#indiespotlight of Rachel Churcher, Author of the Battleground Series

Spotlight

Rachel Churcher "In the world of the Battle Ground Series, Scotland has become an independent country."

Can You Tell Me a Bit About Your Writing?

What does a friendship-based YA dystopia have to do with Brexit? What does Scottish Independence have to do with a cast of teenage characters? Can a dystopian setting convince you to sympathize with a bully? Or inspire you to build a better world?

My inspiration for the Battle Ground Series began with the Brexit debate, and the UK referendum result. I was also inspired by the Patriot Act in the US, and how quickly people were willing to give up some of their freedoms when they thought it would help keep them safe. I wondered how far I could push this idea in a near-future UK.

I wanted to create a worst-case-scenario post-Brexit United Kingdom. I wanted to throw my characters in, and find out how it felt to live in a totalitarian, isolationist country. I wanted to understand why so many people were happy to give up a few freedoms in exchange for protection against terrorist attacks.

I looked at the trends – right-wing governments being voted in around the world, the UK’s move away from the unity of the EU, and examples of countries like South Sudan restricting mobile phone and internet access in order to control protests and opposition movements.

In the world of the Battle Ground Series, Scotland has become an independent country. There is no civilian mobile phone network, and no civilian internet access. Sixteen-year-old school children are being drafted into a domestic branch of the army, and to the people in the book, this happens gradually enough to become the new normal.

But as much as I enjoyed this world-building thought experiment, that’s not what the books are about. The politics provide a backdrop to the story, but the Battle Ground Series focuses on the characters – mostly sixteen- and seventeen-year-old school friends who find themselves conscripted into the Recruit Training Service, and expected to defend civilians against domestic terrorism. I’d describe it as a friendship-based Young Adult dystopia.

The series isn’t entirely romance-free, but that’s not the focus of the story. I think my characters have enough to think about while they’re trying to save themselves, and their country! They’re fighting a corrupt government, and what they need is a team of friends, looking out for each other and keeping each other safe. This is a series about building the family you need from the friends you find along the way.

Several unexpected things happened while I was writing the series. The first was that I fell in love with my two strong female protagonists. The second was discovering that my characters had their own ideas about where the story would go, and how long it would take to get there. And the third was that the planned duology turned into a five-book series, plus a prequel novella.

The series is narrated by Bex, one of the conscripted school children, and Ketty, one of her instructors at the army training camp. Bex is a typical Gryffindor (just like me!) – always trying to do the right thing, and taking any injustice absolutely personally. Ketty is an uncompromising perfectionist, and although she’s not at all academic, her discipline, determination, and backbone definitely reflect my own attitude to my work. She’s also a bully, trying to escape from an abusive childhood. I didn’t expect to fall in love with both of them, but it happened.

Bex is brave when she needs to be, stubborn when she thinks she can fight against injustice, and racked with guilt when her actions have unexpected consequences. She’s spent her life as a carer, first for her mother, and later for both parents. Her mother sends her to boarding school to free her from her caring responsibilities, but without the role she’s always known, she feels lost. When her class is conscripted into the Recruit Training Service, she’s quick to build a group of friends who can support each other through the tough training program – and she’s happy to break the rules if it will protect her team.

Ketty is an instructor with the Recruit Training Service, and the last things she wants to deal with are recruits who build their own teams, and stick up for each other when the training gets hard. She wants the trainees to understand who is in charge, and she’s not above using her fists to remind them to obey her orders. But she’s also running from a troubled past, and she’s determined to be the best instructor at camp. She wants a promotion to the army, she wants her abilities to be recognized, and she wants to build a career. Bex and her friends are a threat to her plans, and she finds herself making terrible mistakes as she juggles her own career with keeping her recruits in line.

I love my secondary characters, too. Dan is Bex’s best friend. They meet on her first day at boarding school, and bond over reading and sandwiches. Dan starts out as a good friend – always ready to lift and encourage the people he loves – but during the series he grows into so much more. He’s the voice of reason, when events get out of hand. He’s the person who looks out for Bex, when her Gryffindor tendencies take her into danger. And he’s the person who understands, when being a soldier feels too difficult. He’s a brother to Bex, and someone you want on your team.

