Many thanks to Rory Clements for answering a few questions: I will be following up with a review of Holy Spy very soon. (if you have not read any of the John Shakespeare series, why not??)
- When I write a review I always like to give some background on the author, So who is Rory Clements? And why did he become a writer?
I was a grammar school boy, then journalist. But I always wanted to write books and live the glamorous lifestyle of Ian Fleming. Now, at last, I am writing books full-time, but I still don’t have my Goldeneye. Norfolk (where I live) is lovely, but it’s not the Caribbean.
- 2009 saw the first book in the John Shakespeare series, given all the penchant for swords and sandals books around that time, what made you choose Elizabethan England?
Well, I conceived the idea of the John Shakespeare series in the early 1990s, then spent fifteen years researching the period and planning the books. Why Elizabethan England? Because it’s the most glamorous time in history. No period has such an incredible cast of characters: Elizabeth, Mary Queen of Scots, Ralegh, Drake, Will Shakespeare, Marlowe, Walsingham, The Earl of Essex and many more. It was a time terror, war, conspiracies and religious strife – yet it was also a time of wonderful new worlds, both geographic and artistic.
- Who are the writers that have influenced you most, from making you want to be a writer, through to style?
What I like in a writer is the ability to create rich worlds and compelling stories – and to communicate them clearly and with verve. Someone like Graham Greene or Somerset Maugham or Robert Harris.
- John Shakespeare , what was the influence behind him as a main character, the investigator, rather than the person at the centre of power (eg a book following Elizabeth)? Is he based on anyone you know?
He’s based on his brother, Will. He is a humane, brave, intelligent man – in an era when the horror of public executions and bear-baiting were the norm. He is a man of action rather than poetry – but he share values of integrity and decency with his brother.
- Your books contain more than a whiff of the atmospheric of the time period, so barring a time machine stashed under the stairs where does the inspiration come from for the sights sounds and smells of Elizabethan England?
That’s where reading and imagination comes in. You don’t just think what was there – but what was missing. What was life like without proper sewerage, without the systems of communication we use, without any concept of Darwin’s theories? Then you think yourself into that world. It’s what novelists do. Particularly historical novelists.
- So 7 books into the series (congratulations), is there a defined story arc for John Shakespeare? And if so what comes after?
I do have further plans for John Shakespeare but can’t reveal them yet. What comes after? Well, I do have ideas for other, non-Tudor stories. Watch this space.
- If you had the choice of any other genre to write in, what would it be and why?
Today. There has never been a better time to be a writer. Books need never go out of print – and a huge audience is just a keyboard click away.
- What / who do you read for fun?
I read history books and novels of all sorts. If they’re not fun, they get tossed aside pretty quickly. The writer’s job is to keep the reader enthralled and entertained. If the reader’s bored, it’s the author’s fault. Recently I have read Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, a proof copy of Jakob’s Colours by Lindsay Hawdon, A Spy Among Friends by Ben Macintyre, Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell. I enjoyed them all immensely.
- If you could invite any four people from throughout history or fictional writing to dinner, whom would it be and why?
I did suggest elsewhere that I would like to invite some ghastly tyrants so that I could tell them what I thought of them before poisoning their soup. But for engaging conversation and great gossip, I would like Miguel de Cervantes, Anne Boleyn, Marilyn Monroe and Samuel Pepys.
- Finally, the bit most authors would shy away from. You have a soap box and the publisher has asked you to stand outside Kings cross and pitch your latest book Holy Spy to the passers buy… what would your pitch be to make the public buy this book/ series?
‘Free beer with every book!’ Not sure my publisher would go for that, but I think it would sell…
Books by Rory Clements
1. Martyr (2009)
2. Revenger (2010)
3. Prince (2011)
4. Traitor (2012)
5. The Heretics (2013)
5.5. The Man in the Snow (2012)
6. The Queen’s Man (2014)
7. Holy Spy (2015)