Stories fascinated me when I was a boy, particularly those that offered adventure and escapism. I’d plough through the yarns of C.S. Lewis, Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl, then try my hand at storytelling with semi-illustrated tales of my own. I quickly found the sense of escapism was heightened when writing my own stuff. I think that’s why historical fiction works so well for me, spiriting me away to a long-lost time and place.
There are three authors who have chiefly shaped and influenced my adult writing style and reading interests: Valerio Massimo Manfredi for his passionately-told stories of Alexander, Troy and Rome, Sam Barone for his wonderfully detailed and absorbing tales of early antiquity and the dawn of the Bronze Age city-states, and David Gemmell for his unerring ability to create life from words (his characters positively leap from the page and sear themselves into your mind) while offering simple, earnest lessons in morality to boot.
When it comes to the all-important research side of things, I have to doff my cap to John Julius Norwich for his enchanting ‘Byzantium’ trilogy. This was a watershed read for me, showing me that a historical narrative could flow like fiction and underlining just how rich in storytelling potential history is. It was this wry, humourous, sometimes grisly and ultimately fatalistic series (read back to back in the space of a few weeks) that drew me away from the Roman high period and towards the late Eastern Roman Empire and its heir, the Byzantine Empire.
And if my eyes are tired, I can rely on the excellent Osprey catalogue to refresh them. They always come with consistently excellent illustrations ranging from legionaries and equites to Goths, Persian guards and Byzantine Varangians. Add to that the meticulous detail on everything from a legionary’s bootlaces to a Hun’s drinking habits, and my tales cannot fail to become ever more engaging. That’s all I can ask for really: to write of those worlds and immerse myself in the past . . . and hopefully spirit my readers to that place also.
My Legionary series is set in the Eastern Roman Empire in the late 4th century AD. Countless barbarian tribes surge against the imperial borders, driven by some dark horde that has arrived from the great steppe. On the Danubian frontier, the situation is critical: the crumbling, neglected forts and watchtowers along the riverbank are thinly garrisoned by 'mere' limitanei - the impoverished border legions. Pavo, a slave freed and sent to serve with the XI Claudia in this precarious land, finds himself thrust into a tumultuous sequence of events that will shape his destiny and the fate of the Empire.
The Legionary series was first published via my own publishing imprint, and has gone on to be picked up by publishing houses in Italy and Russia as well as being narrated for audio.
My Strategos Trilogy is set in 11th century AD Anatolia. The ailing Byzantine Empire teeters on the brink of full-blown war with the Seljuk Sultanate. In the borderlands of Eastern Anatolia, a land riven with bloodshed and doubt, a dark hero rises from the ashes of the conflict. His journey will be a savage one, taking him from the snakepit of Constantinople to the blistering heart of the Seljuk realm . . . all the time leading him towards the fabled plains of Manzikert.
The Strategos Trilogy was first published via my own publishing imprint.
My Empires of Bronze series takes place in the 14th and 13th centuries B.C. - an era when the world is ruled by four great superpowers... and is on the cusp of cataclysmic change. The story follows the life of the Hittite Prince Hattusili, born under the shadow of the Goddess Ishtar's curse, forged with a fiery will to prove her wrong. Life in these chaotic times takes him across the Hittite world and beyond its edges, to Troy, Egypt, Kadesh... and to his destiny.