This is rather exciting for me as this is my first ever blog tour post. I have a couple more lined up but I’m so happy to host Julian Stockwin as my first ever post. My dad is a big fan of his so I was thrilled when Hodder & Stoughton contacted me.
1807. Captain Sir Thomas Kydd’s famous sea action aboard Tyger has snatched his reputation from ignominy. He is the hero of the hour. But though Britain’s Navy remains imperious, a succession of battles has seen Napoleon victorious on mainland Europe.
In an attempt to prevent the French from taking control of Denmark’s navy, Kydd’s great friend Nicholas Renzi – now Lord Farndon – is sent on a desperate diplomatic mission to persuade the Danes to give up their fleet to Britain. But the Danes are caught between two implacable forces and will not yield, opting instead for the inferno of battle . . .
Someone said to me recently ‘Oh, you must be an old hand at writing now, what with 17 Kydd titles in print.’ I gave a wry smile. It’s true I’ve learned a great deal about being an author over the years but I approach each new book with some degree of trepidation. Will my editor and agent like it? Will it match up to the reception of the previous title? What things new and fresh can I bring to a book well into a 21+ book series?
So just how do I go about creating a new Kydd story?
I have a fairly detailed table of all the books to date specifying time, Kydd’s ship/s, major military engagements, supporting characters etc. Once I have refreshed my mind about all previous books, and re-read the last one, it’s down to business.
It begins with the historical record, in the case of INFERNO, 1807. I build up a picture of global events and major players, then the specifics of the time and place where the story will be set. As well as primary sources, I will have delved into the excellent naval histories like James’ ‘Naval History of Great Britain,’ and other relevant books. Quite often my ‘to-read’ pile is several feet high!
I find location research invaluable in really getting a feel for a setting and also gleaning insights from local academics and various experts. Kathy (my wife and literary partner) and I visited Copenhagen and Sweden for this book.
When all the preliminaries are done Kathy and I sit down in front of a huge white board and work out the narrative arc of the story, based on the actual factual events. Then we look at themes, stakes, which characters will feature in the book etc. and break the story down into scenes.
Once all this is worked out I do ‘scene development’ which involves detailed structuring and research at the micro level. This might be, for example, bio details of real-life characters, descriptions of the built environment ashore or details of unusual naval craft. I also consult my electronic ship’s charts in great detail, which are always to hand.
After each scene is written Kathy reads the work to date and offers comments and suggestions. She also undertakes a first edit as I write, which provides very useful feedback and points out any inconsistencies.
I aim to write on average 1200 words a day.
When the manuscript is finished Kathy does a very intensive edit, and comes back with more suggested changes, such as words that are repeated too often.
Once these are sorted we both read through the manuscript very carefully, implenting any more changes that we feel are required.
And on the day the manuscript is due to be delivered to my editor we hover over the ‘send email’ button and push it down together.
But then there’s no hanging around – it’s planning for the next book…
Inferno by Julian Stockwin, published by Hodder & Stoughton, out now
Thank you to Julian for writing this interesting post!