Thursday, October 06, 2016

Author Interview - Julian Stockwin (Author Of Inferno, Out 06.10.16)

           

Author Interview – Julian Stockwin

Author of Inferno. Out Now

Published by Hodder & Stoughton 06.10.16

Book Summary: 1807. Captain Sir Thomas Kydd's famous sea action aboard Tyger in the Baltic has snatched his reputation from ignominy. He is the hero of the hour. But though Britain's Navy remains imperious at sea, a succession of battles has seen Napoleon Bonaparte victorious on mainland Europe. His enemies have sued for peace and the Emperor's Continental System, establishing a European blockade, will mean that Britain will be cut off from her economic blood.

But one small link in this ring of steel is still free of French control: the neutral state of Denmark, which controls the straits through which the entire Baltic Trade passes. The French army are already mustering at her borders. If her navy falls into French hands all Europe will have fallen.

Thomas Kydd's great friend, Nicholas Renzi, now Lord Farndon, is sent on a desperate diplomatic mission to persuade the Danes to give up their fleet to Britain. But the Danes are caught between two implacable forces and will not yield, opting instead for the inferno of battle. Kydd sails with a combined navy and ground force. Soon a bloody and fiery battle for Copenhagen is raging. Mariners, soldiers and civilians are all caught up in a conflict in which the stakes could not be higher. (Synopsis from Inferno - Julian Stockwin)

Author Bio: Julian Stockwin was sent at the age of fourteen to TS Indefatigable, a tough sea-training school. He joined the Royal Navy at fifteen before transferring to the Royal Australian Navy , where he served for eight years in the Far East, Antarctic waters and the South Seas. He was awarded the MBE and retired with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. He now lives in Devon with his wife Kathy. 

Inferno is the seventeenth book in the Kydd series. Julian has also written a work of non-fiction, Stockwin's Maritime Miscellany, and a stand alone historical novel, The Silk Tree.
(Bio from the pages of Inferno - Julian Stockwin)

(Photograph Credit To: Allan House)





Hello everyone!!

Thank you for visiting Always Trust In Books. I had the excellent opportunity to put forward questions to Julian Stockwin, author of the successful Thomas Kydd book series. His latest instalment Inferno was released yesterday and Julian was kind enough to answer some of my questions to give people an idea of both his inspiration for his books and the effort that goes into all the fantastic historical fiction he brings to readers.

Thank you for getting involved in this blog tour and I hope you find the interview both interesting and helpful. I have added a small review for Inferno at the end of this blog post if you’re interested on my take on the book.


My questions to Julian Stockwin!

Could you tell us a little bit about the book?
My latest book is INFERNO. In it I touch on the condition that today is called post-traumatic stress disorder. My hero finds himself seeking solace after a bloody three-frigate action and subsequent casualties. But after a diverting adventure in the wilds of Scotland it’s soon back to sea for Captain Thomas Kydd, raring take up again Britain’s fight against her enemies.
He joins a great armada on a desperate mission to pressure the Crown Prince of Denmark to turn his fleet over to Britain before Napoleon Bonaparte has the opportunity to seize it. The stakes could not be higher: if he takes control of the Danish navy the way would be open to invade the English mainland and achieve hegemony over all of Europe.
The book climaxes in a fiery inferno – the Second Battle of Copenhagen.
What made you choose the Great Age of the Fighting Sail as the setting for your book series?
I’m ‘Old Navy’ with a deep respect and admiration for the Service, so when I decided to try my hand at becoming an author it had to be the Navy I’d write about. I chose Nelson’s time, the great climax of the age of sail and a magnificent canvas for sea tales. This was an era when the sea was respected and wooed by men who didn’t have steam engines and brute force. I also wanted to bring the sea itself into a more prominent role. But to achieve that, it seemed logical to take the perspective of the men who actually did the job out there on the yardarm, serving the great cannon or crowding aboard an enemy deck, rather than of those shouting orders from behind. So the lower deck it was – and then I came across some surprising statistics. Unlike the army, where commissions were bought, all naval officers had to qualify professionally, and scattered among these were no more than a couple of hundred common seamen who made the awesome journey from the fo’c’sle to the quarterdeck, thereby turning themselves into gentlemen. Some became captains of their own ships; remarkably, some victims of the press-gang even became admirals. How could it be so? Just what kind of men were they?