Charlie is Bex’s mentor. She’s older, and gets to know Bex at the training camp. She’s the person sneaking beer and chocolate to the recruits, and making it very clear that she doesn’t approve of conscription and the expectations of the instructors. She’s a chef, and she’s the one who’ll sneak lunch to someone who’s broken the rules. She’s good with a comforting word, and her pep talks are legendary. She’s the parent figure Bex needs if she’s going to survive. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I think I wrote Charlie to be the cool Auntie I’ve always wanted – and wanted to be. Someone on my side, willing to break the rules with me and keep me safe while I follow my Gryffindor heart.

Margie is the other member of Bex and Dan’s study group at boarding school. They’ve spent hours together in the school library, learning about the history of the UK from one of their teachers – things she would be arrested for discussing in class, but which she’s happy to whisper about in private, after hours. Margie’s decision to leave school and join a resistance group upsets her friends at the start of the series, but when I started writing I had no idea how important she would become. She’s tough. She’s brave. She’s trained in resisting interrogation, and it’s not long before she’s putting that training to the test. I love her strength and her determination – every time I tried to break her, she refused to give up, and she came back fighting.

I had a simple plan for the series. Two books, both narrated by Bex. The first would set up the political and social situation, and the second would explore the consequences. Easy!

But then my proofreaders gave me their comments on Book One, and one of them asked to hear more about Ketty. In Battle Ground, narrated by Bex, Ketty is a bully – cruel, violent, and frightening. I was happy to leave her this way, until my proofreader started me thinking. Why was Ketty like this? What made her so judgmental – of herself, as well as the recruits under her command? Where had she come from? And how would that help her get where she wanted to be?

And suddenly I had three books, and then four – and finally five. Adding a character like Ketty to the mix, and allowing her to tell her own story, was like setting fire to my plot and finding fireworks. Writing from her point of view allowed me to bring shades of grey into a story that originally felt black and white. Is it possible to be cruel and violent, while following your own strong moral compass? Is it possible to use bad experiences to bring about good outcomes? What can you justify when your motivation is to survive?

Writing the Battle Ground Series was an intense, exhausting journey. Between writing the first word and publishing the final book were two years, two months, and nine days of writing, editing, learning how to publish books, learning how to promote books, and figuring out how to reach an audience. There were six book launches, including one at YALC in London where I spoke to more than a thousand people about the series. There were blog tours and reviews and proofreader comments and people who just didn’t get it and people who completely understood.

All six books have earned five-star reviews, and Battle Ground has just won a bronze medal in the 2019 Wishing Shelf Book Awards. I’ve been in the local papers more times than I can remember. I’ve spoken on author panels and sold books on market stalls. I’ve had amazing support from my school, and one of the universities I’ve attended.

And this isn’t over. My characters have been tapping on my shoulder, telling me more about their lives. I’m currently writing a book of short stories that tie in to the series, from different points of view. Before too long, you’ll be able to read stories narrated by Margie, and Dan, and Charlie, among others. You’ll see this dystopian world through different eyes, and you’ll find out what keeps the characters fighting.

I had an amazing time, creating my post-Brexit UK, throwing my characters in, and seeing what would happen next. All sorts of unexpected things, it turns out – and I’ve loved watching the story, the characters, and their relationships, develop over time. Brexit, for me, inspired a story about bravery, friendship, and found families. Scottish Independence and political upheaval produced my very near-future setting. And my dystopia helped me to fall in love with a bully, as well as with the good guys. I hope it inspires my readers to help build a better world.

Excerpts of Work

You’ll find the Battle Ground Series on Amazon and KU (http://viewauthor.at/RachelChurcher), and you can order paperback copies of Battle Ground (Battle Ground #1) and False Flag (Battle Ground #2) from Waterstones, Barnes&Noble, and all good bookshops.

The first five chapters of the prequel novella, Making Trouble, are available online at https://freebook.tallerbooks.com . If you enjoy the sample, you can download the book completely free!

Find me online at Tallerbooks.com, and on Instagram (@RachelChurcherWriting), Twitter (@Rachel_Churcher), Goodreads (RachelChurcherWriting), and Wattpad (@RachelChurcher).

