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Author Interview: Tom Williams

Author Interview: Tom Williams

Today I am pleased to welcome Tom Williams on to the blog with a quick interview! He’s come up with some fantastic answers!


What is your favourite thing about writing books?
It’s a compulsion. I think most writers will say the same thing. Actually writing books is hard work, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do and now I get up in the morning and do it. (Or answer Q&As like this.)

Who is your favourite character in your book and why?
James Burke. There’s no point in having an old-fashioned hero (strong, brave, cunning, loyal) and not liking him.

What is your favourite drink to consume while writing?
Tea. Or sometimes mate (a sort of cactus tea from Argentina).

Do you have any bad habits while you’re writing?
Staring out the window; vanishing down Internet rabbit holes; playing patience on my computer; making another cup of tea.

How do you research your books?
It depends on the book and the period. I generally start by reading a modern overview of the period and then I try to find contemporary accounts. I read a lot. I like to look at people’s diaries and letters. I’ll start writing and then I’ll realise there are lots of specific things I still need to know, so I get busy on the Internet to find them out.

Site visits are often useful and can be fun. To find out what it was like to ride a horse across the Andes in snow, I rode a horse up the Andes in snow. I spent some time in Paris trying to get a feel for what the Tuileries would have been like in 1814 and I walked round Seven Dials to imagine it in the mid-19th century. I’ve been known to hang around art galleries and museums as well.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
All my plots are set around actual historical events, so making sure that all the people are in the right places on the right days means that there has to be quite a lot of tight plotting.

If you could live in any fictional world, which would you choose and why?
I’m not really that into fictional worlds, which is why my stories are all so firmly based in history. John Williamson ends up living as a reasonably wealthy man in a large house in the country in the mid-19th century and I think that would have been pleasant. We do romanticise the 19th century, which was generally not a great time to be alive, but the key words in what I just said are “wealthy” and “man”. Affluent gentlemen could have quite a good life.

If you could befriend any fictional character, who would you choose and why?
Ford Prefect (from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) would be fun to be around – and useful if anybody ever decides to demolish the Earth to make way for a hyperspace bypass.

About the book

James Burke never set out to be a spy. But with Napoleon rampaging through Europe, the War Office needs agents and Burke isn’t given a choice. It’s no business for a gentleman, and disguising himself as a Buenos Aires leather merchant is a new low. His mission, though, means fighting alongside men who see the collapse of the old order giving them a chance to break free of Spanish colonial rule.

He falls in love with the country – and with the beautiful Ana. Burke wants both to forward British interests and to free Argentina from Spain. But his new found selflessness comes up against the realities of international politics. When the British invade, his attempts to parley between the rebels and their new rulers leave everybody suspicious of him.

Despised by the British, imprisoned by the Spanish and with Ana leaving him for the rebel leader, it takes all Burke’s resolve and cunning to escape. Only after adventuring through the throne rooms and bedrooms of the Spanish court will he finally come back to Buenos Aires, to see Ana again and avenge himself on the man who betrayed him.

About the Author

Have you ever noticed how many authors are described as ‘reclusive’? I have a lot of sympathy for them. My feeling is that authors generally like to hide at home with their laptops or their quill pens and write stuff. If they enjoyed being in the public eye, they’d be stand-up comics or pop stars.

Nowadays, though, writers are told that their audiences want to be able to relate to them as people. I’m not entirely sure about that. If you knew me, you might not want to relate to me at all. But here in hyperspace I apparently have to tell you that I’m young and good looking and live somewhere exciting with a beautiful partner, a son who is a brain surgeon and a daughter who is a swimwear model. Then you’ll buy my book.

Unfortunately, that’s not quite true. I’m older than you can possibly imagine. (Certainly older than I ever imagined until I suddenly woke up and realised that age had snuck up on me.) I live in Richmond, which is nice and on the outskirts of London which is a truly amazing city to live in. My wife is beautiful but, more importantly, she’s a lawyer, which is handy because a household with a writer in it always needs someone who can earn decent money. My son has left home and we never got round to the daughter.

We did have a ferret, which I thought would be an appropriately writer sort of thing to have around but he eventually got even older than me (in ferret years) and died. I’d try to say something snappy and amusing about that but we loved that ferret and snappy and amusing doesn’t quite cut it.

I street skate and ski and can dance a mean Argentine tango. I’ve spent a lot of my life writing very boring things for money (unless you’re in Customer Care, in which case ‘Dealing With Customer Complaints’ is really, really interesting). Now I’m writing for fun.

If you all buy my books, I’ll be able to finish the next ones and I’ll never have to write for the insurance industry again and that will be a good thing, yes? So you’ll not only get to read a brilliant novel but your karmic balance will move rapidly into credit.

Can I go back to being reclusive now?

Website. Twitter.

Would you want to like to be friends with Ford Perfect?

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