Wednesday 4 November 2015


As part of my ongoing series of author interviews, today I welcome to the blog the talented historical fiction author, David Cook. David is a relative new kid on the block when it comes to the historical fiction scene, but he's already published several successful novellas and, as you will see, has plenty more stories to tell.

So sit back and let's get to know a bit more about David Cook and his writing.

Tell us about The Soldier Chronicles series of novellas. You have just launched the first novel length compendium of the first 5 in the series. What is the reasoning behind that decision to bundle them together? 

Fire and Steel is an anthology of the novella's; all designed to be snap-shots of a particular soldier in the long period of war between the years 1793-1815. All fiction, but very much based on actual events.

I self-published Death is a Duty in April and fortune's good wheel allowed me to spend nine days in June, Belgium, during the bicentenary anniversary of the Waterloo campaign. I was sat on the battlefield, high up where Napoleon's grande battery tried to shatter Wellington's centre, enjoying lunch with my good friend Adam, on the 18th - the day of the battle- and I overheard some Scottish re-enactors talk about the battle. And it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn't really taken that into consideration with the Highlanders of the Black Watch, the principle regiment as featured in the story. So I made some corrections on the spot, thanks to my ever-present notebook.

Upon my return to the UK I revisited the other four stories where I made corrections, re-jigged parts, expanded dialogues, fleshed out parts and with the series now enhanced, I'm very pleased with the end result.

I believe you started writing The Soldier Chronicles as backstories for the characters in your first (as yet unpublished) novel, The Desert Lion. What has happened to that novel? Will it be published soon?

Yes, The Soldier Chronicles will work as companion pieces to the series which starts with The Desert Lion. Right now, I'm waiting for it to come back from my editor and from there I will be amending the story over the next six weeks. I will then begin to pitch the story to agents and try the traditional publishing route. (Matthew: Good luck!)

The Desert Lion started it all off; all my writing. I read a journal of a redcoat soldier who recounted the Egyptian expedition of 1801 and I was fascinated by it. It's practically unheard of or written about and I thought it would make a brilliant story.

What attracted you to the period of the Napoleonic wars and these characters?

My father's love of the period and history passed down to me, but I it was from Secondary school history and English literature lessons that opened my eyes. The writings of Jane Austen and Sir Walter Scott spoke about society and battles and upon getting Sharpe's Siege as a Christmas present, my love of the period was complete. It all opened my eyes.

I also think from war-gaming the period and learning how their armies marched, the logistics, troop uniforms, weaponry, the different characters of the period and the politics just add to the fascination to this day. Talking to re-enactors who speak of their love of the period helps you understand how it can turn your mind to smoke - like a good woman!

Have you got more Soldier Chronicles planned? 

I have books 6-10 mapped out. Book 6 is called Tempest and is about the last invasion of Great Britain, when in 1797 a French force managed to slip through the wooden walls of the Royal Navy and land in Pembrokeshire, Wales. They wanted to unite the workers, spread liberty and revolutionary zeal and burn the city of Bristol to the ground. Can they be stopped in time? Tempest will be out, Spring, 2016.

What about novels set in the same period?

The Desert Lion will start the planned series of books from 1801-1815. I have rough outlines that will probably change, so I'm not sure just how many the series will go to. Perhaps  10, 12, 15 - I don't know.

I’ve seen you’ve also worked on a retelling of the story of Robin Hood. What is the status of that project?

After I sent The Desert Lion to agents around 2008 and getting no interest with the early drafts, I decided to write about something different. It would be a story that I wanted to read, love and told in first-person style and I've always loved the legend of Robin Hood. The Wolfshead is about one of Robin's trusted men and will set the record straight about the legend, intermingling history; but not about the Crusades or the Peasants Revolt. As I'm English I grew up with the stories and have seen the legend watered down over the years, particularly with TV and films. I have gone for 13th century brutal violence, religion, and grit. I'm really proud of it and someday hope to get it released.

If you had to choose only one real historical figure to feature in your future novels, who would it be and why?

It would be Sir John Moore, the creator of British Army training reforms for light infantry - which went on to become the elite regiments. Moore was present in Ireland, and features in Liberty or Death, the first story in The Soldier Chronicles. He also plays a part in The Desert Lion. He was a kind man, courageous, ahead of his time and a humanitarian. Another reason to write about him is that there isn't much on the shelves dedicated to him and I think there should be.

When did you start writing? What made you take the plunge and write your first book? I think you, like most authors including me, still have a full-time day job that pays the bills. Do you foresee a future when you can give up the day job and write full time? If so, how far in the future is that moment, do you think?

It started writing because I wanted to read a book about the Egyptian campaign and there wasn't one. It was, and still is, a hobby, because I work full-time. The dream is to become a full-time writer, but I don't see that as an option in the near future.

What has surprised you most about writing?

I'm surprised that characters have their own voice! I'm surprised when things happen that I didn't plan at all.

What writer or book has had the biggest influence on your work?

It would be Bernard Cornwell and Sharpe's Siege was the catalyst.

What are the best and worst things about being a writer?

Writing is a lonely job, it's a double-edged sword.

What is the best book you've read in the last twelve months?

Make Me, by Lee Child. The latest Jack Reacher novel and its brilliant. I love the plot twists, the character definitions and the action.

What is the most exciting experience you've had as a result of writing?

It's connecting to other writers, readers and book lovers.

And now for the quick-fire questions:

Tea or coffee?

Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon.

Burger or hot dog?


Villain or hero?

Hero, because they can do things wrong too.

Beer or wine?


Movie or TV series?

TV series (this is before Star Wars The Force Awakens comes out though :) )

Happy ending or tragedy?

Happy ending to the story.

In the car, audio-book or music?


Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions and best of luck with Fire and Steel and your future writing.

Connect with David online:

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