Atmosphere Press Author Interview

This is an author interview I did with Atmosphere Press. I was one of the winners in a competition on Instagram for the most interesting writers and novels. Each winner got an interview to help them promote their story and their work.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

I worked in Abu Dhabi a few years ago. I had a colleague who wrote poetry. He encouraged me to try my hand at writing as well, so I started writing articles about rugby. They got a fair bit of attention, over a quarter of a million views between them, and one was even translated into French. It gave me confidence, and I started to look at ideas for a novel.

My style is influenced by a number of great writers. The structure of my novels is similar to Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon series; for example, I have a single point-of-view character and write in the first person. I am also influenced by Ben Kane, Conn Iggulden, Phillipa Gregory and Simon Scarrow, among many others, and have tried to incorporate many things I like about their writing into my own.

What inspired you to start writing this book?

About three years ago, I was re-reading Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon books ahead of a new season of The Last Kingdom TV series. Around the same time, I also saw a fascinating YouTube video about Hammurabi, and started watching more and more about Mesopotamia in general. I tried to find historical fiction set in that time and there was very little out there. I decided to try and write the book I wanted to read, and got to work!

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

I knew I wanted the word “Babylon,” as it resonates with people and is very recognisable. Since my main character is the son of Hammurabi, King of Babylon, Son of Babylon seemed a natural fit.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

I absolutely love the soundtrack to Gladiator, so I envisage my book set to similar music.

Describe your dream book cover.

I was very fortunate to find a great cover designer and she has produced a cover that has received a lot of compliments. She has done amazing work with my next book too. The only thing I would change would be having the money to do some fancy raised lettering for the title. Many of my favourite covers have the hero in the foreground, looking out over a landscape or scene which matches the tone of the book. When I write a novel that isn’t part of the Babylon series, I want to have a cover like that.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

I am an ESOL lecturer in a college, and I also have English and Digital Skills classes. I’ve worked in Italy, Japan, Poland, and the UAE, and I am now back in the UK. I also had a spell in sales, but I was really bad at it! I am the chairman of a large union branch, and a trustee for a local charity. As for something you wouldn’t find in my bio, I can down a pint in just over two seconds!

What books did you read (for research or comfort) throughout your writing process?

For knowledge about the old Babylonian period, I read dozens of scholarly articles and several books, but the core information came from two amazing biographies of Hammurabi, my main character’s father. One was written by Marc Van De Mieroop and the other by Dominique Charpin.

For character inspiration, I used plenty of elements from The Dark Queens by Shelley Puhak, about Brunhilde and Fredegunde, a pair of fascinating Frankish queens, and from Phillippa Gregory’s depiction of Jaquetta of Luxembourg in The Lady of the Rivers.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

I hope that readers who like sword and sandals historical fiction will enjoy my work too. One review called Son of Babylon a “Bronze Age Gladiator” and I really love that description. I hope it will also open people’s eyes to the fascinating civilisation of ancient Mesopotamia, which not enough people know about. I also hope my readers want to find out what happens next to my characters. The second book in the series will be out in mid-2024 (14th May!), and I plan six books in the series, so there are plenty more adventures for Bani to come!

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