Alex Wheatle | 'Write about a subject matter you feel passionate about'

Alex Wheatle | 'Write about a subject matter you feel passionate about'

Alex Wheatle answers our questions about his novel Cane Warriors (Andersen Press), which follows the true story of Tacky’s War in Jamaica and has been shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2021.


1. Can you sum up your book in one sentence?

An untold heroic tale that the world needs to know. 

2. What inspired the book?

A visit to my mother who was raised very close to the lands that were once the Frontier and Trinity plantations where Tacky led his revolt.

3. Which character in the book is your favourite, and why?

Moa. Because of his youth and the fact that he has to fight for his life and freedom at such a young age.

4. What does being on this year’s YA Book Prize shortlist mean to you?

It’s always an honour to be shortlisted for the YA Book Prize because they aren’t too many spaces where UK and Irish YA writers get celebrated.

5. What's the best thing about writing for young adults?

I can help to shape young people’s moral boundaries and introduce them to narratives they are not familiar with.

6. What was your favourite book as a teenager?

I really enjoyed Huckleberry Finn as a pre-teen and when I became a teenager I loved comics like the Beano.

7. What is your top writing tip?

To write about a subject matter you feel passionate about.

8. What songs would be on a playlist for your book?

Bob Marley’s "The Heathen" and "Slave Driver".

9. Who would you cast in a film version of your book?

Noel Clarke, Idris Elba or John Boyega to play Tacky and a young Ashley Walters to play Moa.

10. Which book, film or TV show would you recommend to someone who enjoyed your book?

I would recommend Catherine Johnson’s book about Queen Nanny of the Maroons —Queen of Freedom

You can find out more about Alex Wheatle and Cane Warriors, and read the first chapter of the book for free, on the YA Book Prize website.​