Author Interview: Richard Denham
1. What inspired you to become a writer?
I remember reading ‘AD 500’ by Simon Young, a brilliant and fascinating title about Dark Age Britain. It’s unique and is written almost as travel-guide, following a Byzantine diplomat trying to make sense of the island after Roman rule. It’s engaging, funny and informative. I remember putting it down and pretentiously thinking, ‘I could do that’, and so my first book, ‘Britannia: Part I: The Wall’ began!
2. What's your favourite book of all time?
My favourite fiction title is probably ‘The Lantern Bearers’ by Rosemary Sutcliff. Her work tends to see Roman Britain through rose tinted glasses and clings on to the idea of a mythical golden age, but the story itself is excellent.
3. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Write for yourself and write what you enjoy. Lots of people suggest writing for a target reader, but I don’t personally agree. Who or what is a ‘target reader’ and do they even exist? The world of publishing has changed beyond recognition in the last decade or so and writers need to be realistic about sales figures. It sounds harsh, and there are exceptions, but if you want to write books as a full time career you will probably be disappointed. Remember the cold, hard fact – no one cares about your book as much as you do!
4. What is the most frustrating thing about being an author?
Promotion and marketing. You could write the greatest book of the year but if no one knows it exists then it doesn’t mean anything. There are so many books out there that have been lovingly put together, over years of sweat and tears, only for sales to flatline and for the book to disappear among the millions of others. As authors we convince ourselves that if only people knew about our books, they would all buy a copy, and they would love it, but unfortunately there are millions of authors who feel the same. Social media is great, but it’s a bit of an echo chamber of authors shouting about their own titles with few people ever buying or reading them. There is no magic wand for promotion, not that I know of anyway, I’ve read horror stories of authors wasting thousands on advertising simply for it to never translate into sales.
5. What's your favourite movie?
It depends what mood your in I suppose. I love war films, ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and ‘Dunkirk’ are two of my favourites. I’ve got a soft spot for anything starring Will Ferrell too. I generally prefer shows, ‘Black Mirror’ by Charlie Brooker is absolutely genius and probably the greatest thing out there. 'Game of Thrones', if we excuse the way it fizzled out at the end, is another series that will be in my top ten.
6. What's better, dogs or cats?
I love them both, I used to hate cats, I thought they were cold, loveless and selfish but then I got my first ragdoll kitten last year and I’ve seen the light! Cats are easy and very independent, dogs are lovely and affectionate but they’re hard work.
7. If money was no object, how would you spend your life?
A nice big house in the country or by the sea, with an army of dogs. In fantasy land, I’d love to run a trust that provided free solar panels to deserving people and charities.
8. Do you draw from personal experiences when you write?
I think all writers do, whether they realise it or not. You can’t help being shaped by the world around you and your experiences.
9. What is more important? Strong characters or a strong storyline?
Strong characters, when you think of your favourite books, tv shows and films, it’s probably the characters that you remember. A strong character can prop up a mediocre storyline but a strong storyline can rarely help weak characters.
10. What advice would you give to first time writers when submitting their work to publishers or literary agents?
Don’t be cocky and always be modest. Remember no one cares about your book as much as you do. A publisher or an agent isn’t doing you a favour by working with you. Accept that rejection is part of writing and understand you are competing against thousands of other writers. On the flip side, remember that 'being published' isn't some magic bullet that will suddenly make you a millionaire. Take constructive criticism on board and always be polite.
You can view Richard Denham's titles by clicking here.