Sunday 20 February 2022

INTERVIEW: Alistair Tosh, author of Edge of Empire: Siege

Today it is my great pleasure to welcome debut novelist, Alistair Tosh, onto the blog. His first novel is Siege, the first in the Edge of Empire series. It is a gripping action adventure story set in the tumultuous Roman Britain of the second century AD. I've been lucky enough to read it and I'm sure we will be seeing a lot more of Alistair in the future.

 First tell us about your debut novel, Edge of Empire: Siege.

Siege is an historical adventure set in the wilds of second century northern Britannia. At its heart is the relationship that develops between two men. Lucius Faenius Felix, an inexperienced Roman Tribune, of the patrician class, given command of the First Nervana, an auxiliary cohort. The other is a grizzled, veteran cavalry Prefect and warrior of the Germanic Nervii tribe. Their story will take them through bloody, terror filled battles against the tribes of the north. Lucius’s ordeals will ultimately transform him from callow youth to a battle-hardened war leader with dreams of recovering his lost family lands. Cai, feeling his mortality as his time with the Nervana nears its ending, seeks the love of the beautiful and strong-willed Alyn, widow of his childhood friend. But, as the fearsome Novantae tribe and their allies sweep across the land once more, threatening the province, both men must stand their ground in a final desperate battle that will mean victory for the Nervana or its destruction.

How many books have you got planned for the Edge of Empire series?

So far, there are three planned. The second is well underway and will be published later in 2022. However I have outlined sketches in my mind to take the story on beyond that. Possibly jumping to the next generation of characters who are currently children in the story. But I have also found to my surprise that characters often take on a life of their own and may drive the way events develop. It’s great fun.

Where did you get the inspiration for the series? 

I’ve had bits of the story in my head for years. As a lad growing up in Dumfriesshire I regularly visited Burnswark Iron Age hillfort on my bike. I saw the remains of the two Roman siege forts and the grass-covered mounds of the ballista platforms, called the Three Brethren locally. I wondered what it must have been like for the defenders in what must surely have been a brutal, terror filled, siege. But it was my research into the likely events at Burnswark, and the political backdrop to it, that really highlighted where the story was. 

What was the biggest surprise for you while writing Siege?

I originally envisioned that the battle for Burnswark, the Novantae’s sacred hill in the book, would be the climax to the story. But as I was writing events and characters took on a life of their own and I went in a different direction. Burnswark is now concluded in the book's first act. Weird eh? But, I feel the final battle is even more tense and bloody as a result.

One of the most popular pieces of writing advice is “write what you know” – what do you think about that?

I think I would rather say, write what you want to read. I enjoy reading a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction. But ultimately my true love is in the Roman and early middle ages historical fiction subgenres. I may, one day, write stories outside of these but it is where I am getting most enjoyment at the moment. Hopefully that shows in my writing.

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

That’s a difficult one. I think I have always been drawn to stories with some kind of journey or adventure at their heart. As a lad I didn’t read much other than comic books. But when I joined the Navy there were often long periods of boredom, particularly during night watches at sea. I remember clearly a mate giving me a dog eared copy of The Hobbit during one such watch. I read it cover to cover in no time. So Tolkien was definitely a formative influence. Looking at my own genre, probably someone like Anthony Riches has influenced me to a fair degree. He is the first writer I can remember able to articulate the language of the military and in particular the shorthand banter between comrades. 

This is your first book. Congratulations! I know how much work goes into getting published. What advice have you got for aspiring writers?

Invest in your writing. Do the creative writing courses. Attend writing conventions and speak with other writers. You may think you can write, and you probably can, but by the gods you can develop considerably as a writer in even a short period of time.

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

I recently reread Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff for the umpteenth time, it never gets old. I think the best new book I’ve read is Better Off Dead by Lee Child and Andrew Child, his latest Jack Reacher story. Sometimes you just want to see the baddies have their legs broken before they are brutally killed. 

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

Seeing my new book cover for the first time. It’s a simple but dramatic image that really encapsulates the sense of tension that fills much of the story. I was really blown away by it. 

How far are you into writing the sequel of Siege? What plans have you got after that?

I’m about a quarter of the way through the first draft of book 2. I hope to have it ready for my editor by early summer. I plan to take a short break after that as we are about to move house and we’ve got a couple of holidays booked in Spain and Portugal that will also enable me to do some final research for book 3. Is that a spoiler?

And now for the quick-fire questions:

Tea or coffee?

Coffee all day long

Burger or hot dog?


Villain or hero?

Hero. Of course.

Beer or wine?


Movie or TV series?


Happy ending or tragedy?


In the car, audio-book or music?


Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions. Best of luck with the book and your future writing!

Thanks, Matthew, for inviting me onto your blog and giving me the chance to talk about my debut novel.

Connect with Alistair:

Buy Siege:

Thursday 3 February 2022

Interview with archaeologist and runner, Craig Huddart

Craig Huddart talks to me about my latest book, my writing and we discuss Craig's crazy charity running challenge - running 4225km in 2022 to raise funds for two amazing charities, the

and the .