Thanks to Alaric Bond for inviting me to take part in this ‘blog hop’. Alaric’s ‘Fighting Sail’ novels are among my favourites in the genre, so I am delighted Alaric thought of me – it’s a tough act to follow, of course. See Alaric’s blog here
1) What am I working on?
Typically for me, a number of things. These include non-fiction books on the history of the Allison-engined variants of the North American Mustang, the Fairey Barracuda torpedo/dive bomber and a biography of test pilot Duncan Menzies. I’m also co-editing a collection of short stories on the theme of reflections on myths, legends and fairy tales. However, the piece that’s uppermost in my mind and top of the list at the moment is my second novel. This is based around the Allied invasion of Italy in 1943, and follows a squadron of North American A-36 attack pilots and a British war correspondent who follows their exploits. It’s tentatively named ‘The Violence of the Sun’, and I’m around 50,000 words in.
A detail from a cover sketch for The Violence of the Sun
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
This is a tricky question for me in a number of respects! First of all, I don’t find it easy to stick to a single genre. In my first novel, Daedalus and the Deep, what started as a work of historic naval fiction gained an element of fantasy along the way. Secondly, I don’t set out to differentiate my work from what’s already out there – I just try to write the stories that want me to write them. The Violence of the Sun will be ‘straight’ historical – there won’t be any fantasy in it, at least, not that I’m aware of yet. That said, I’ve been struck by the common thread running through ‘war’ literature throughout history, and for that reason, The Violence of the Sun contains deliberate echoes of Virgil’s Aeneid, the story of a much earlier invasion of Italy by men very far from home.
3) Why do I write what I do?
Because the subject matter wants me to! I rarely sit down and think ‘OK, today I’m going to write about…’ It will tend to come to me through the process of research. Daedalus and the Deep recommended itself to me when I first came across the reports of HMS Daedalus encountering a ‘sea serpent’. Similarly, The Violence of the Sun leapt out at me as a story that needed to be told when I was studying the war diaries of the Fighter-Bomber Groups involved in the North African and Mediterranean campaigns for my non-fiction work. It struck me as a much-misunderstood and relatively little-known part of the war.
In general, I write about history because it interests me much more than the present. I can’t say why, but it always has. Specifically, the sea and the air have an appeal I find hard to resist – romance and freedom, perhaps. I’m also attracted by the extremes of our world – the frozen poles, near-airless mountain peaks, ocean wastes and virgin forests. Somehow, man finds a way to survive there, with nature at its most implacable. I find the human spirit at its most compelling when it is being tested by a hostile environment, and rewarded by extremes of beauty most people will never experience.
Daedalus and the Deep
4) How does your writing process work?
With research, usually. I research things I’m interested in, or happen to be working on, and an idea might present itself. For example, I have known for a long time that I wanted the sequel to Daedalus and the Deep to be centred around the hunt for the lost Franklin expedition to the North-West Passage. As such, I’ve been ploughing through the many books written at the time by officers engaged in the search. An idea of the story will either be present from the beginning, or will begin to form as I read through the background material. Usually I’ll know the beginning and end in some detail, with the middle in a nebulous form that crystallises as I research further and begin to write.
During preparations, I might read about an incident that inspires a sub-plot or a character. The character of Lieutenant Malory in Daedalus and the Deep was inspired by Jacky Fisher, the great modernising admiral of the late 19th and early 20th century, when I read the biography ‘Fisher’s Face’ by Jan Morris. It was fun to imagine someone like a younger Fisher, impatient to get on, stuck on a lone frigate in the South Atlantic. Fisher’s various well-documented pronouncements gave me a look into the mind of someone in that position. Quite a few of Malory’s sayings are related to those of Fisher – even in the way he responds to discovering Midshipman Colyer’s secret.
I would be lying if I said I had one, single writing process in any case. Daedalus and the Deep was written very quickly without nearly as much planning and preparation as I would normally do but it seemed to work. I’m not sure I could imagine writing another novel in that manner. I’m not one of these writers who can put in a spurt of tens of thousands of words in a few days, I’m usually quite steady. When everything’s in place, the words tend to follow.
Daedalus and the Deep is currently available in paperback and all major e-book formats, and on Amazon
I’m delighted to hand over the torch to three very different but equally superb writers.
Jules Anne Ironside is an author of YA and adult fiction – primarily sci-fi, fantasy and horror with a smattering of history thrown in. She has been writing since she was a child but only really counts from when her spelling became recognizable as English. Her favorite things include books (obviously), martial arts, surreal conversations, slippers and cheese. Not necessarily in that order. See Jules Anne’s blog Little Red Running Shoes here
Michell Bromley writes, reads, and dream of dragons, as well as watching genre TV shows, possibly to the point of obsession. Michelle has considered joining a 12 Step Programme to get over Supernatural, but as this would mean spending less time re-watching Seasons 1-8, has not yet done so. See Michelle’s blog Dragon Scales here
Antoine Vanner writes historical naval fiction. He previously spent many years in the international oil industry and also travelled extensively on a private basis. He survived military coups, guerrilla warfare, a militia attack, storms at sea and life in mangrove swamps, tropical forest, offshore platforms and the boardroom. Antoine’s knowledge of human nature, passion for nineteenth-century political and military history and first-hand experience of their locales provide the background to his historical novels based on Nicholas Dawlish’s life. The first to be published was Britannia’s Wolf, in which Dawlish is attached to the Ottoman Navy as the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 enters its critical final stage. The next book, Britannia’s Reach, finds Dawlish enmeshed in a vicious river war in the heart of South America. The ethical dilemmas Dawlish faces are daunting ones and he must make a terrible choice if he is to return to Britain with some shreds of integrity remaining. See Antoine’s Blog on his Dawlish Chronicles series here