First let me start by saying that I recently read Shadowland and loved it. Thanks for letting me interview you and offereing such a great giveaway. Up for grabs is 5 copies of Shadowland in your choice of E formats. Just fill out the Rafflecopter following the interview.
Thanks Flora, I’m thrilled you read and enjoyed Shadowland and I’m really happy to be here today.
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
Okay, I’m an Englishman but I’ve actually lived outside of England for far more years
than I lived there. I left when I was just seventeen, off in search of adventure, its all I really wanted to do. I went to France and picked grapes and then Greece and picked olives then lived a year and a half in Israel. Since then I did work for a couple of years in my Native London but the call of the wild was load so I left and went to India and then travelled for several years through Asia. I’ve been a carpenter, I restored Church organs, I renovated houses, built roads and car parks and then in Hong Kong got into sales and marketing. I spent several years as a stock broker, made and lost a million then traveled on.
I now live in Spain, just outside of Barcelona, in a wonderful house in the woods. I raise money and awareness for companies involved in ‘Green’ issues like reforestation and alternative energy, but my love... is writing.
When I’m not writing or trying to save the rainforest I’m being with the two most important people in my life, my daughter Yasmin who is seven and my Son Dylan who has just turned twelve.
Do you have any pets?
I have two dogs, Kipper and Molly who are brother and sister. They are Catalan sheepdogs and we rescued them after they were found abandoned; they’re fantastic, full of energy, chew everything and bring a lot of happiness into our lives. We live in the middle of the forest with no neighbors but the wild boar and a huge amount of rabbits! The dogs go nuts whenever a boar passes crashing by in the night and they still haven’t caught a rabbit, but they have a lot of fun trying!
How long have you been writing and have you always been interested in historical fiction/fantasy and the tales of King Author?
As an Englishman I grew up with tales of Robin Hood and King Arthur, I love those stories of old legend. They aren’t verified true tales, but they aren’t just fanciful stories either because we have a very tantalizing period of history (set between the Romans leaving around the year 410AD and the end of Anglo Saxon England and the Battle of Hastings in 1066AD) known as the Dark Ages. This was a time in Britain when the tribes were fractured and leaderless and the Saxons, Jutes and Angles were raiding and pillaging. It’s known as the Dark Ages because there was nobody writing anything down... for about four hundred years! We know very few facts about this time. I always found this time to be interesting and inspiring. By writing a story set in this period, it could in fact be true!
I didn’t want to do another rewrite of the Arthur tale, however, there is a tantalizing fact regarding Arthur, we may not have any hard evidence that Arthur existed, but there is proof of a man named Uther and in many of the writings he had a son named Arthur. In my tale of Shadowland, it is Uther that fights to become leader of the Britons and becomes the father of Arthur and it is therefore a tale that hadn’t been told before.
However, I didn’t set out to write a factual story just to take a few facts and play with them, and I do love fantasy, so there is a fantasy and magical element in Shadowland, after all, you can’t have Druids without something weird going on, can you?
What inspired you to write the story of Uther Pendragon?
As I mentioned, he is one of the few ‘facts’ that we have from the Dark Ages. A monk named ‘The Venerable Bede’ wrote a very flowery book called 'An Ecclesiastical History of the English People' around 700AD, I say flowery because he tells a lot of very strange tales of kings and queens and the different peoples that lived during these times. Uther Pendragon, according to Bede, was the first king of the British tribes that united to defend against the Saxons invasions, the Viking raids. Most people are pretty sure that Uther wasn’t Arthur... but maybe he was his dad! At least that’s how I figured it and the nice thing is that history can’t prove me wrong... now that had the makings of a great tale!
Is there a certain place that you prefer to write? Or draw inspiration for your writing?
Finding time to write is tough. I have a full working day and two very active children so I tend to write late at night. I write on a laptop so sit wherever I can find a comfortable spot. In the winter that’s by the fire and on summer evenings I sit outside with a glass of wine to help the imagination flow!
Many writers get an idea for a story and then make a plan as to how it is going to go, find some high points and then decide how it will all tie up at the end... and then start writing using that as a plan, at least that’s what I’ve read in some of the ‘how to write a bestseller’ type books. It doesn’t work for me. When I write I do so for my own entertainment. I start with a line that I find draws me and hopefully my reader in and just go from there. In Shadowland I started with an old storyteller gathering a group of listeners around the fire one midwinter’s eve. There is a storm outside and the log fire is crackling. Once I had set the scene I had to work out where the story would go from there. At this point I didn’t realize that I was writing about Uther, that had to wait until I was at least four chapters in and a character named Meryn Link emerged... I still had no real idea where it was going, but it was the dark ages for sure and was definitely a little... Arthurian. I still didn’t know how it would end, until it did. During all this process I was reading anything I could find about the Dark Ages, it was a good job it was such an interesting period!