Battleground Series

Battle Ground

by Rachel Churcher

About

Wishing Shelf Book Award 2019 BRONZE MEDAL winner

Sixteen-year-old Bex Ellman has been drafted into an army she doesn’t support and a cause she doesn’t believe in. Her plan is to keep her head down, and keep herself and her friends safe – until she witnesses an atrocity she can’t ignore, and a government conspiracy that threatens lives all over the UK. With her loyalties challenged, Bex must decide who to fight for – and who to leave behind.

The Battle Ground series is set in a dystopian near-future UK, after Brexit and Scottish independence.

…..

Silence. Darkness. My pulse, loud in my ears.

We’re under attack. We need to move. We need to get out. Three floors underground in a nuclear bunker – we’re safe while no one knows we’re here, but if they’ve found us, we’re trapped. One way in, and one way out.

Voices. Sounds. Hammer blows, slamming through the silence.

I force myself to wake up. Open my eyes, push back the blanket, crawl out of bed.

I need to wake the others.

Boots. Armour. Gun.

Time to be brave.

Battleground Series - Book 2

False Flag

by Rachel Churcher

About

Ketty Smith is an instructor with the Recruit Training Service, turning sixteen-year-old conscripts into government fighters. She’s determined to win the job of lead instructor at Camp Bishop, but the arrival of Bex and her friends brings challenges she’s not ready to handle. Running from her own traumatic past, Ketty faces a choice: to make a stand, and expose a government conspiracy, or keep herself safe, and hope she’s working for the winning side.

The Battle Ground series is set in a dystopian near-future UK, after Brexit and Scottish independence.

*****

Trapped. Cornered. And all I can feel is the pain. The bullet against my knee.

I crawl between the trees, into the darkness, fighting to get away from the voices on the path.

Survive, Ketty. Live through this. Get out of sight, and away from the guns. Away from the tiny fighters.

I crawl, clenching my teeth against the pain, while the children behind me argue about putting a bullet in my back.

Discipline, determination, backbone. Keep quiet, and keep moving.

Let them go. Protect yourself.

Get through this.

Battleground Series - Book 3

Darkest Hour

by Rachel Churcher

About

Bex Ellman and Ketty Smith are fighting on opposite sides in a British civil war. Bex and her friends are in hiding, but when Ketty threatens her family, Bex learns that her safety is more fragile than she thought.

The Battle Ground series is set in a dystopian near-future UK, after Brexit and Scottish independence.

Battleground Series - Book 4

Fight Back

by Rachel Churcher

About

Bex Ellman and her friends are in hiding, sheltered by the resistance. With her family threatened and her friendships challenged, she’s looking for a way to fight back.

Ketty Smith is in London, supporting a government she no longer trusts. With her support network crumbling, Ketty must decide who she is fighting for – and what she is willing risk to uncover the truth.

The Battle Ground series is set in a dystopian near-future UK, after Brexit and Scottish independence.
 

Battleground Series - Book 5

Victory Day

by Rachel Churcher

About

Bex Ellman and Ketty Smith meet in London. As the war heats up around them, Bex and Ketty must learn to trust each other. With her friends and family in danger, Bex needs Ketty to help rescue them. For Ketty, working with Bex is a matter of survival. When Victory is declared, both will be held accountable for their decisions.

The Battle Ground series is set in a dystopian near-future UK, after Brexit and Scottish independence

About the Author

ll five books of my Post-Brexit YA dystopia series are available now on Amazon! Download Book OneBattle Ground Book TwoFalse Flag Book ThreeDarkest Hour Book FourFighting Back , and Book FiveVictory Day for Kindle. Paperbacks are also available, and you’ll find all five books on Kindle Unlimited. For help with international downloads, visit the Taller Books website.

For a FREE tie-in novella, Making Trouble, visit freebook.tallerbooks.com.

Award-winning YA author and passionate YA reader. Always looking for the next great YA novel, whether it’s a dystopia with an awesome female lead, a historical adventure, or a contemporary High School drama.

SF and dystopia are my comfort zones, but I’ll step outside my happy place in pursuit of a good story. I have a book-buying habit, and a large library at home (I think of it as a portal to other worlds). I love physical books, and curling up in front of the fire to read. I firmly believe that there is no such thing as too many books – just not enough book shelves.

Where to Find Them

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