Once an accountant by day, now a superhero highwayman in blue. Read on and find out more…
If you were to write the ‘origin’s episode’ of your writing what would be the most important scenes? What did your early efforts look like? Are they still around to be used as bribes and blackmail material?
There are two surviving examples, and fortunately the older one, from 1994, lives only on my computers! As for the second, more relevant one, yes, it’s out there in my e-book “The Other Robin Hood”. It doesn’t frighten me; the writing is decent, the story is good but because I wrote it first-person, the viewpoint is limited so apart from the closing sequence it’s all a single thread.
All super heroes have their mild-mannered secret identity, what is yours? I promise we won’t tell.
Mild-mannered secret identity? Not so secret, really, it’s just me. When I do any live appearances, be it for a talk or just selling my books, I shall wear full costume and then, I’m Captain James Hind. When I’m in my usual jeans and tee-shirt, I’m the quiet individual who has inhabited this body for the past 63 years. Hell, I’ve been an accountant for most of my life, give me time to re-inflate myself!
Who are your partners in crime? What are their superpowers?
It’s always a team effort. Yes, I write it, but my wife Tanya (who doesn’t like historical fiction much!) tells me what she thinks with total honesty, and I then review those sections and if I deem it necessary, I amend. I use Critique Circle and Scribophiles to critique, then it all goes to Gary Smailes at Bubblecow, and he not only corrects my punctuation and grammar, he checks the historical accuracy and the story strength – I was lucky enough to find an editor who did his degree on the period in history about which I write.
Where do you get your superpowers from?
I can’t honestly say I view them as superpowers – it’s more of ‘it’s just there’. I suppose the obvious answer is my parents; my father was always dogged, and all authors need that quality. He had also, in his youth, been a very accomplished musician, so perhaps some of the artistic leaning comes from that direction. But my mother is where the imaginative bent comes from, I think.
Where is your secret lair and what does it look like?
I’ve commandeered the small bedroom as my lair, and you wouldn’t want to go in there – it’s an utter mess with research printouts and open books everywhere, between and sometimes on the three computers!
What kind of training do you do to keep your superpowers in world saving form? How do you insure they are used only for good?
Everything bad! I do as little exercise as I can get away with, I love crisps and chocolate, I smoke and enjoy a good ale or three. Fortunately, I tend not to put on weight. As for using them for good, I write historical novels only, and any angry outpourings are simply saved on the computer and eventually deleted. Although I will admit, if you upset me enough I’ll insert you as a baddie in my next book and persuade my hero to do unpleasant things to you!
Granted, you probably don’t’ get to wear your superhero costume a lot, but if you did, what would it look like?
For me, it would be the 17th Century highwayman outfit every time – and I do get to wear it fairly often, I’m glad to say. I’m wearing it in the picture.
What is your kryptonite? What are the biggest challenges faced with in your writing?
Uncertainty, I think. Rather contradictory; I know I write well, but I find some passages make me cringe after I’ve written them. But clearly, it’s just me, everyone else seems to like them.
What was the supervillian that threatened to stop your latest project and how did you vanquish it?
Easy. It actually did stop me for over six months. I’m not a war writer, I’ve never been in combat and felt I couldn’t write about it. But a talk with bestselling author Ben Kane, wearing full Roman gear halfway along Hadrian’s Wall, cleared the blockage.
What important lessons have you learned along the way?
To follow my instincts. As an example, I had stopped writing before reaching the war sequences. I decided to widen the tale rather than lengthen it, and I believe that the book is much better for it.
What have been the best/most memorable experiences along the way?
When writing the book, I wrote it in segments. Worse, I wrote each thread separately and then wove them together. This meant that I had never read my book as a book until I had to read the final proofs – and it was a revelation. I actually liked it!
If you did this again what would you do differently and what would you not change?
I’m a believer in “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. It ain’t broke so I won’t fix it. But as the sequel will be basically fiction (whereas most of this book is actually historically accurate), I need to structure it more. Which I’ve already done, in fact.
What is the best (writing or otherwise) advice you have ever gotten and why.
It’s hard to say. It’s all valuable. The key is to spot it and hold onto it, treasure it. Some of it was not necessarily intended as advice, such as when my first book was rejected by one agent who commented that first person is too restricting for a good book.
Tell us about you new book and why we need to drop everything and get it now.
As the reviewer said, it’s a ‘rollicking good read’, which is what I aimed for. I’m not trying to teach, preach or inform, I’m trying to entertain, to stimulate those happy juices. I think “The Prince of Prigs” does that – it’s ideal for the beach, and I have this image in my mind of walking along a beach seeing the glorious purple cover in front of dozens of suntanned faces.
If you enjoy a fast paced storyline which is based in truth, if you dislike gratuitous violence, if you seek a mischievous but masculine character to read about – this is the book for you!
What’s in store for you in the future? Do you have any other big projects on the horizon?
I’ve been creating the structure for a sequel, and it’s great fun to let your imagination run riot. If “The Prince of Prigs” is successful, I plan a whole series and some of my storylines already run into, and perhaps beyond, a third book.
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