Three. Children often ask me if any particular author has inspired my books. When it comes to the Defenders series the answer to that is Bernard Cornwell and the Last Kingdom series. I came to the series through the TV series. It blew me away. The characters and drama. And, mostly, the history. Then I started on the books. I became obsessed. I moved onto reading the wonderful Rosemary Sutcliff and others. I started taking bookings in places with a strong Viking or Anglo Saxon history so I could visit the sites. I loved it. I had never really engaged with history others than WW1 and WW2 before. Now I was reading it, watching it, visiting it… and writing it.
Two. I like to try my books out on children. The first Defenders book is troubled by ghosts of the Vikings who came here to attack Anglo Saxon culture. Where better to try a Viking storyline out than in Newcastle? The children at Newcastle School for Boys read my manuscript and I spent the afternoon with them hearing what they liked and what they didn’t like. It was extremely useful. They pointed out where the story was confusing. They also showed me parts of the story where I could make it a lot more exciting. It helped. That’s why the book is dedicated to the school where I am proud to be Patron of Reading.
One. I am a history writer. There. I’ve said it. I write books with historical backgrounds. But I still feel like a fraud saying it. I’m supposed to be a football writer, aren’t I? But I’m changing now. Look at the past few books I’ve written. Footballers fighting in WW1. Children going back in time to fly Sopwith Camels and Spitfires. Books about history as well as football. And that means I can do it. I can write about subjects other than football. That’s why Defenders is going to be about major historical events. The Vikings attacking the Saxons. The Iron Age. The Romans in Britain. Figures coming back from those pasts to haunt the present. That’s what Defenders is about. As well as football.
My new series – Defenders – is published by Barrington Stoke on 15th June 2017. It’s a mix of history, haunting and football. In the 50 days running up to publication I am going to do a short daily blog about how and why I wrote it.