Earlier this year I reviewed Sentinel by Joshua Winning, the first in the Sentinel series. I really enjoyed Joshua’s take on the traditional form of the prophesied one in a magical world existing along side our own, especially the character of Isabel. This week the second book in the series sees publication; I’ll be reading and reviewing Ruins next month. To celebrate the publication of his second novel, Joshua dropped by the blog to answer some of my questions for an Author Query.
Let’s start with the basics. Who is Joshua Winning?
I’ve been asking myself that for years! The easy answer is I’m a writer, but I’m also a Londoner, a cat lover, a voracious reader and a fan of all things weird. Oh, and I worship at the altar of Whedon.
How would you introduce people to the world of the Sentinels?
By telling them to forget everything they know about the world. Monsters are real, but you’ve probably never noticed because the Sentinels take care of them. They’re demon hunters charged with protecting the innocent. Of course, sometimes innocents get caught in the crosshairs, which is when the fun stuff happens!
For me, a story starts with a question. With Sentinel, the question was: what if monsters existed and demon hunters were responsible for destroying them? The name ‘Sentinel’ came easily (it was only later I discovered there were also Sentinels in X-Men lore). The big (fun) challenge was putting the society together piece by piece. I wanted them to be relatable but awesome, so I imagined Sentinels as kind of supernatural detectives. They’re real people with real problems. They just happen to save the world occasionally.
From the cover, I’m guessing we’ll be seeing a lot more of Isabel in the second book Ruins. Is she as much fun to write as she is to read about?
Isabel’s my favourite character. She’s haughty and doesn’t mince her words – she’ll call an idiot an idiot to their face, which is something I sort of admire – but she cares a lot. Everything she says comes from a good place, or that’s what she’d say! I also love that she’s been plucked out of the past with no knowledge of how the world has changed in her absence. So she’s haughty but weirdly clueless, which is pretty endearing.
What can readers expect from Ruins? Will we find out more about Jessica’s and Isabel’s pasts?
Ruins is bigger, darker and stranger. The first book dipped a toe in the world of the Sentinels, whereas Ruins dives in headfirst. Nicholas is in for a rocky ride! It definitely fills in some back story for Jessica and Isabel, but it doesn’t answer all the questions. I actually considered writing some interstitial chapters that took us through Jessica and Isabel’s history, but it felt disruptive to the narrative, which is pretty full throttle and set in present day. I’m going to tell that story elsewhere, though, so watch this space.
You’re also a film critic and features writer. How does your love and knowledge of film inform your writing?
The thing that ties my film and book careers together is my basic love of stories. I don’t really distinguish between the two – there are fantastic storytellers working in both mediums. When I’m writing, I’m transferring the movie in my head onto the page, which is probably why people have said The Sentinel Trilogy feels very cinematic. That being said, I know that if a movie was ever made of Sentinel (fingers crossed!), certain things would need to change. I’d be okay with that, though!
What’s next for you? Any appearances or conventions planned?
I’ve outlined pretty much the whole of Sentinel Trilogy #3, so I should really get stuck into writing that. I’m sort of enjoying it being perfect in my head before it becomes imperfect on the page, but I can’t wait to dive in. I’m also working on that Jessica/Isabel side project, plus a number of other books, including one about a cursed girl that gives me butterflies just thinking about. Oh, and with Ruins coming out, I should be going on a little book tour. Check out thesentineltrilogy.com for announcements.
Is there something else you’re passionate about other than writing and books?
I’m pretty passionate about Nando’s chicken, but isn’t everybody?
As a book reviewer, I’m all about the book enabling; I can’t help but want to make people read all the good books out there. But I can always use help. What are your top recommendations of books we should look out for in the coming months?
Oh gosh, you’ll know more about that than me! Though I did just read The Rest Of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness, who’s become a bit of a YA idol of mine. I also urge you to seek out Tom Huddleston’s The Future King if you haven’t already. It’s described as Game Of Thrones for teens, and I couldn’t put it better myself!
Finally, I have to stay true to my roots and ask a librarian question to finish off with: Do you shelve your books alphabetically, by genre or do you have an ingenious system?
My system would give you nightmares. I have a shelf for graphic novels (Buffy season 8, Preacher, Watchmen), another for my film books, and a whole shelf for my Robin Jarvis books (he’s my other idol). Then I have a very panoramic mountain range of books piled on the floor awaiting the new bookcase that I keep forgetting to order. I should probably go do that now. Thanks for having me!
Bio: Joshua Winning was born in Cambridge, but don’t hold that against him. He’s attempted to escape reality for most of his life by writing. As a child, that involved poring diligently over anything by C.S. Lewis, Roald Dahl or Robin Jarvis, and attempting to come up with stories that were even half as good.
When he was 15, Joshua started writing his first ‘proper’ novel. That pile of pages slowly morphed into Sentinel. Almost 15 years, a film studies degree, and about five thousand cups of coffee later, he finally finished it, and Sentinel was released by Peridot Press in May 2014. Despite the fact that it involves big explosions and nasty demons, it turned out to be a surprisingly personal story.
Away from book writing, Joshua is Contributing Editor at Total Film magazine and also freelances for movieScope, Grolsch Film Works and Spirit & Destiny. When he’s not scribbling about Sentinels, he can usually be found watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Labyrinth or any of the Scream films (except the third one).
Joshua is currently working on the third and final book in The Sentinel Trilogy. He lives in North London with his two cats. They’re not great conversationalists, but he’s working on it.