Author Interview with
I am absolutely delighted to be part of Simon's Book Tour today for his wonderful book 'The Claimant' and share with you the interview I had with him.
Your novel ‘The Claimant’ has been described as ‘unputdownable, gripping, very detailed and well written’, Could you share with us a little about the process of writing ‘The Claimant’?
Haha, that’s nice to hear! Well, “the process” took 11 years altogether. I began a correspondence course with “The Writer’s Bureau” in 2000 experimenting with short magazine articles. I enjoyed writing but found it difficult to get anyone to publish my material. It was then I decided I would write a book and since my dear, wise mother said “write about what you know” I came up with the idea of an adventure set in my favourite period of history. I thought up some suitable characters, being careful to give them all credible dates of birth, back stories etc then I roughed out the beginnings of a plot. I was never able to adhere to a writing schedule however, so there were days where the words flowed like water interspersed with times when I couldn’t come up with a single sentence. I remember a whole year when I never typed a word. In the end it was a 10-day delay in exchanging contracts on our new house that spurred me into action and I completed the book by writing 70 pages in a week!
What was the most difficult challenge in writing this novel?
Firstly trying to discipline myself to write on a regular basis (I failed dismally, see above!) and secondly working out where the story was going. When I was about a quarter of the way through I showed the manuscript to a friend of mine. He came back after reading it saying enthusiastically “I’d love to know what happens next!” I replied “so would I…”
Have you visited places associated with the characters in your book? If so, which places did you visit and do you have a favourite location?
Yes! I think it’s most important to have a genuine feel for the places I am describing. I have visited Towton battlefield, St Albans, Ludlow, Denbigh Castle and more but my favourite area was where I imagined the Wardlow estate to be close to the villages of Bodfari and Caerwys in North Wales. A lovely view can be had by ascending the northern end of the Clwydian Hills, just like Edmund did in the book.
Who is your favourite character in ‘The Claimant’ and why?
It has to be Edmund because he is me!!! Clever, calculating and ruthless but also charming, honourable and brave. Oh, and handsome of course…
What was the reason you choose to self-publish your book before Made Global Publishing picked-up your book and re-published it?
From what little I knew of the publishing world at the time I just assumed my manuscript would “do the rounds” to no avail and I would be able to paper my walls with rejection slips. I saw self-publishing as a way to be in full control of the process (I did my own editing and proofreading and I also took the photos which went into my self-designed cover). Also “print on demand” meant I wouldn’t be investing in a print run only to find myself with a garage full of unsold copies.
What sparked your interest in the 15th Century and the Wars of the Roses?
I can tell you exactly! I have always been interested in armour, weapons, knights and castles but on one of my many visits to Leeds Armouries there was a special display about the Battle of Towton. I was shocked that I had never heard of it (we didn’t cover the Wars of the Roses in history at school) so I made it my mission to learn as much about the period as I could. It was upon first reading about the events and individuals involved in this bloody power struggle that I realised you couldn’t make this stuff up. So many unexpected twists, turns and betrayals! I wanted to take this amazing real-life “plot” and populate it with characters of my own so I could retell actual historic events through their experiences.
If you had the power to change the past and re-write anything that happened during the Wars of the Roses, which event would you choose to change?
Opinion on Richard III is strongly divided but I have always seen him as loyal brother, a capable, brave soldier and a popular and fair landlord. I always think it’s so sad that after attempting to bring the Battle of Bosworth to a swift end by courageously taking the fight directly to Henry Tudor, Richard was brutally hacked down by common soldiers. I would tweak events ever-so-slightly so that Richard was victorious!
If you could ask any historical person a question, what would it be and who would you ask?
Ah, so many possibilities! If we stick with the Wars of the Roses however I might ask Richard, Duke of York, a couple of questions such as why did he leave his wife and children in Ludlow Castle to be captured by the Lancastrians in 1459 and why did he venture out from Sandal Castle on 30th December 1460 without first properly scouting the surrounding area in which an unexpectedly large Lancastrian army lay in ambush?
Do you have a favourite ‘Wars of the Roses’ related place?
I think the battlefield at Towton scores very highly as the layout has barely changed since the terrible events of March 29th 1461. No building had taken place so you can take in the full extent of the site and perhaps try to imagine what it might have looked like covered in snow with some 50,000 or more men fighting to the death.
What was the last book you read?
I have to confess I don’t read many books these days! I went through a period years ago when I read most of the “classics” such as Hardy, Dickens, Austen etc and whilst researching my story I devoured a great many Wars of the Roses reference books, but I tend to be too fidgety to sit down and take the time to have a good read. The last book I bought and enjoyed was the excellent “Jasper Tudor” by Debra Bayani and I’m not just saying that – it’s true!!!
What is your favourite book?
I have many, many favourites for lots of different reasons and covering numerous genres but I really enjoyed “Excession” by the (sadly) late Iain Banks. It’s a far-reaching and hugely imaginative tale of future worlds – merely to label it “sci-fi” would be a gross injustice.
What three new skills would you like to learn?
I would love to be able to work metal into arrowheads, sword blades and even pieces of armour. Seeing skilled smiths doing so on TV is like watching some kind of dark magic!
If I had the money I would LOVE to get my Private Pilot’s Licence. I once had a flying lesson over Snowdonia and it was unforgettable.
It would be wonderful if I could learn to dance gracefully but don’t hold your breath…
What do you like to do outside writing?
I am a keen photographer and also have a large Scalextric track in my loft! I love visiting castles and stately homes and walking among the Cumbrian Fells. I have also had a passion for motorcycles since I was 16.
Are you presently working on a new book?
Yes! I have written about 8,000 words of the sequel to “The Claimant”. Progress has been slow but after all the very positive feedback from people about the re-published version of my first book I now have the incentive to get moving on the follow-up! The working title is “The Greyhound and the Raven”.
I would like to thank Debra Bayani for the opportunity to tell people a little about myself. Answering these questions has been great fun!
For as long as he can remember Simon Anderson has been fascinated by the medieval world, in particular the glorious triumphs and shattering reverses of the period in English history known as the Wars of the Roses. He has undertaken extensive research on the subject in both England and Wales visiting castles, battlefields, churches and tombs. Although not a member of any official re-enactment group, Simon has practiced archery using an English longbow, amassed a modest collection of reproduction weapons and armour and occasionally worn a complete outfit of 15th-century clothes. He sees this as the best way to get a true feel for the people of those times and give his writing extra authenticity.