When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I started to write my first novel when I was 17 years of age (over 50 years ago now) but didn’t finish it. My next attempt was when I was in my mid-thirties, and I did eventually finish this novel and submitted it to several publishers. It didn’t get anywhere, and as there weren’t the self-publishing opportunities that there are nowadays. I eventually gave up trying to get it published. About 18 months ago, I took up writing again and finished Divided Empire last August. I was going to self-publish it, but my wife Lynne encouraged me to at least see if any publisher would take it on. At the second attempt, Endeavour Press, an independent publisher in the UK, offered to publish it. When the book was published last November, for the first time in my life I finally considered myself a writer.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?
I’ve loved history ever since I was a child and particularly the history of Roman Britain. As a child, I read Rosemary Sutcliff’s Eagle of the Ninth trilogy, my favorite books. I became fascinated with everything about Roman Britain, and although I never studied the period at University or College, I read everything I could on the period and visited as many Roman sites in Britain and museums with Roman exhibits as I possibly could. I’ve also been a member of the Association for Roman Archaeology since 1997. The Association supports Roman sites and Archaeology in Britain. When I came to writing novels again, it seemed natural to write about a subject I knew and loved.
What is the biggest thing that people THINK they know about your subject/genre that isn’t so?
I think a lot of people think that everything about the Roman period in Britain ceased in 410 CE. It didn’t. Life carried on reasonably much the same as it had, for a great many years afterwards. There wasn’t a sudden breakdown of civilization as a lot of people imagine. Archaeology is finding increasing evidence that life in towns and villas carried on until around the end of the 5th century and even longer in what is now Wales.
What is the most important thing that people DON’T know about your subject/genre that they need to know?
A lot of people think that society in Roman Britain consisted of white Britons and Romans from Italy. Wrong. Roman Britain had a wide and diverse population with many of the towns having societies as multicultural as the societies are in Britain today. There were Black and Arab people and people from all over the Roman Empire living in Britain, as can be evidenced by their personal names and places of origin. The Roman army forces in Britain also included Black African, Syrian, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Thracian, Moroccan and Dacian soldiers.
What are some day jobs you have held?
I didn’t go to college until I went as a mature student in my late twenties, so when I finished school I started my first job as a laboratory assistant in a roof tile manufacturer. I really didn’t know what job I wanted to do until my mid-twenties. So, after working as a laboratory assistant in a school, I worked as a study technician in an iron & steel foundry, as a quality control assistant in an instant coffee manufacturing plant and as a clerical assistant in the Civil Service. Finally, I settled on the career I worked in for 35 years: adult learning disability day services.
Do you work to an outline or plot sketch, or do you prefer to let a general idea guide your writing?
I work out the general plot of the book I’m writing beforehand, but like a lot of writers, I find some characters take you in directions that you hadn’t originally thought about, which I suppose makes it all the more interesting for me as a writer. I have a general idea, however, about where the Flavius Vitulasius series of novels will eventually be going and hope to take the series through Flavius’ descendants up to the formation of the Saxon Kingdoms in Britain.
Can you share with readers a little bit about your latest book?
Divided Empire is an action adventure story set in 391 C.E. at a time when the Roman Empire was still recovering from the effects of a devastating civil war. Flavius Vitulasius is a young Roman soldier of British and Roman ancestry who is seconded to the Magistriani (the Roman Secret Intelligence Service) and sent on a mission to Britain to uncover a plot by the pagans to overthrow the imperial authorities. Flavius knows that if he doesn’t foil the plot (with the aid of his friends and comrades Siward and Lucius) another civil war could be the outcome.
What is your next project?
I’ve already written the first 11 chapters of my next project which is the second novel in the Flavius Vitulasius series. The book commences at where Divided Empire finished and takes Flavius and his friends on another mission, this time to Ireland.
What role does research play in your writing?
Research plays a major part in my novels, and all of them are based on what is known about the Roman period in Britain. I really enjoy researching the period, but unfortunately, sometimes it takes over and I find myself side-tracked, when I should actually have been writing the novel.
What is one great lesson you have learned as a writer?
Never give up. Nowadays there are a great number of ways a writer can have their work published. Back in the 1980s, I thought I would never see the day that a novel I had written would become published, but I now know that if a publisher hadn’t published it, I could still have published it myself. If you have a good idea for a book, fiction or nonfiction, go for it, write it and have the belief in yourself that it will be published one way or another.
How can readers discover more about you and your work?