadin be celebrating the release of No Man’s Land? Can readers expect events / book signings as the world gradually opens up again, post-lockdown?
“I’ll be doing some school and festival events,” she tells. “And I’m writer in residence at Mr B’s Emporium in Bath on Sat 4 Sept, writing my next book and signing this one!”
With so much already achieved and so many more stories to tell, what does Jo Nadin have next up her sleeve?
“I’m also working on the next two books in the Worst Class In The World series, so expect to see those hitting the shelves in 2022.”
As I suspected… there are so many more stories to come for this Worst Class, world-class author!
No Man’s Land is published by Uclan. Price: £7.99. Info: here
words KARLA BRADING