Here are two more extracts from talks with writers. The first is from my talk with Gordon Doherty. The second, to round out the number of extracts, is from an interview I gave to Ty Johnston.
Martin: When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer? Was there a specific event that made you decide?
Gordon: Tolon, Greece, summertime 2004: gazing out over the Aegean at dusk, I envisioned a dusk raid by a fleet of triremes. I could see the armoured hoplites dropping onto the shore, I could hear their armour rippling as they rushed across the hinterland and I could sense the fear of those defending, higher up the beach. Then I stopped for a moment and thought; ‘Damn, I miss writing stories. Why did I ever stop?’
In my childhood, as a means of storytelling, I would (badly) mimic my elder brother’s excellent skills as a cartoonist. Then I started to write stories with the odd illustration every few pages. Finally, the pictures disappeared altogether as I turned to traditional short story writing. A misspent youth meant I wrote little more than angst-ridden poetry and songs for many years after that. It was a few years after I eventually settled down into a ‘normal’ career that I reached that epiphany moment in Tolon.
What would be a typical writing day for you? Do you have set times, spaces, routines or rituals?
As soon as I wake up, my mind starts turning over the next chapter, the next plot rework, the next revision. Actually, I’m lucky if I don’t have writing dreams (I did actually have a nightmare about publishing a story where the Roman protagonist had a USB key)! What I’m trying to say is that it’s easy for writing to dominate every heartbeat of your day. So, I try to be disciplined and channel my efforts into ‘blocks’ of writing time. I’ll go into the spare room which doubles as my office, close the door (very important) and set my Pomodoro timer for thirty minutes . . . then I write.
What’s been your favourite moment in your writing career?
Legionary has a dedication to my late aunt. When I gave a copy to my uncle, and saw how much it meant to him, that made all the hard work and long hours worth it.
Finally, here’s a part of my talk with Ty Johnston.
Ty: you write quite a bit of historical fiction. What draws you to such literature? More specifically, you’ve written about English history soon after the Battle of Hastings, so what drew you to that particular period?
Martin: I love history and I love literature. One morning, I had the idea of fusing my two passions and writing historical fiction. About this time I also discovered George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman novels and realised that historical fiction could be a wonderful vehicle. I was drawn to the period after 1066 because I’ve been fascinated by the Anglo-Saxon period since reading a Ladybird book about King Alfred at the age of eight or nine. 1066 was a disaster for ordinary people and I was drawn to writing about a time when their world was broken in this manner. Many people in England still think that the country started when the Normans seized the kingdom, a propaganda coup which has lasted for a 1,000 years.
What do you most hate about your hero?
Tough question. The hero of The Lost King series is Edgar, the young boy who was the rightful King of England and was proclaimed as such just after the Battle of Hastings. He must have been an astonishing man and I look forward to writing about the rest of his life. The one thing which gets me, and I didn’t intend this, is that he is sometimes overawed and overwhelmed by William the Conqueror. It frustrates Edgar as well: “I searched the pennants fluttering above the troops. There, yes there, was William’s standard. It towered above a forest of other flags, arrogant, assured, a spit in my eye. My heart seemed to stall at the sight of it. What hope did we have now that William here?”
You can find the full talks by following the links below.
- Talking with Gordon Doherty (martinlakewriting.wordpress.com)
This Friday I’m talking with Robyn Young.