Do you listen to music when you write?
I love music, I listen to music all the time when I’m cooking or doing anything else but when I’m writing, I need silence. There tends to be enough noise going on inside my head when I’m writing and music just becomes a distraction.
What writers have influenced you?
I have loved to read from a very early age but the author who made me sit up and look at the actual craft of writing and story telling was John Steinbeck. Reading Cannery Row or The Grapes of Wrath was an incredible experience. It was if no word was out of place, it couldn’t have been put down any better than it was, and that’s with the grammar of the 1930’s.
Modern writers that I admire greatly have been the late David Gemmel and his incredible fantasy works, Manda Scott and her historical books about Boudicca and now Rome and just lately I am devouring the books written by fantasy writer Michael J Sullivan. I’m also a great fan of Indie writers Jaq Hawkins and her Steam-punk books and Rod Tyler with his rather scary books for teens.
Please tell us a bit about why your book is called Shadowland.
I picked the title Shadowland for two main reasons. It alludes to the dark ages and the shadows of our knowledge, but in the book one of my characters has to walk the path between life and death, which I refer to as the shadowland.
What kind of research went into this book?
Loads and loads of reading and internet searches to get a feel of the life people were leading at the time, what their homes were like and how the communities were structured. I also had to chase down facts like, did they have chickens back then? I discovered that yes they did but they were brought over by the Romans, interesting eh?
There are a few ‘deliberate’ mistakes or clues that I threw in with the storyteller and the reason only becomes apparent at the end of the book. A few people pulled me up on it and I got one review where the reader said they just couldn’t continue with so many mistakes - they didn’t have lemons in Britain in the dark ages so why was the storyteller drinking lemon water... I know dear reader, finish the story and you will understand. There are several of these clues but it does all make sense in the end, really!
How long did it take to write Shadowland?
From start to finish with all the editing and rewrites it took me about a year, I then gave it to a professional editor who took out all the unnecessary comas, hyphens and ... little dots I had thrown into places where they weren’t needed!
Is this a stand alone book or will you continue the story of King Author? (Fans want more of this story)
At the moment I’m finishing the sequel to my second book which is The Flight of the Griffin and is just pure fantasy - the sequel is called Chaos Storm.
As far as a sequel to Shadowland I’m not planning one at the moment but who knows, I do like the period but I don’t want to write about Arthur, its been done too many times already.
The cover art is beautiful for this book, can you tell us who designed it?
Why thank you so much, I designed it! It is a picture I took while on holiday in Burgundy France at a place called Chateau Neuf. I wanted something dark and moody so I ‘photo-shopped’ it a little and this is what I came up with. There is a large part of Shadowland that is set in the sprawling forests of the time, known as the weald, so the trees are very apt for the story. I did look around for a professional design but really didn’t find anything I was happy with - so far I have had a good response from people.
Do you have any other projects in mind at this time?
As I mentioned I’m in the final chapters of Chaos Storm which I hope to publish in early 2013. I’m then going to start something all new; I have no real plan but lots of ideas. I like the Victorian period as a backdrop, but I am also tempted to write a story set in Britain during the Second World War. I’m looking forward to getting into the next project and finding that perfect first line!
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Hmmm, how about this. I have read hundreds of books, possibly thousands at this time and for many years had heard that ‘we all have a story inside us.’ It took me a while but late one evening, while watching television, that I realized that television was just a waste of time, so I got up and just sat in front of my laptop... and started writing. It was fantastic. Writing for me is like watching a really good film, combined with reading a great book, mixed with playing a really good computer game. I strongly advise anyone reading this to give it a go, because we all have a book or two inside us, you never know, yours may well be awesome!
Thanks again for letting me do this interview.
Well thanks as well to you Flora, it has been a delight. I hope you also enjoy The Flight of the Griffin and I look forward to coming back here to talk about it another time!
As a reminder to readers all reviews appreciated on Goodreads and Amazon.If you want to know more, check out the following links
Shadowland on US Amazon
Shadowland on UK Amazon
The Flight of the Griffin on US
The Flight of the Griffin on UK
Check out my review of Shadowland here
a Rafflecopter giveaway