Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
Well, I’m a historian, swordsman, classicist, and poet. I guess that’s a fair bit to unpack but I’ll give it a shot. I studied classics at university. That’s Ancient Greek and Latin and the history that goes along with that time period. Instead of going on to do Honours or a PhD I chose to try my hand at writing Historical Fiction because, hey, it’s more fun and I hoped to reach more people with the things I found interesting about the past.
Instead of playing rugby, soccer or cricket I’d rather spend my weekend hitting my friends with swords. Turns out there’s a lot to it. It’s like 3D chess in how much you have to think but you pay the price for making a mistake with actual pain. So, in second thoughts, nothing like chess. Anyway…
I also like writing poetry (and romantic walks on beaches and all the cliches). I think my biggest poetry win so far is that I got to recite a poem I’d written in Gaelic to the Irish ambassador. He liked it so much he asked me to say it again (or aris, as it were).
Apart from my debut novel, Ariadne, that poem made its way into a book of modern Gaelic works also set to come out this year (2018). If the thought of Gaelic poetry doesn’t make you run to the hills then be sure to check it out.
I was also a juggler in a former life. Fun fact.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My latest book is called Ariadne. It also happens to be my first. I was inspired by early Greek history–we’re talking even before the events of The Iliad. I wanted to show the time period from history rather than myth and tell the story of what we’ve learned from archaeology the last few hundred years in an entertaining way.
The idea for the book came to me in a dream though. I’m sure everyone says that but for me it was true. I saw the ending very clearly one night and knew I had to write it, the catch was I then had to plan and write everything leading up to it in order to get there. Took me a while but I got it out and caught the writing bug along the way. I’m not planning to stop anytime soon.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Does any writer write in a normal way? I spend 2 hours falling asleep some nights because every 15 minutes I have another idea I have to jot down. I’m close to superstitious about the Muse because on my good writing days I can write thousands of words but on my bad ones I get barely nothing done. Some days I meditate, some days I scroll through Twitter, some days I get up at 6 in the morning in the middle of winter and smash out a thousand words before going to work. That last one’s probably the craziest thing I get up to.
The scary thing is, that all seems rather normal to most writers, so yeah, not sure if I having any unusual habits once you take the profession itself into account. We’re a pretty weird bunch.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Bernard Cornwell and Conn Iggulden showed me how to write good military Historical Fiction while Philippa Gregory showed me how to write good romantic Historical Fiction. Walter Scott showed me how to write terrible Historical Fiction (sorry but it’s true) and gave me the courage to try on the premise of I can’t do much worse than he did. Check out the blog on my website for a post on each of these authors and more detail on how each of them influenced me.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on a Sci-Fi novella to give my brain a break from the ancient world. I’m also a first draft into a film script I’m co-writing with my brother and fellow member of Brothers Twin. Don’t worry if you love Ariadne though, I have a sequel planned as my next big project.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I’ve actually found that going out in person to stores, libraries and schools has been my best promotion method. I’ve gotten my book into 17 stores doing so and sold many copies to members of the public just by engaging with them. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to consider your book if only you ask them.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Try. You’ll never know if you can succeed if you don’t try. And don’t waste your life away trying the things people tell you you need to do before you can be ‘ready’ to write a book. Try writing the book you want to write. You can learn along the way, take courses and study the craft but if you have the passion to write something then don’t let it die, feed it and give it a shot.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
“Remember how long you have been putting this off, how many times you have been given a period of grace by the gods and not used it. It is high time now for you to understand … there is a limit circumscribed to your time—if you do not use it to clear away your clouds, it will be gone, and you will be gone, and the opportunity will not return.”–Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations.
What are you reading now?
I feel like that’s a trick question. It’s got to be more than one answer, doesn’t it?
Arrival by Ted Chiang
Fire and Sacrifice by Victoria Collins
and SPQR A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard
What’s next for you as a writer?
Ariadne is the first of a trilogy set in the ancient world. I plan to finish that. I have ideas for two other trilogies, one starting with the Sci-Fi novella I mentioned earlier and another set again in the ancient world. I’m also going to finish the film script with my brother and see where that leads. Most importantly, keep writing.
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?
Possibly Conn Iggulden’s Wolf of the Plains–I’ve already reread it probably 10 times, what’s another 100 or 1000? Something philosophical like Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations or Plato’s Republic might help pass the time but I should probably say some kind of survival guide or, better yet, an engineering textbook so I can design a boat to escape with.