I’m very excited to have author, David Gilman on the blog today. Check out the interview I did with him, and the information on his new, historical fiction novel, Shadow of the Hawk!
Interview with David Gilman
How long did it take to finish writing Shadow of the Hawk?
Nine months, and then editing and rewriting. But the work is essentially done in that eight-nine month period. There are no structural changes once I get to the endpoint, those have been done along the way. It’s mostly looking at how to improve a paragraph. That kind of thing, and also to check the facts again as best as I can.
What was the inspiration behind the Master of War series?
My wife came back from an art class and showed me a fresco she had done of a handsomely attired medieval man on a magnificent horse. I had seen it years before in Florence’s Duomo. It was of a 14th Century English mercenary captain in the 100 Years War who fought primarily for Italian states. I knew nothing of the period and began researching it. I soon realized that it might be a time in history that had received little attention in fiction.
When you started this series, did you intend for it to go on for seven novels, or did that develop over time?
When I started researching the period I realised there was potential for a three-book series. But from the start it was obvious it could run for a long time and my readers and publishers agreed.
If you could choose a character from Shadow of the Hawk to have dinner with, who would it be and how would that go?
There’s an elderly Jewish physician in Shadow of the Hawk, Halif ben Josef. He has learnt and shared his skills from and with the Moors. The crossover of culture often bypassed religious beliefs, and that well of knowledge from the Ancient Greeks, to Persia, to Europe must have been a fascinating journey. I would enjoy sitting and listening to the ancient wisdom learnt and passed down.
Do you experience writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?
I trust my instincts on the one hand and the logical side of my brain on the other. It’s not a block as such, more of a “how the heck do I get my people out of this mess?” I can get stuck, and it can take time to find a believable way to solve the problem. Maybe that’s writer’s block?
What is the research process like for writing a historical fiction?
It’s a long process. I search for obscure books on the subject and have built up a fairly comprehensive library. That’s my first point of reference and I have hundreds of websites that offer snippets of information that I often cross-check. There are also medieval court rolls that list information such as the annual census of cities and the names and occupations of the citizens.
It’s important to find a balance between facts and authenticity. It’s not an author’s job to show how clever they are, but to weave these elements skilfully into a story so that it comes across as natural as possible.
What is your favorite part of the writing and publishing process? Least favorite?
I like being attracted to a particular subject. That starts the creative juices flowing. Then, of course, the obstacles seem to get ever bigger once I delve deeper. But once I commit I like to solve the problem. And, for me at least, problem-solving is the process of writing. There is no “least favorite” part of the process except when I have put myself and my characters into an impossible situation and cannot find a way out. Then it can take a long time just to write the paragraph to resolve the issue.
Is there a period in time you haven’t written about that you would like to explore?
Over the years—if I include my other work besides novels—I think I have covered every period of history except Ancient Greek and Roman History. It’s strange because it was the one subject I excelled at in my school days. I’m not drawn to the period now because I think there are a lot of authors covering that area of fiction. Lurking somewhere in my mind is a trilogy set in the First World War. I have written a radio play set in that time but never explored it fully in a novel. It would be a more gentle story than my medieval novels. It’s impossible to say where I might be next attracted to.
Do you have any advice for new writers?
So you want to write a book?
Mostly, I would suggest keeping that information to yourself. The moment you let the cat out of the bag there will be naysayers, and doubt and fear can shut down anyone from starting a creative endeavour.
This is not an easy road to riches as many may think (of course there are exceptions) and if an aspiring writer has those thoughts they should stick with the day job. There has to be an unstoppable desire to tell the story. Not only to tell a story but to tell it well—and that’s the difficult part. Not sure how to start? Pick up a novel of your favorite author in the genre you want to write, read the book and see how that author creates the narrative rhythm and the characters that hold your attention
Is your idea an absolute “must-do” story? Can you relate to the characters? How they feel? Is it a book to banish your demons? You don’t need to explain this to anyone except yourself. It’s your dream. Do your best to set aside time to write. Get the discipline going. Ignore the world and create your own. Don’t be put off by anyone. Yes, it can be a formidable task so take as much time as necessary to do the very best job you can—rewrite, read and rewrite again—before you submit your work to anyone. Take a long hard look at your novel and once you tell yourself that’s the best you can do send it off. And then start the next one.
Thomas Blackstone, Edward III’s Master of War takes to Spain in the seventh instalment of David Gilman’s gripping chronicle of the Hundred Years’ War.
The King is dead.
Defeated on the field of Poitiers, Jean Le Bon, King of France, honoured his treaty with England until his death. His son and heir, Charles V, has no intention of doing the same. War is coming and the predators are circling.
Sir Thomas Blackstone, Edward III’s Master of War, has been tasked with securing Brittany for England. In the throes of battle, he rescues a young boy, sole witness to the final living breaths of the Queen of Castile. The secret the boy carries is a spark deadly enough to ignite conflict on a new front – a front the English cannot afford to fight on.
So Blackstone is ordered south to Castile, across the mountains to shepherd Don Pedro, King of Castile, to safety. Accompanied only by a small detachment of his men and a band of Moorish cavalrymen loyal to the king, every step takes Blackstone further into uncertain territory, deeper into an unyielding snare.
For the Master of War, the shadow of death is always present.
David Gilman has had an enormously impressive variety of jobs – from firefighter to professional photographer, from soldier in the Parachute Regiment’s Reconnaissance Platoon to a Marketing Manager for an international publishing company in South Africa. He is also a successful television screenwriter. From 2000 until 2009 he was principal writer on A Touch Of Frost. He has lived and travelled the world gathering inspiration for his exotic adventure series along the way. Now, David is based in Devonshire, where he lives with his wife, Suzy Chiazzari.
The Englishman is a new thriller series introducing Dan Raglan, a contemporary knight errant who served in French Foreign Legion.
MASTER OF WAR is the first book of David Gilman’s series that follows the fortunes of Thomas Blackstone, a village stonemason in England sent to fight with King Edward’s army as an archer against the French in 1346. In the bloodiest of conflicts he discovers friendship, love and sacrifice but his destiny has yet to be played out. From humble beginnings this common man’s reputation becomes legend. Rich in historical detail, MASTER OF WAR propels the cast of characters on an epic journey through the violence and political intrigue of the 100 Years’ War.
David is also author of two standalone novels for adults, The Last Horseman, set during the Boer War and Night Flight to Paris, a WW11 novel that pits a reluctant hero against the Nazi forces in Paris in 1943.
Monkey and Me is written for younger children.
While the DANGER ZONE YA adventure series featuring plucky hero Max Gordon is aimed at YA readers. Each book in the trilogy has a different geographical setting. THE DEVIL’S BREATH won the prestigious French award, Le Prix Polar Jeunesse, was shortlisted for the Manchester Book Award and the Spellbinding Award, nominated for the Carnegie Medal, and picked for the UK government’s recommended reading list for boys. It was also shortlisted for the 2010-2011 Isinglass Teen Read Award in New Hampshire, USA.
Let me know what you think in the comments. I’d love to interact with you. If this sounds like something you would read, let me know!
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