Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Guest Blog Post: The Exclusion Wars by Sheila Agnew (Young Adult, Thriller)

December 2015, Oxiana Road Publishing, 204 pages, Paperback,

A thriller set in 2025, in which teenager, Mateo Rivera, is in hiding as "Matt" in New York City where he must avoid capture by Mr. Rienham, the new chief of the Deportation of Latinos Agency, hand-picked for the job by President Trent himself. 

But Matt isn't alone; he's got the Underground, an organization which advocates peaceful resistance. He’s been trained by the mysterious Underground leader, Polaris; harbored by reluctant shepherd and drop-out lawyer, Steve; and he has the not always helpful but well-intentioned support of his best friend, fifteen year-old, wannabe Navy Seal, Danni Singh. 

Rienham, the DLA and its roving pack of DepoDogs aren’t Matt’s only problems. There’s a new enemy on the horizon, and it calls itself The Latino Alliance. 

Dark and Dangerous. I loved it. Slick writing, a fascinating premise and a rollercoaster plot, Agnew’s The Exclusion Wars is a book that needed to be written and needs to be read.” 
— Eoin Colfer (Artemis Fowl)

Nayu's thoughts
This book is a bit too dark for me at the moment, and the protagonist is male. However, because I loved Sheila's other books including Blog tour Evie Brooks is Marooned in Manhattan by Sheila Agnew (Children's, 9 years +, 10E/10E)
it sounded like something I'm sure you'll all enjoy, so I asked Sheila if she'd write a post for you and she kindly did! 

Sowing the Seeds for The Exclusion Wars

          In 1946 the writer, Sybille Bedford, boarded a train in New York bound for Mexico City because she had "a great longing to hear another language, eat new food, to be in a country with a long nasty history in the past and as little present history as possible." 

Me too! I mean, that’s how I felt about Argentina. I’d longed to go there since I was a little girl with an unfortunate pageboy haircut, singing Don’t Cry for Me Argentina every time I clambered up or down the stairs. I managed to put quite a bit of emotion into it, and I got a lot of complaints from family members. I shrugged them off. They just didn’t get Argentina the way I did. They didn’t love her as I did. It wasn’t their fault.

The Exclusion Wars, my new novel, a thriller for young adults (and not-so-young adults) has just been released in the e-book edition. It’s narrated by Mateo, an immigrant Latino teenager in hiding in New York in 2025. I wrote it in 2013 but its seeds were sown long before then. I have always loved to travel. By the time I was seven, I was a very sophisticated traveler, having been all the way to Narnia and back six times, all six chronicles. I think that readers are born travelers even if we never hold a passport.

In 2011, I finally made it to Buenos Aires, which is often called the Paris of the South. But to me, it was much more interesting than Paris, thrillingly foreign and bizarrely familiar at the same time. I lived in an enormous apartment in a very elegant building in the wealthy neighborhood of Recoleta. Every time I stepped inside the building, I feel like pulling on wrist-length black silk gloves and restraining from slouching. Elegant surroundings can do a lot for a person’s posture. There were seven of us. I called it “La Casa De Las Mujeres” (the House of Women).  As well as me, the family and a Brazilian student, there were two live-in maids. I fell madly in love with all of them . . . although in the beginning, I couldn’t understand a word they said.

My Spanish was limited to “hola” and “guacamole.” I had long been convinced that I had no natural talent whatsoever for learning languages. I enrolled in a downtown language school where I quickly realized that my belief about my lack of ability was solidly grounded in fact. But, thanks to the talent, extraordinary good humour and Gandhi-like patience of my teachers, I started to pick up Spanish with surprising swiftness. Most days, I felt like King George VI, stuttering my way through the many cafes and bakeries, the bookstores, the supermarkets, the buses and the subte (subway), determined to speak and be heard, to listen, and, to understand.

My time in Argentina gave me the inspiration and the confidence to write The Exclusion Wars. And during the writing of it, I travelled back in time. There is a flashback scene where Mateo recalls an event from his childhood on an estancia. As I wrote the chapter, I could almost hear again the croaking of the enormous frogs from the pond at the family’s estancia in Corrientes, a northern province in Argentina. I remembered my fall from a horse; the checked pattern of the picnic blanket by the lake; the pink dress I wore to the grand birthday party thrown by the owner of the neighboring estancia fifty miles away; and I could hear again the giggles of the household staff at my Irish-accented Spanish.

In spring of last year, I found myself working with teenagers in an educational program called “The Dream Project” in the Dominican Republic. In the summer, I was a creative writing teacher at a program in New York City for disadvantaged children, who were primarily from Hispanic immigrant families. From the top floor of the school, I could catch a glimpse of the iconic Chrysler Building where I had worked as a lawyer for four years. Although it was only a few miles away, I felt like I had travelled across a vast ocean.

My writing has been heavily influenced by all of my reading and travel experiences. I think that we have to try and take as many travel opportunities as we can. Sometimes that means reading in a genre outside our comfort zones, a new potential world to explore. Maybe we will fall in love, maybe not. But it’s nearly always interesting! Here is a picture of me at my preview reading from The Exclusion Wars at Idlewild, the travel book store in Manhattan. 
Perfect Princess Leia hair!
I had a ticket for the preview of the new Star Wars film the same night. And it occurred to me that my new novel is very much a classic Star Wars type story. So I dressed up as Princess Leia. It was fun. And I think that all readers and writers are secretly (or not so secretly) Jedi, eager to explore new planets in a galaxy far far away.

You can visit me at or contact me at or on Twitter @ExclusionWars

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