7 Questions With Author Michael Ward
Michael Ward is the author of ‘Rags of Time’, a murder mystery based in London on the eve of the English Civil War. Michael is a former journalist and academic. He was a reporter and news editor for the BBC before taking a position at the UK’s prestigious journalism school at the University of Central Lancashire. In his final 10 years at the university he was Head of School.
He now runs his own consultancy providing content services and training to a wide range of British companies and public sector organisations.
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How does a day in your author life look?
It very much depends if it’s a research day or a writing day. Research days are great because (a) I get a chance to re-enter my 17th century world (b) I almost always discover something new and fascinating and (c) it’s completely different from my day job which is copywriting.
A writing day is also great because, well, I love writing. But it can be tough sometimes to reframe into fiction when I’ve spent that last three days writing content about industrial gases or heavy lifting equipment.
What are some common stereotypes related to the genre(s) you’re writing in?
I’m not sure this relates to a stereotype exactly, but when I decided to write early modern historical fiction, perhaps perversely I decided to avoid the most popular periods. Much as I love the Tudors, it just felt like such a ploughed field. I also wasn’t sure I had the nerve to tread the same path as brilliant writers such as Hilary Mantel.
That made me look at the Stuart years and after about a week’s research I was hooked. It felt like I had stumbled into Aladdin’s cave, tripping over fantastic material right, left and centre. It still does.
I’ve been grateful for that discovery ever since because the richness of the period – the extraordinary political, religious, scientific and commercial change that engulfed the country in just 25 years – greatly influenced the scope and direction of my book. I couldn’t write a murder mystery without exploring the ambitions, fears and hopes of the main characters. And I couldn’t do that in 1639 without immersing them in the full force and breadth of the transformations of that time. I owe the people of the 17thcentury a great creative debt.
How do you imagine your target reader?
Unlike some authors, I’m very open about saying that I’ve targeted my book at the readers of other authors. An Amazon reviewer recently put me (positively!) in the same sentence as Bernard Cornwell and I’ll take that any day!
I would like to think what I offer could also interest readers of CJ Sansom, Rory Clements and SJ Parris, to name but a few. If you like authentic historical settings and characters, underpinned by strong research but lightly applied, together with careful plotting and twist in the tail, I could be your man.
Just how much research is there behind a novel? Tell us how it looks behind the scenes.
I spent about two years researching ‘Rags of Time’. That was because I had to create a picture of Stuart London from scratch. Now I have an understanding of the period, I can build from that in Book Two which is in development. But, of course, what I’ve learned has opened dozens of other rabbit holes to dive into, so I have to be as disciplined as possible to keep on track. Nothing is wasted however because, for example, James Evans’s excellent book ‘Emigrants’, which I have just finished, has given me a great plot idea which I have squirrelled away for Book Four!
As I still work much of the week as a copywriter, I do not have the time to pursue primary written sources, but I find visits to 17thcentury buildings can be inspirational. I have a growing library of secondary source material and academic papers can also provide valuable insights and ideas.
We all know this industry is full of surprises. Can you share an unexpected experience?
Early in my planning for Rags of Time, I gave names to my characters and decided on the locations of their homes/places of work. Ralph was the name I chose for the father of my hero, and I located his merchant’s warehouse totally at random on an unnamed dockside on the north bank of the Thames.
Months later, I unearthed an online 17th century map of the city, the most detailed yet, with many more streets names than others I had seen. Scanning the screen, I came to the position I had chosen for my fictional merchant’s warehouse, only to discover that, almost 400 years earlier, someone had beaten me to it.
For there, in faded black and white, in the exact same location, was the unmistakable name ‘Ralph’s Quay’.
What should readers expect from your next novel?
I have already plotted a series of five ‘Thomas Tallant’ books, so number two will see our friends from ‘Rags of Time’ in more trouble as the black clouds of Civil War gather, ready to break over their heads. It’s an opportunity for me to develop their characters further and introduce one of two new faces, including a particularly nasty villain!
What’s the best advice/feedback on writing you’ve ever received?
“ The full stop is a great aid to sanity.” – Harold Evans
Find Mike Ward here:
Twitter: @mikewardmedia Amazon
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