Jason Rohan's new book S.T.E.A.L.T.H.: Access Denied (Nosy Crow Books) is the first in an action-packed, gadget-filled series.
When he was 16, Jason Rohan talked his way into an internship at Marvel Comics in New York, where he sold his first story; later he taught English in Japan for five years. He currently works as a mobile telecoms project engineer, building the networks of the future.
Like his characters Arun, Donna and Sam, Jason lives in west London with his wife and five children. In S.T.E.A.L.T.H., he celebrates the city where he was born and raised, and its remarkable ability to absorb countless waves of newcomers and to make them its own
S.T.E.A.L.T.H.: Ice Breaker (Nosy Crow Books)
In this action-packed adventure, three children battle to reach a trapped train and to save skiers from an icy fate with their own secret weapon....S.T.E.A.L.T.H!
In this video, author Jason Rohan talks gadgets, gaming and cutting-edge science - and reads from Book 1 of S.T.E.A.L.T.H.: Access Denied!
Q&A with Jason Rohan:
1. Can you tell us a bit about your career as an author to date? Do you also have another career?
Some of your readers may remember me from the Kuromori Chronicles which ReadingZone kindly featured back in 2014. That was a trilogy set in modern Japan with lots of traditional monsters which aren't usually seen in kids' books, so the books are perfect for fans of anime and manga.
My full-time regular job is a Telecoms Project Manager, which means I help build 5G networks and make what was once science-fiction into everyday reality.
2. What inspired your first STEALTH adventure, featuring a machine with incredible abilities and a team of teenage agents?
I had been introducing my children to some of the shows I used to watch when I was their age, and this made me want to try something along the lines of Thunderbirds with snazzy machines and high stakes rescue missions. (This is before Thunderbirds was resurrected as an animated series.) However, I couldn't make the idea work with a group of kids driving a wide array of vehicles so I decided to combine the rescue craft into one incredible machine and have three operators - a pilot, navigator and engineer - which is a popular anime trope for big robot action.
3. Who are the agents, and why do they work so well together? Do you have a soft spot for any of them?
The team is Arun, a geeky overthinker, his best friend Sam, who is a technical whizz, and street-smart Donna, who often has to get them out of scrapes. I think they work so well because they complement each other, and each brings something essential to the group. One definition of a team is when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and I see that with the kids. They also defer to each other's expertise which helps a lot. I like them all in different ways, but I suppose I have a soft spot for Donna because she's had the most troubled upbringing.
4. Can you tell us a bit about your latest adventure, and what inspired you to take the incredible machine, MANROID, to the Alps?
I probably shouldn't be admitting this but my brilliant editor asked me if I could do something snow-themed as we were going to be publishing in time for Christmas! I like a challenge and I had watched a documentary about the Kaprun disaster, so the idea of a tunnel fire was my starting point. From there, I was able to layer on a daring heist, more disaster, lots of explosions, peril, rescues, big action set pieces, all that good stuff.
5. Have you been to the Alps where you set the action?
Thirty-five years ago, I went skiing in the Italian Alps on a cheap, one-week holiday as a student. I loved skiing although I haven't been on a pair of skis since. Nonetheless, the resort, the scenery, the layout and the people stayed with me, so when I came to invent the Austrian resort of Kallstein, I was able to draw upon those memories.
6. The young agents face some challenging moments in this novel - what was the hardest spot to get them out of?
As a writer of action novels, one of the challenges is to always raise the stakes and increase the danger. Usually, I know how I'm going to get the characters of a hole I've dug for them but, occasionally, I write myself into a corner; by following the logical consequences of a situation I've created, I can end up with no answer. For example, if I have a ticking bomb situation and I run down the timer, I either blow everyone up or I need to come up with a creative solution. In Ice Breaker, I have a young agent fall from a great height without a rope, harness or parachute. Having them not end up in intensive care was a challenge but I managed to meet it.
7. Why did you decide to also give an 'insider's view' of what is happening inside the train the agents are trying to reach?
I like to use multiple points of view to maintain the flow, build tension, add suspense and keep the reader engaged. I think it's important to centre the reader at the heart of the action and so it was important to me that we see what is happening and understand the stakes, even if the kids aren't aware or involved. In effect, I have multiple story arcs running in parallel and cut between them to build a fuller picture.
8. There's a real 'James Bond' feel to this novel, do you enjoy watching movies?
I'm a huge action movie fan, as you can tell. I grew up with the Bond movies and enjoy Mission: Impossible and the Fast and Furious films, which have co-opted the Bond formula. However, action films, like romantic comedies, are incredibly difficult to do well, which is why when a Die Hard or a Matrix comes along, people sit up and take notice.
My background is in comics so I tend to think in terms of pictures and dialogue, which is the same for films. If you compare a comic book script with a screenplay, they are almost identical in form. Sometimes, the two cross over, as in the case of Mad Max: Fury Road, when a comic book artist literally drew the screenplay, storyboarding the whole film instead of just key scenes. I don't watch TV, but I am able to sneak down to the cinema regularly. I'm looking forward to seeing how Avatar 2 turns out.
9. What have you got planned next for the STEALTH team?
The next adventure is going to be very different because I'm taking the team out on their own without the support they usually get from MI6. I didn't want the books to become too formulaic so I've thinned down the supporting cast for the next one and really gone for it in terms of the challenges the young agents will face. It's called Rising Storm, which is a clue.
10. And what do you enjoy doing when you're not at your desk writing STEALTH books?
I run around shouting, "Freedom!" I'm joking, of course, but I work full time in Telecoms and am working from home, post-lockdown, so it seems like I'm rarely not at my desk, either for work or for writing. It's a good thing I enjoy both! On the rare occasions I do get away, I like to watch football, travel, go for long walks and watch blockbuster movies on the biggest screens I can find.