I had the honor of interviewing author Nick Brown, check out his upcoming book this Halloween-
Me: So my first question is, for those that aren’t familiar with you, tell us some about you and your books
NB: I have an archaeological background and have worked, written and researched archaeology, as well as teaching and lecturing in it. For twenty years, I was Principal of Oldham Sixth Form college, which I opened as a multi-racial college in the center of a segregated town with racial tensions. The college was highly successful and oversubscribed, which seemed to indicate that not only could the students get along with each other, but that they were capable of great things if given the right encouragement, I was awarded an OBE for this. Since 2009, I have been writing fulltime. I’m married with three sons, have degrees from Leeds and Manchester, am a Fellow of the Royal society of Arts and review books for a series of periodicals.
I am writing two series of novels: A supernatural thriller series “Ancient Gramarye”, and The “Luck Bringer” cycle which is set in ancient Greece.
Luck Bringer and The Wooden Walls of Thermopylae are set in the Persian Wars of the 5th century BC and I try to fill in the gaps in the story based on years of research. I’ve always loved this period of history and wanted to try and bring it alive to give a picture of the richness and danger of the early days of democracy. I have used real people, such as the dramatist Aeschylus and the politicians Miltiades and Themistocles and tried to picture them as they were. “Luck Bringer” was the editor’s choice of the Historical Novel society and has been nominated for their book of the year. The next in the series is “The Sacrifice of Athena”.
The first two in the supernatural series are “Skendleby” and “The Dead Travel Fast”. The third, “Dark Coven”, will be published at the end of this month. These seem more popular despite the fact they are quite strange books being a mixture of ghost story, quantum science, thriller, love story and exploration of faith. They have an archaeological basis with some strange experiences of my own, (I live in a very strange house), blended in and the direction they take surprises me. I am working on the next, and probably last, in the series to be called “Green Man Resurrection”, although, depending on how it develops, it may not be the last.
My ambition is to write a novel based on my experiences of racial politics and murder in Oldham and Manchester, but because of the sensitivity of the subject matter, I want to hone my writing skills so that I get it exactly right.
Me: Very awesome!, why the jump from running a college to being an author?
NB: I’d always wanted to write and I didn’t want to become too comfortable or complacent at the college. After twenty years, it was in a good place and I felt it would benefit from a new leader who would see it from a different perspective. It was a bit of a wrench to leave, but in a way, having to start again from the bottom was good for me, was tough at first and I miss working with people, but I’m glad I did it. I love writing and the research that goes with it.
Me: Very awesome!, you mention research, is that a big part of your writing?, and what kind of research do you do?
NB: For both series of books, I like to walk the ground so that what I write feels authentic. For the Luck Bringer cycle, this involved spending time in Greece, where I’ve also done field work, in fact, some of the material from the Samos based chapters came from an archaeological walking guide to the ancient city of Pythagorio, which I wrote. I find that spending time on battle sites allows you to feel yourself into the event and draw your own conclusions with regard to troop dispositions. For the Skendleby books, I spent time on a number of Neolithic and later sites and drew on my own experiences of field work and excavation.
I also read all the primary historical sources, these are few in number and leave many gaps, to try and fill these, I investigate other sources including modern historians. In the Greek books, I researched the literature. The plays of Aechylus the dramatist and a major character in the books was particularly fruitful. Aeschylus fought at Marathon and Salamis, he was there and the historians were not, and what his plays tell us differs from the historians and I find him a very useful literary barometer.
I think if you immerse yourself in research, then the books can come to life with integrity, also, I enjoy it.
Me: So you go to the ancient sites and study alot of history for every project?
NB: Yes, most of my writing has an archaeological or historical theme and you can only really get the feel a place by going to it.
Me: Very awesome!, so what are your other projects?, you mentioned 2, can you tell us more about them?
NB: I’m currently writing “The sacrifice of Athena”, the third in the Luck bringer series, which covers the period from the battle of Salamis to the battle of Mycale after which the Athenians took their first step towards building the empire that eventually led to the collapse of Sparta and Athens. I’m researching the 4th book in the Ancient Gramarye series “Green man resurrection”, which will take me to some of the stranger Neolithic sites. Then I may take a break and do a little practical archaeology.
Me: Can you tell us more about the 2 aforementioned series?
NB: I think that the Ancient Gramarye series was my outlet for the horrors of the two murders I encountered and their violent aftermath. It was kickstarted by a few strange experiences and I wanted to write about the legacy of the past in a modern landscape. The first book “Skendleby”, features a series of flawed characters coming up against something far above their capacities to cope, from the feedback I’ve received, I think it touched a nerve and elicited a strong reaction. Skendleby is a made up name for a fusing of several components of the place where I live, it begins when archaeologists find a hidden Neolithic burial mound meant never to be opened, they open it.
