Interview: Leah Williamson On Her New Book & Balancing Football and Writing

By Anoop Bhuller

3 weeks ago

The bestselling adventure series is back!

Anoop Bhuller sits down with England Women’s football captain Leah Williamson and her cousin Jordan Glover to discuss their newly released book, The Wonder Team and the Pharaoh’s Fortune.

Interview: Leah Williamson & Jordan Glover on Publishing Their Second Book

Leah Williamson and Jordan Glover on publication day holding the new book

Leah Williamson and Jordan Glover on publication day

How did you come up with the idea for The Wonder Team and The Pharaoh’s Fortune?

Leah: We have always wanted to tell stories of women, untold or unheard stories. We toyed with a few and then we came up with this. Finding out that there was a story to be told was incredible. 

Jordan: Our family is obscenely close and I think the initial spark was that our cousin had watched a show about the history of ancient Egypt and came across this women that back in the 1900s had gone to Egypt to explore the past he was so enthusiastic about her and we had to look into it to see if there was a story to be told and there was. It all started from there.

How did you navigate writing this book together – Was there anything you learnt from the first book that you took into this one?

Jordan: From a technical standpoint I think that going through the process of writing the first book and understanding how all the moving piece came together, learning how to pace the story was a huge one for me so by the time we came to the second one we had a better understanding of how the events needed to happen so the readers were constantly kept on the edge of their seats.

Leah: I think there are things that are really important to us both, the writing is where Jordan excels. Football is more my thing but in terms of the messages and the morals of the story we’ve enjoyed balancing them. 

Jordan: You (Leah) said going into the second one that you felt more confident about saying the theme that we want and the messages we want the kids to take away. We had such big hopes for the first one that we wanted it to be brilliant in every way and have everything in it, whereas this time I think we are a bit more tactical.

Leah Williamson and Jordan Glover when they were younger

Leah Williamson and Jordan Glover when they were younger

How do you balance writing this series with your football training and matches?

Leah: When I say we are very close, I say we are unusually close and to be honest football no matter how important it is to me has never been as important as family life. I think the real balance is that, family and football or as I like to call it real life and football. Because we are so involved in each others lives it makes the writing process so much easier because we are constantly in contact. I’ve been injured so we have had loads of time.

What was your favourite part of writing this book?

Leah: I loved the adventure of this. I think that was the most exciting part about this book. I love the story behind the first one – it’s really important to me but the adventure to this one was a bit more exciting.

Jordan: When the book arrives you are like ‘oh my gosh this is a book, we’ve made this’. I think in this book the section where the children are in the pyramid we loved writing but it’s also tied up with this anxiety of getting it right because there is so much going on. You want to make sure that every single word is working hard to do what it needs to do and excite the kids into reading it. I think that was the best bit. Also whenever we write these things we have a stream of Whatsapp messages where I have a question and will be like ‘what about this’ and vice versa. We both go through times where our messages are just a chain of unanswered messages and firing off ideas.

What messages do you hope children take from reading the book?

Leah: For me, we’ve tried to use football as a vehicle to show teamwork, the value of everyone and appreciating that. Both books, but especially this one, everyone has to bring their bit to the table and that’s why I campaign for people to be in sport and football because I think it teaches you those things. 

Jordan: Throughout our lives and the kids’ lives they are going to have to work with people that they don’t necessarily get along with. Not everybody has to be your best friend all the time but that doesn’t mean that that person doesn’t bring anything unique to the team. Working together as a team is really important if you are trying to achieve a goal. 

Leah: You can’t do it on your own.

The first book was based around the Football Association ban. Was there anything in this book that was inspired by that also?

Leah: I often speak about how football is a very good representation of society. What we are doing in football now shows a way forward and a glimpse of hope for the future for all women. We always love to tell these stories, of women in particular. The first book was so important because ultimately we are writing books to access the children who wouldn’t normally pick up a book, this could be the footballers. I read books because of my family not because it was my natural passion unlike you (Jordan) who couldn’t get your head out of a book. That’s the reason it always comes back to football, because we want to engage those children.

Leah Williamson when she was younger

Leah Williamson when she was younger

The book features the school bully again, why did you decide to include this character in book two?

Jordan: I think we wanted to give Leah someone to challenge her and her world view. We are very aware that bullying does take place in schools and lots of children will have experienced that. Although it was never our intention to excuse that behaviour, we also wanted to acknowledge that often bullies don’t act in isolation. There is a reason for their actions and this was a chance for us to dig into that a little bit. Also it gives William a chance to work through the issues that he has and so he can shine as a character and learn the value of working in a team.

Will you be doing any live reading events?

Leah: We were just talking about this. We would love to. If you think back to being at school and what engaged you, I think it’s a really fun way for us to bring the book to life. That is on the radar now.

We know the third book is coming out in August, have you started writing the fourth book yet?

Leah: No, not words on paper but ideas. I really love the adventure in this book so I would like to see more adventure come out.

Jordan: We are flirting with the idea of space but we haven’t decided yet. We also think a space book would look good in purple.

Leah: It would look great on our bookshelf.

What were your favourite books growing up?

Leah: It’s funny, I read a gold and white M&S bible. It was bible stories. It was more of a picture book and I loved it. As I got older I would read Jaqueline Wilson and those sorts of books which are rogue for me, completely different to football books. I queued up for every single Harry Potter book at Waterstones but I’ve never read one.

Jordan: I would read everything. I remember once getting the fifth Harry Potter and my mum actually had to hide it from me because we were going on holiday. She knew that if I started reading it I would get through it too quickly, before we even left England. My favourites were Northern Lights by Philip Pullman. I used to read that over and over again. Anything that was a little fantasy or magic themed I was right there.

If you could both collaborate with another author in the future, who would you choose?

Jordan: Children’s author Sam Sedgman I think he’s brilliant. He wrote the Adventures on Trains series. M.G Leonard, I’m reading The Ice Children.

Leah: She’s amazing!

Jordan: For adult books I would say Samantha Shannon or Jessie Burton. I can’t choose.

The Wonder Team and the Pharaoh’s Fortune was published on 25 April 2024. You can find out more and purchase the book on Pan Macmillan.