I’m very excited to have author, Matthew Harffy on the blog today. Check out the interview I did with him, and the information on his new, historical fiction novel, A Time For Swords!
1. How long did it take to finish writing A Time for Swords?
From start to finish, before sending it off to my editor, about four or five months. There were then a few more weeks of edits needed, so probably about six months in total.
2. What was the inspiration behind A Time For Swords?
The idea came about as a “what if” question. I have read stories that are told by old monks who were warriors in their youth, but I asked myself what would happen if a young monk became a warrior. What if a novice monk, who witnessed a Viking attack on his monastery, decided to fight back?
3. If you could choose a character from A Time For Swords to have dinner with, who would it be and how would that go?
I think the most interesting character would be Hunlaf himself, the monk turned warrior, who is the narrator of the story. He hints at all the amazing events he has witnessed and been a part of all over the world, so I think the conversation over dinner would be incredibly interesting.
4. Do you experience writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?
I don’t know if I would call it writer’s block, but I do sometimes find it hard to focus and to get the words down on the page. This has been particularly difficult during the pandemic and the lockdowns that have taken place as a result. There have been all kinds of distractions and many days have been difficult. The only way I know to overcome the slow days is to force myself to write something. Often, the inspiration comes after I’ve written for a while. Even if the writing is not perfect, it can be edited. But you can’t edit a blank page!
5. Do you have any specific writing “rituals” you always do when you sit down to write?
I don’t, but I do have certain playlists and pieces of music I tend to listen to. Now, after years of listening to them, they seem to trigger an almost Pavlovian response in me, telling my brain it is time to write, making it easier to get into “the zone.”
6. What is the research process like for writing a historical thriller?
I tend to think of the main idea first, often linked with a major historical event, such as the first Viking attack on the monastery at Lindisfarne. I then research that event and work out ways to entwine my characters’ stories into the actual history. After that, it is about making sure that the details of the world are believable. So there is a lot of research about the clothes, weapons, food, drink, medicine, that sort of thing. Basically, all the things that the characters would just take for granted in their world. They don’t necessarily need to be described in huge detail for the readers, but they do need to feel right. If you get all the background details right, the world will feel real.
7. What is your favorite part of the writing and publishing process? Least favorite?
My favorite part is finishing the first draft of a new book, followed closely by seeing it in print.
My least favourite part is starting a new book, because I know how hard it is going to be and how long it will be before I get to hold the finished product in my hand.
8. What made you want to be a writer?
I have always loved creating things, be it pictures, songs, or stories. I never had a plan to be a writer, it just sort of happened, and after my first book, The Serpent Sword, did quite well, it felt natural to write the sequel. Since then, I haven’t looked back.
9. Is there a period in history that you haven’t written about that you would like to explore?
I love westerns. I would love to write something set in the latter part of the nineteenth century in the western States of America.
10. Do you have any advice for new writers?
My best advice is to finish what you start. Lots of people say they want to write a novel, but nobody will publish an unfinished book. What separates professional authors from amateur writers is that the professionals finish their manuscripts.
When the Vikings attack, a novice monk’s life is changed forever in Matthew Harffy’s new historical adventure.
There had been portents – famine, whirlwinds, lightning from clear skies, serpents seen flying through the air. But when the raiders came, no one was prepared.
They came from the North, their dragon-prowed longships gliding out of the dawn mist as they descended on the kingdom’s most sacred site.
It is 8th June AD 793, and with the pillage of the monastery on Lindisfarne, the Viking Age has begun.
While his fellow monks flee before the Norse onslaught, one young novice stands his ground. He has been taught to turn the other cheek, but faced with the slaughter of his brothers and the pagan desecration of his church, forgiveness is impossible.
Hunlaf soon learns that there is a time for faith and prayer … and there is a time for swords.
Matthew Harffy lived in Northumberland as a child and the area had a great impact on him. The rugged terrain, ruined castles and rocky coastline made it easy to imagine the past. Decades later, a documentary about Northumbria’s Golden Age sowed the kernel of an idea for a series of historical fiction novels that became THE BERNICIA CHRONICLES.
Matthew has worked in the IT industry, where he spent all day writing and editing, just not the words that most interested him. Prior to that he worked in Spain as an English teacher and translator. He has co-authored seven published academic articles, ranging in topic from the ecological impact of mining to the construction of a marble pipe organ.
Matthew lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife and their two daughters.
Matthew was the singer in Rock Dog.
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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