Astrodene's Historic Naval fiction is pleased to have obtained an Interview with Alaric Bond, author of the 'Fighting Sail' series, ahead of the publication of his new novel True Colours which will be released shortly.
What can you tell us about 'True Colours' without spoiling the plot for readers?
It follows 'The Jackass Frigate', opening in the spring of 1797. Jervis has won the Battle of Cape St Vincent, although the British no longer sail the Mediterranean. The story continues with Pandora, returning to an England plagued by problems; the Channel Fleet are rumoured to have mutinied, and the newly instigated Batavian Republic stand ready to support a French invasion fleet. Admiral Duncan has charge of the North Sea Squadron, although the vessels he commands are decidedly second rate; some being converted from merchants, and all in need of a refit.
You spent time researching Admiral Duncan for this book. He is not as well remembered as Nelson, what can you tell us about him?
On the face of it the two were not very alike; one being almost the antithesis of the other. Duncan with his massive frame and powerful presence exuded confidence, but shunned publicity. Whereas Nelson, a far slighter man with a thin, nasal voice, sought acclaim at every opportunity. Both were inspired, and inspiring, leaders however; both took great pains to look after their men, and both put faith in their captains. There are so many others worthy of note from that time; Hoste, Smith, Pellew to name but three.
From where do you draw your supporting characters? How do you name them?
Characters tend to be created through necessity; I need a surgeon, and I might name him after my doctor initially. Then the personality begins to show through, certain traits assert themselves, and the character becomes real in their own right. Then I may well alter the name if it does not fit but I rarely force dramatic changes on personalities; most emerge and develop of their own volition. Some, especially the younger ones, go through stages, some of which can be almost as challenging for a writer as they are a parent.... And they all have faults, a few they might notice and try to correct; others they will never know about, (however obvious the defects may be to all around). Faults are very important; my wife has an artificial silk rose. It is exact in every way, except there is an minor, but intentional, discolouration on one of the petals. It is that flaw that makes it so realistic; without it, the flower would be just too perfect.
Where do you typically write? Do you use a computer?
I also run a small business from my home, and am lucky enough to have a tiny study that doubles as the office as well as my writing room. During the course of a book the reference material tends to take over until yellow post-it notes cover every available wall, and piles of books sit to either side of the desk. Fine, until one of my colleagues has to use the office!. And yes, I always use a computer; I began writing on a typewriter but my dyslexia makes word processors pretty much essential.
Is there a time of day that best suits your writing?
I tend to choose periods when there is the least chance of interruption. Usually late evening when most of the creative work is done, followed by an early start the next morning for correction and revision. That said, most writers carry their current work around in their head; ideas, and solutions, come at all times.
What intrigues you about the period in which the books are set?
It was a time of great changes and innovation. This seems to be the case whenever we are at war.
You take great pains to base your books on the historical record. What challenges - and advantages - does this bring?
If all historical records concurred it would be a great advantage; as it is there are many discrepancies. Opinions also alter; it is amazing how a subject that has been heavily researched can throw up the occasional surprise; take the recent discussions regarding the site of Nelson's death, the order of battle at St Vincent, and the part Charles Douglas played in the breaking of the line at The Saints. I also work in other, more contemporary, fields where there is a greater feeling of freedom. However, even the less well recorded parts of history retain a structure and, though at times claustrophobic, it can also also be vaguely reassuring.
What’s next in the 'Fighting Sail' series?
Book four will probably stay with frigates, although I have a fancy for a larger one this time. I also want to mix up the crew somewhat, there is on officer from 'His Majesty's Ship' that I am aching to use again, and others I want to develop further. Working with a wide cast is very freeing; I can be far more decisive and the interaction is often fascinating. I would hate to be tied down to a single central character; someone I would be more or less stuck with until one of us dies!
'True Colours' is published by Fireship Press and will be available worldwide the week commencing 26 April.