Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I am a life-long historian and the author of twenty-one books, including seven Ancient History best-sellers on Amazon and Amazon U.K., as well as two South African History best-sellers. My first career was spent as a soldier and I wrote the initial draft of my first book, ‘Soldier of Rome: The Legionary’, when I was in Iraq from 2004 to 2005. What started off as a cathartic means of escapism turned into a regular hobby. By 2011 I was able to leave my day job and make a rather comfortable living as an author. While I intend to cover more eras, the two I am currently most passionate about are Ancient Rome and the British Empire.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
Lost Souls: The Forgotten Heroes of Eshowe. This is the third book in my series on the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. Those familiar with this conflict are mostly drawn to the initial battles at Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift, namely because these were the premises to the popular films ‘Zulu’ (starring Sir Michael Caine in his first major role), and ‘Zulu Dawn’ (starring Peter O’Toole and Burt Lancaster). Few realise that these were just the opening battles, and the war would continue well beyond this. I have therefore taken it upon myself to not only tell the heroic and tragic tales of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift, which are covered in the first two books of my series, but also take readers beyond what they know from the films. There will be two more books in this series, following the war between the Zulu Kingdom and the British Empire to its bitter end.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Aren’t all writing habits unusual? Honestly I’m not sure, as I don’t think there is a standard way for authors to write. I do tend to listen to various forms of music when I write. And because my works are historically based, I prefer to work with either music from that era, or something relevant. While my favourite genre is European / Power Metal, I tend not to listen to that when I write, and I also avoid music with lyrics, as it can be distracting. I’ve been on a bit of an odd kick lately, listening to a lot of Retro 80s Synth, which I find works regardless of what I’m writing at that particular moment. Seriously, I’m able to write about Roman gladiators or British redcoats while listening to the soundtrack from ‘Blade Runner’.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
I first read the Robert Graves series, ‘I, Claudius’, when I was twelve, while at the same time watching the series on Masterpiece Theatre. That was what really got me enthralled in Roman History. In fact, the subject of my first book, ‘Soldier of Rome: The Legionary’, was inspired by events from this series, albeit I would not be able to put the proverbial pen-to-paper for another seventeen years. William Altimari and George Shipway were other Roman novelists who I drew inspiration from. As for just great story-telling and world building, I have scarcely found better than Tolkien, albeit George R.R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ (aka Game of Thrones) comes awfully close. My most recent series on the Anglo-Zulu War was inspired greatly by historian Ian Knight, who’s written over thirty books on the subject. I actually had the privilege of travelling to South Africa with him in 2017, and he even penned the foreword to my first book in that series, ‘Brutal Valour: The Tragedy of Isandlwana’.
What are you working on now?
I just started on Book Four of my Anglo-Zulu War series, titled, ‘Cruelty of Fate: The Battle for Khambula’. It happens simultaneously as the events in the third book, ‘Lost Souls’, but takes place a hundred miles to the north.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
To be honest, despite having spent the last twelve years as a writer, I am still a novice when it comes to promotion and what actually works to bring readers to my books. I hope Awesome Gang will find itself at the top of the list soon!
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Write for yourself and be true to your art. It doesn’t matter if you never sell more than a few copies or if you become the next J.K. Rowling. Always remember why you write and keep that close to your heart. Your reasons and motivations are not going to be the same as mine, nor should they be. What is right for one author may not be the same for you. Above all else, finish what you start! The worst thing you can do is quit mid-project because you allowed self-doubt to cripple your artistic muse.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
I honestly don’t know why I’m drawing a blank here. It’s late and I should probably be in bed (I’m not ‘old’, I just go to bed at a more reasonable hour!). So I will answer this with some of my favourite life quotes that have stuck with me:
“Assume a virtue, if you have it not.” – William Shakespeare
“A villain is a hero of the other side. – George R.R. Martin
“In a free state there should be freedom of speech and thought.” – Emperor Tiberius Caesar
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – The Dalai Lama
“Next to a battle lost, the saddest thing is a battle won.” – Field Marshal Sir Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington
“If this day should be your last, may you die with honour.” – (I honestly don’t know where I came up with this. I’d like to think it is a ‘James Mace original’, but I highly doubt it is)
What are you reading now?
I sometimes have to force myself to find non-research books so that I can relax with a little ‘pleasure reading’. Most recently, I re-read the complete Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams. I also just finished Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, although I confess this was actually because I’ve been cast in a local production of the play (Shakespearean acting is another of my hobbies).
What’s next for you as a writer?
Good question; one which my wife has also asked me. I still have two more books to write in the Anglo-Zulu War series. After that, I’m not sure, but I do have options. I could always return to Rome, as my last Roman work, ‘Die by the Blade’, does leave open the path for a new series. However, I have already written fifteen books set in Ancient Rome, and am feeling a bit of fatigue. I’ve contemplated doing a handful of stand-alone works set during World War One, while at the same time I’ve long wished to write a Medieval series set during the reign of King Edward III.
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
The Lord of the Rings, The Complete Works of Shakespeare, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and of course the entire James Mace collection; because hey, I still get entertained by my own books!