Ask The Author

Kwame Alexander


The characters in the book have quite unusual names, what inspired you to give them these names?
Emilia, 13

I wanted the names of the characters to suggest the way the Lord’s Legion works, and also hint at some of the group’s history. The boys have mostly Biblical names – Luke, Jacob, etc. – because men are dominant inside the cult, they are taken more seriously than women, and so their names reflect that. The girls have gentler, more unusual names – Moonbeam, Rainbow, etc. – because the Legion started out as a less radical group, something that was closer to the hippy communes of the 1960s.

If you had to be any of the characters in the book, which would you be, and why and what part of their lives?
Sophie, 13

That’s a really difficult question! I think it would be terrifying to be any of the members of the Lord’s Legion, even the ones who display great bravery like Moonbeam and Honey: their lives are so hard and so frightening, and I can’t imagine going through the things they have experienced. I think it would have to be either Doctor Hernandez or Agent Carlyle: even though they struggle with some of the things that Moonbeam tells them, they are genuinely trying their best to help her and the other survivors.

Do you think teenagers should read about the dark issues raised in your book? Is your aim to create awareness of the dark side of life? Alice, 15

I think teenagers should read about all facets of life, the good and the bad and everything in between. After The Fire is a story with some very dark aspects to it, but it’s also a story that has hope at the centre of it. I know from talking to young readers that some people have found some sections of the book challenging, but I think it would have been cowardly on my part not to confront the darkness at the heart of the Lord’s Legion and Father John.

I loved this book. How were you able to write in a female's perspective? I thought the author of this book was a Woman. You did it perfectly.
Chris, 14

Thank you so much – that is a lovely thing to hear! I honestly didn’t treat writing Moonbeam any differently to the male characters I’ve written – I tried to make her feel real before I wrote a word of her voice, to make her a human being with flaws and three dimensions, and I tried to tap into some of the universal experiences of being a teenager, no matter what your circumstances are: the need to choose your own path, to be part of the wider world, to start to set the rules for your own life, to rebel against authority.

Why did you choose to base your book on the Waco siege and how did you choose which parts to change and which parts to keep the same. 
Millie, 12

I made the decision very early on in the planning of the book that I wasn’t going to just retell the story of the Waco Siege – it felt like it would be disrespectful to the survivors to use these terrible things that happened to them for entertainment. So the end of siege – the assault by the authorities and the subsequent fire – serves as the starting point for After The Fire, but everything else is different. The Lord’s Legion is influenced by lots of different cults, but their beliefs and rules and structure are all fictional.

I think this book was amazing. Is there going to be a sequel?
Amy, 11

There won’t be a sequel – sorry! Moonbeam’s story – which was what I wanted to tell – is finished: I left it, and her, where I wanted to, and what happens after the book ends is up to readers to decide for themselves. I know how I think the rest of her life turns out, but the opinion of anyone who reads the novel is every bit as valid as mine. There is a chance that I might return to the world of the Lord’s Legion at some point – maybe some short stories that tell different aspects of the story – but I’m afraid there definitely won’t be an After The Fire 2...