The very strange thing about this is that long after the book was published, a reader wrote to me from a real Skendleby in East Anglia where there actually is a Neolithic burial mound!!!
The second in the series, The Dead Travel Fast, is based on the Greek island of Samos which I know well. It deals with the original source of the evil contained in Skendleby. It also takes a dystopian view of what could have happened during the Greek financial crisis. I think it is an original and strange book.
The third in the series, Dark Coven, returns to Skendleby and is published this October on Halloween.
The origins of the Luck Bringer cycle go back to my first classics tutorial at university. I became fascinated by the curious rise and fall of the Athenian leader at the battle of Marathon, Miltiades (the battle which saved democracy). How did he manage to become a leader, win the battle and then two years later die in disgrace? I have researched it ever since and decided that the best way to tell the story would be through a research based novel. Luck Bringer is editor’s choice for the Historical novel society and shortlisted for Book of the Year.
The second in the series is The Wooden Walls of Thermopylae which takes the story forwards to the battle of Thermopylae and the burning of Athens by the Persians. I have always been interested in the myths about Thermopylae and the three hundred and have attempted to write what probably really happened, I have tried to bring the politics and culture of ancient Greece to life, as well as the war.
I am currently writing the third in the series, ‘The Sacrifice of Athena’.
Me: Sound like very awesome books!, you were unaware of the real Skendleby and the actual Neolithic burial mound?
NB: Yes, it was very strange, but I checked it out and he was right. Skendleby is a small place in rural Lincolnshire, where there is a Neolithic long chambered cairn burial mound. It has been excavated, and the excavation report was published, there are still a couple of copies available through Amazon, so I looked it up once, as unaware of both the place and the cairn.
Me: That’s ironic!, how did your Skendleby and burial mound differ from that one?
NB: It is a much bigger version of the one I invented for the Skendleby books. Mine was a much smaller one put up in shorter time scale to keep buried something that frightened the tribe. Unlike the known ones, which were designed to be seen, it was hidden in a remote part of the country with a bad reputation where no one would willingly go.
Me: Very awesome!, so alot of books are turned into movies, do you think any of yours will ever be movies?
NB: I think they would make good movies; Mr. Depp would be great as Theodrakis in the Skendleby books, a Greek detective who first appears in “The Dead Travel Fast”, and Russell Crowe would be perfect as Miltiades in Luck Bringer.
Me: Both awesome actors!, has their been any interest?
NB: No, I’ve not really had any time to push the idea, but it’s a plan for the future.
Me: Awesome!, what else can we expect from you in the future?
NB: Dark Coven in October this year, Sacrifice of Athena in 2016, Green Man Resurrection in 2017 if everything goes well. After that, something different.
Me: Awesome!, and what can you tell us about those?
NB: Green Man resurrection is the last, I think, in the Skendleby series; despite being a supernatural /horror thriller, it also deals with serious and moral themes. This has a surprising climax, although the clues were planted in the other books. I hope the end will satisfy the readers who have enjoyed the journey. When you reach the last pages of Dark Coven, out later this month, however, I doubt if you will second guess the end of the series.
Sacrifice of Athena ends with the climax, not only of the Persian War, but also of some of the back stories involving Mandrocles, Aeschylus, Lyra ,Themistocles and others. It sees Cimon, son of Miltiades, come of age. I think there will be more in this series.
Having decided to accept a commercial publishing contract however, I’m not sure of the frequency of the next books following Green Man and Sacrifice.
Me: Was it self-publishing before?
NB: It was a mixture before, a commercial publisher with some self-supplied services. However, once the books attracted attention and good reviews, I was given options. In many ways, being an indie author was a good experience. I review books for a series of publications and find the balance of quality between indie and commercial pretty even. The publishing industry seems unwilling to take risks and the market has become increasingly bland, TV tie ins, celebs etc. Whereas, there are some excellent indie authors, who take risks and who deserve more coverage.
Me: Very awesome!, what advice would you have for a new author?, or an indie author wanting to get signed?
NB: It is a hard world, and I think the best advice is to write because you love your subject. Write about what you know, so the book has integrity and you will be pleased with it. That gives you a book worth a publisher taking a risk. After that, it’s the ability to take criticism and continue to improve, but to keep sane, you must write to please yourself, if other people like it, it is a bonus.
Me: Very awesome!, is there anything else your fans be would be interested in knowing?
NB: Only that it is a source of great joy to me that people enjoy my books, it’s the reason I publish.
Me: Well that’s always good!, thank you so much for this interview!
NB: Thanks very much to you Bryan!