Give Tim a rousing Working Title welcome as he kindly agrees to answer our three searching questions
Your latest series ‘A Light in the Dark Ages’ is set in the Britain of Arthurian Legend. What attracted you to the period?
The idea for the first story, Abandoned, came about during a visit to the site of what was once the Roman town of Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester) in Hampshire. The site, maintained by English Heritage, is little more than a square patch of grass surrounded by the remnants of an earth bank and stone wall. The town was mysteriously abandoned some years after the Romans departed. I came away thinking, ‘what would it have been like being here after the Roman garrison marched out?’
From this starting point I began researching and writing the first story, and then developed the idea of writing a series that links the exit of the Romans between 409-410, with the coming of King Arthur. My idea is to build a story based around the few surviving accounts of the fifth century and incorporate elements of the Arthurian legend in a manner that will make it realistic and believable. Whether I succeed will be for readers to judge!
Which author would you say has been your greatest influence?
The short answer is NONE. I am very poorly read, at least in recent times, and most of the books that have stimulated my imagination were read when I was a teenager into my twenties. During my working adult life I lost interest in reading for pleasure, with a few exceptions, such as reading Heart of Darkness by Conrad and Blood River at the time I worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
I guess I like to have a reason to read a book – I’ve just returned from Edinburgh where I attended the Rebus30 Festival, and visited locations mentioned in Ian Rankin’s excellent novel Fleshmarket Close – as I was reading it. Perhaps it’s linked to my journalistic background. Having read this back, I now feel compelled to say, I do enjoy reading!
I have also made a conscious decision to not read too much in the genres I’m writing in, so that I write what I want without external influence. There is so much out there already. It was only last year that I dared to read my first Bernard Cornwell historical fiction novel – The Last Kingdom. Now that I’ve made my plans for my series, I’ve dared to start reading The Winter King and it’s driving me mad! They are both soooo good, I’m almost ready to throw in the towel on my own stumbling efforts. Another reason to not read too widely. Self-doubt often sits on this writer’s shoulder, so I try to filter out external influences wherever possible.
What makes you laugh?
Visits to Liverpool and Jack Dee make me laugh. I hail from Liverpool and have inherited the city’s cheeky, ironic humour. Whenever I meet up with friends and family on rare visits there I seem to be laughing none stop until I leave. It’s the place and the people that crack me up (with the exception of the over-exposed John Bishop)