Would you tell us a few details about how you came up with the Thomas Kydd character?
When I decided to have as my central character a sailor on the lower deck I felt it would be interesting to have him a pressed man, and from a background not at all connected with the sea. Almost on a whim I chose wig-making as his trade.
I spent a long time deciding on the name for my hero. I wanted something that was definitely of the period but sounded strong, not too long – or difficult to pronounce. I had a lengthy list, none of which really fitted the bill and I was beginning to despair of ever finding the name that I would be happy living with for a whole series. Kathy was talking about Princess Diana’s mother at one point and she mentioned her name was Frances Shand Kydd. Somehow the Kydd jumped out at me and I did some research and found it was certainly a name of the Georgian period, too.
Do you find the historical research overwhelming? Or a lot of fun?
It can sometimes seem overwhelming but it is engrossing and a lot of fun – the historical record is so rich for the period I write about – 1793-1815. I love the actual creation involved in writing but I also relish being on the discovery trail that research leads you to. I particularly enjoy location research.  Kathy and I have just returned from the Baltic where we were at work on a future Kydd title.
What is a typical writing day for yourself?
Do author’s have a typical day? Yes and no. There is generally a core period of writing – after all, 100,000 words has to be delivered to the publisher for each book, and on time – but there’s a lot more to a word-smith’s schedule than this. Of course it depends on the time of year – pre-publication is especially busy with store visits, book signing, media engagements. I enjoy this very much, meeting readers gives an author a special buzz but it can be tiring on the signing hand. I’ve had to invest in a special squeezy ball and wrist strap to prevent RSI!
On location research I have to be very focused on gathering as much relevant visual and background material as I can given that we’re unlikely to be able to return in the near future. You can’t find yourself sitting down to write a particular scene and be at a loss to recall the details from a visit. This is where my digital camera is invaluable. I can snap hundreds of pics at no cost. Mind you these all have to be identified and labelled. This is one of my tasks at the end of the day on location research. Before the sun sets over the yardarm I input the day’s work into my laptop. I also make use of a small dictaphone to take notes in situ.
I’m very lucky to have a superb writing environment. Recently we moved my study to one of the larger rooms in the house and it now contains nearly all my research material (there is a bit of an overflow into bookcases in the hallway and other rooms), my treasured eighteenth century naval artefacts; the superb model of HMS ‘Teazer’, Kydd’s first command; and other salty memorabilia.
Kathy (my wife and literary partner) and I work together in separate studies and our systems are networked which is very helpful. She was a professional magazine editor so I have my own live-in blue pencil! This is her main task, followed by research and operations in general, releasing me for pure writing – a priceless asset. We both aim to be at our desks at 8:30 am. Around 11:00 we usually take a short break and then resume work until lunch at 1:00 pm. Following my practice in the Navy I often take a forty minute nap after lunch, and then we may take a stroll into Ivybridge. (We live just a couple of minutes’ walk from the centre of the village).
I find I’m at my most creative in terms of writing in the morning so afternoons are mostly reserved for research and correspondence with readers.
Is it a challenge keeping the series fresh and new or are you always drawing from new inspiration?
I take the loyalty of my readers very seriously and try very hard to make each book quite different from the one before, or in fact any others in the series. It is hard work to keep each book in a series fresh and new but I am very lucky to have someone by my side such as Kathy who is brilliant at seeing the BIG PICTURE of the series as a whole.
I draw ideas from many sources. Of particular resonance with me are what few written diaries and recollections exist from the lower deck of Nelson’s time, and actual ship’s logs. A certain phrase, or a doodle in the margin by a bored watch-keeper, often set the creative juices flowing as I try to piece together a moment in time.
I also find inspiration in my collection of eighteenth century sea artefacts which provide a tangible link to Kydd’s day. As I take a long sniff of a special piece of tarred hemp rope, if I half close my eyes it is not long before I’m well away at sea. And looking at the work of maritime artists hanging on my walls helps me capture the many moods of the Neptune’s Realm and the majesty of the sea.
What writers did you look up to when you started out writing?
Oh, goodness – I’d read so many over the years from Pope to Forester to O’Brian, as well as countless non-fiction books about the Age of Fighting Sail. However when I started writing the Kydd series Kathy took all the maritime fiction books down from my library shelves and stored them away.  She told me I had to find my own ‘voice’ – one of the hardest things for a writer to do. But that was one of the best pieces of advice I have been given.
Do you have a idea of how many books you plan to write to complete the series?
When I first decided to write about one man press-ganged into the Royal Navy in the Age of Fighting Sail, who will eventually make admiral, I flow-charted out the likely progression of the books – including the rate/rank of the major characters, their ship, what battles they are involved in, female interest etc. It was rather daunting to see that I had a whole twelve outlines! How could I find enough material to sustain that many books? Well I have had to revise that upwards considerably – the more I have delved into the rich historical record the more scope I have found for Kydd’s ongoing adventures. I have nearly finished book 18, which comes out in the first half of next year and I have plans for at least another four.

Thank you to Julian Stockwin for your time and effort in answering my questions and also bringing readers a dedicated, enjoyable and enthralling historical fiction book series.


Thoughts and Impressions After Finishing The Book (Mini Review): After finishing Inferno I immediately understood why this series has been so successful. Julian Stockwin's attention to detail, his life at sea and his generous fountain of historical knowledge, all contribute to the overall feel of this book. The historical and military elements of Inferno kept me interested and invested throughout this book. My main issue with the book was both the structure and the pacing. I found the first act - where Kydd finds himself on a treasure hunt in the Scottish Isles - tacked on and didn't set the tone for the book very well. (though it was a good platform for Stockwin to have some fun with his historical knowledge :D)


Once this book jumped into the main storyline, I felt most of my concern related to the plot melt away, replaced by enjoyment of solid, comfortable and impressive writing. The 2nd/3rd acts of this book - the confrontation with Denmark and the inevitable war - were worth waiting for. I appreciate the fact that Stockwin ventured out of the comfort zone but he is much more enjoyable when he is crafting great sea/land battles and threading influential historical characters into his detailed plot lines.

8/10



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