Saturday, 28 July 2012

The little acorns from which novels grow

Apologies yet again for my prolonged absence from the blog, but the reason will become clear. I've been working on the final chapters of Sword of Rome, proofreading Avenger of Rome and The Isis Covenant, and preparing for their launches on August 14th in Edinburgh and August 2nd in Stirling respectively.

I was keen to complete SoR before taking my summer break, but the epic battle turned out to be even more epic than I realised and I still have a couple of key scenes to write before I can lay it down for a while and let it percolate. Not that I'll be resting. With the tight deadlines I set myself it's important that I get the ball rolling pretty soon on The Excalibur Codex, which is the next Jamie Saintclair novel. At the moment I have a wham-bam start and a satisfying ending, but a relatively vague idea of what happens in between.

One of the questions a writer is most frequently asked is: Where do you get your inspiration?

With some people it takes hours and maybe weeks of deep thought to come up with an idea, but mine tend to appear in lightning flashes set off by fairly insignificant sparks.

Caligula and Claudius were spawned by a single line read by Timothy West on a CD of Simon Schama's History of Britain that went 'And the Emperor Claudius rode in triumph on an elephant and took the surrender of Britain'.

The six books that will eventually make up the Valerius series have their roots in one sentence from the Roman historian Tacitus that I read while I was researching Claudius.

The Doomsday Testament came to me as I read a journal my dad had written about his early life.

I'd planned at least four Jamie Saintclair books, but the other day I stumbled on what will be a fifth: The Ionian Odyssey. I was in the area looking for a way into a new Roman novel, but stumbled on something completely different. Walking up a rocky path on a tiny Greek island we'd only found by mistake, with cicadas rattling off my hat, tiny lizards scuttling underfoot and thorns ripping my legs, I breasted a rise to be confronted by row after row of marbles crosses. The island was a lazaretto and was once populated by lepers, so of course people died there, but this was different. There were no lepers in 1948 and 1949 when these people - almost all young men in their twenties - died, often on the same day. Gradually it dawned that something even more terrible had happened on this scrubby, sun-scorched knoll. And round another corner was the incontrovertible evidence. A stretch of crumbling wall with dozens of holes punched deep into the stone and mortar: an execution site. That's when it came to me. A country torn by civil war. A man awaits his fate and vows to take his secret to the grave. A treasure hidden through an earlier conflict that contains the roots of a new one ... 

A chilling sight and the germ of a new novel

No comments: