Friend of the blog and soon to be epic wall walker (see our earlier post), Anthony Riches has kindly taken the time to answer some more of our questions. Here he goes into detail about the long road to success, how to deal with critics and above all else, why a good red wine and a great scotch are the cure for most ills...
Falcata Times: How would you say that your perspective has changed about selling your own work with multiple novels under your belt?
Anthony Riches: I'm a lot more relaxed about the whole process than I was during the delivery of Arrows of Fury. I had no idea if I could do it again, despite all the bravado with which I faced down my inner uncertainty. Having seen AoF get accepted with only minimal changes to sharpen the plot I’m pretty comfortable in my writing skin now, and ready to take Marcus from 182ad through to 211, in what I plan will be a series of novels set across the late 2nd century Roman Empire’s magnificent diversity.
FT: How would you sell yourself as an author?
AR: Hmmm. How not to demean one’s work whilst making it clear that it’s not exactly literary fiction? Let’s put it this way: I write the kind of stories that I enjoy reading. My novels are about duty and comradeship in difficult times, and the history comes a close second to the plot action. I’ve been described as a ‘Roman Andy McNab’, and if I could achieve anything like the sort of sales that he routinely manages I’d be a happy man! Oh, and my business partner Graham says I have to use his strap line – ‘Gore Galore!’ There you go, my writing summed up in two words!
FT: How would you say that your experience of writing and publishing has changed your method of writing?
AR: That’s a simple one. In the days before I got into print I could decide not to write for a month if I felt out of sorts. Now that I understand the industry’s need for routine and dependable delivery of product if the author is going to build a readership, I can’t allow myself that sort of luxury. Nothing else has changed apart from my recently acquired discipline of writing regularly, but then my books have pretty much escaped any serious surgery to date. If that were to change I suppose I’d have to take a hard look at the nature of my output, but that hasn’t yet come to pass.
FT: With the experience that you've gained now, what do you wish you could have told yourself when you were starting out that you now know?
AR: Just to push the first manuscript harder and earlier. I dithered over the damn thing for years – well, over a decade in point of fact. It’s a lot easier to get through the publishing maze if you have a well known name, or a relevant and prestigious expertise in the era about which you’re writing, which means that there must be many great authors festering down dead ends due to lack of contacts, confidence or perseverance. I would have told myself to stop being so pathetic and get the script out there.
FT: What characteristics of your protagonists do you wish that you had yourself and why?
AR: Ambidextrous and expert sword fighting skills would be pretty near the top of the list, closely followed by the stamina to march long distances in heavy Roman armour – and there’s a great chance to mention the Wall Walk that Robin Wade and I are undertaking between 30th May – 3rd June for Help for Heroes. (http://www.justgiving.com/Anthony-Riches). Apart from that I’d like the ability to hand out abuse as inventively as some of the harder edged centurions in my stories – I’m much more one dimensional in my everyday choice of rude language.
FT: Which of your characters are most like you and why?
AR: I’m not sure any of them are very much like me…perhaps my cynicism creeps through every now and then, and the choice of language is a lot like me. I write my characters from what I see in the people around me, not about me…I think.
FT: What of life’s little addictions could you not live without and why?
AR: Good red wine with dinner, great Scotch whisky after it, but most of all, the high performance internal combustion engine.
FT: With regular trips for book tours around the country as well as to various Conventions, what is an absolute travel essential that you couldn't do without?
AR: What book tours and conventions? Come back to me when the Empire series has raised that sort of interest! However, my absolute travel essential given that I spend quite a lot of time on plane has to be the iPod Touch, absolutely the best single device I’ve ever had.
FT: Previously you've had some problems when others have critcised your work, how do you think you've changed to adapt to it or would you say that you're just the same?
AR: Look, every author gets criticised, it’s just part of being published, and anyone that can’t take a joke shouldn’t have joined! I recall getting two crits in short succession on Amazon, one of which pretty much said I was a low brow gore merchant with absolutely no grasp of the period, the other one bemoaning that fact that all the history in ‘Wounds of Honour’ was getting in the way of the action. I don’t think I could change the way I write very much, even if I wanted to, and indeed I believe that the formation of writing style is something that’s more about evolution than revolution. I’m sure there are people who can receive formal training and promptly make something different happen on the page, but I’m not one of them. Sure I’ll be writing differently in ten years time in some way or other, but probably not from conscious choice.
FT: On long journeys, reading is often the pleasure of choice, whose work will you grab at the airport to ensure a good journey?
AR: The usual suspects (for me): Iain M Banks, Richard Morgan, Lee Childs, any good looking thriller and anything that looks interesting, whether fiction or fact, about the Romans. And I buy a LOT of books at airports!
FT: Out of all your novels, which is your favourite and why?
AR: That has to be ‘Wounds of Honour’. Well I’ve only written two (three if you count the almost completed ‘Fortress of Spears’), and I lived with that script for over a decade. ‘Wounds’ is my first literary child, and I love it dearly. Mind you, I’m probably prouder of ‘Arrows of Fury’, given the short time I had to write it in alongside working in Glasgow, Paris and Heidenheim (the back of beyond in Germany) - and sitting on planes two or three times a week.
FT: With everyone having their own personal view as to who should be cast in a film version of their work, who do you think should play your principle protaganists and why?
AR: That’s tricky. I’m not really in touch with young male film actors – not my bag! – but I have imagined a few of the main characters with famous faces as I write; Ross Kemp as First Spear Frontinius , Ray Winstone as Tiberius Rufius, Gerard Butler as Centurion Julius and Dolph Lundgren as Centurion Titus. But as to Marcus…I have no idea. A younger Ioan Gruffudd might fit the bill, but aside from that I’ve not a clue. Film producers, please feel free to surprise me with a few ideas!
FT: Authors are generally a superstitious lot and upon completion of novels follow a certain ritual, what is yours and how has it changed from the original?
AR: Post completion ritual? Not really. I tend to say ‘thank **** for that’ and start the next one…and…err…that’s it. Well, I might have a few scotches to celebrate getting the monkey off my back whilst reaching for the next one…
FT: What was your impression of an author’s lifestyle and status and how has that interpretation changed since you've published a number of books?
AR: I’m not sure I had any real perception of author’s lifestyle, never mind status, pre-publication – my yearning to get published was far more about ego and drive to achieve than any expectation of fame and fortune (and neither of which were ever going to be desperately likely), but I can tell you what I think it is now. For the favoured few I think it’s a probably a doddle, and rewarded with money beyond their expectations when they hit the rich seam of teenage buyers that spend a fortune on wizards and vampires (and probably vampire gangsters, sigh). For the rest of us, whether ‘amateur’ or full time writers, it’s hard work, punctuated by periods of elusive creativity and uncertainty, albeit something that most of us could probably never stop doing it even if there was no reward at the end of the process.
FT: What are the best words of wisdom or tip that you'd give to a new or soon to be published author?
AR: What are you wasting your time reading this for? You’ve got to deliver another one in six months time for Christ’s sake! Get on with some writing! And seriously…ignore the critics and keep doing what you’re doing. Your story was good enough to get published, so get on with turning out some more of the same. Make it better, funnier, more thrilling and surprising by all means, but stop dithering and get writing!