I am very pleased and honoured to host the second leg of Paul Collard’s first ever Blog Tour. This tour celebrates the release in PB of Paul’s book The Maharajah’s General, the second book in his Jack lark series. (You can read my review Here).
I first met Paul on Twitter about three years ago. Our mutual interest in History and Historical fiction meant that we became friends in that new social media way.
I believe that this was before the first book ( The Scarlett Thief, Review here) was even written. Now, on Twitter you meet aspiring writers all the time, people with half written books or desperately trying to find someone to publish their finished books.
I must admit that I thought that Paul fell into this category, he would either never finish the book (especially when I found out were he did most of his writing!) or would go down the self publishing route but Paul is nothing if not determined.
The book was finished, agents were found a publisher agreed to turn Jack Lark into a reality and before I knew it in May 2013 I had a review copy in my hand!
With the book in my hands I now faced a dilemma…”What if the book wasn’t very good!?” We had talked about this book for at least a year and a half and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it but what would I do if it was awful!?
How would I tell Paul I thought it wasn’t very good!? Luckily I needn’t have worried.
I loved the adventures of Jack Lark from the beginning (Phew!) and book two was even better.
I am very happy to host this Blog tour and here Paul tells us the books and novels that inspired him to take up a pen (well, Laptop) and bring to life the adventures of Jack Lark.
My Favourite Historical Novels
I have loved historical fiction for almost as long as I can remember. I can still vividly recall the first time I discovered a Sharpe novel and from that day on I have devoured every series I can lay my hands on. When I set out to write my own novel it never occurred to me even think of writing any other type of story. My first attempt, a distinctly mediocre effort set in the Peninsular War, may not have succeeded but my love for this genre was fully cemented.
So here are my five favourite historical fiction series, the ones that inspire me to this day.
I read Sharpe’s Honour as an impressionable eleven year-old one summer holiday and I must have re-read every Sharpe novel a dozen times since. There is something in Bernard Cornwell’s writing that is utterly captivating. I am mesmerised by the pace of his stories and so completely enthralled by the wonderfully described action that I find it nearly impossible to put a Sharpe novel down once I have started it. For me the Sharpe novels represent the pinnacle of historical fiction. The best of the bunch to my mind is Sharpe’s Enemy, a book I have read so many times that my first copy fell apart. Bernard Cornwell is a masterful storyteller and to see his quote on the front of my books is without doubt one of the highlights of my life, let alone my writing career.
George McDonald Fraser
I did not discover the Flashman novels until I was well into my twenties. Quite how they passed me by I have no idea but I am rather glad that did as I was able to read the series in one go, one fabulous adventure after another. George McDonald Fraser’s work is an absolute joy and I do not think I have read another author who writes with such style. Flashman is a bold and inspiration creation that can never be replicated.
Like the Flashman novels, I first read John Wilcox’s Fonthill novels when the series was well underway. I find John Wilcox’s novels tend to stick in my mind for a long time after I have read them and the quality of his work and his craft is worthy of a slower read that takes time to savour his skill. Not that these are slow-paced stories. The action comes thick and fast and in Fonthill and 352 Jenkins, Wilcox has created a double act that stands in fair comparison to Sharpe and Harper.
Christian Cameron’s work is a very new addition to my bookshelves. I read The Ill-Made Knight on the recommendation of Robin Carter (Parmenion Books) and I cannot remember ever being as captured by a story since I first discovered Sharpe. Simply put, Christian Cameron is one of the finest historical fiction writers working today. His books scream out in authenticity. Every last detail seems real and I cannot begin to comprehend the amount of research that must go into every story. I am now working my way through his Long War series and I have to say it has become rather hard to put down Christian Cameron’s work and even think about trying to write anything of my own as nothing feels like it is coming close to his level of quality.
Stephen E. Ambrose
Okay, so I am cheating here a little by talking about a historian rather than a writer of novels but I felt I had to mention Stephen Ambrose, as his work is a huge influence on my own. Stephen Ambrose is the historian behind a series of books that bring together the memories of men who fought in the Second World War. As a child of the seventies my childhood was dominated by the war fought by my grandfather’s generation. I grew up on a diet of Commando Comics, War Picture Libraries and films like The Longest Day and The Great Escape. But it was not until I discovered the work of Ambrose that I started to learn so much more about what it was like to actually be there.
Anyone who has watched Band of Brothers (based on one of Ambrose’s books) or Saving Private Ryan will understand me when I say that it was not until I saw these films alongside books like those produced by Ambrose that I started to understand something about the reality of the war. To my mind it does not matter than these works feature the soldiers of the Second World War. I imagine that the experience of war is really not so different be it is fought by an American paratrooper in 1944 or a British redcoat in 1854. There is a commonality in war that I can draw on to make my novels as hard-hitting and as real as I possibly can and I will always attempt to capture something of this in the battles and the action that I describe. It may not be to everyone’s taste but I think it is important not to pull any punches and to make my books as real as I possible can.