Author’s interview – 2017. Diana talks to...William Savage
Hi William. I have not met you before so it will be a pleasure getting to know you and learning more about you and your writing.
First things first I am sure there is a question that you have always longed to be asked. Now is the chance. Ask your own question and answer it!
Would you like me to give you a million pounds? Yes, please.
If your latest book “This Parody of Death” was adapted into a TV show or a film, who would you like to play the lead role?
I would be very unlikely to let it happen. The written word lets the reader ‘see’ the characters as they best imagine them to be. Once a film/TV show is made, the character is fixed by someone else. A lively imagination is a vital human characteristic and should be encouraged whenever possible.
What made you choose this genre?
If imagination is a good part of what makes us human, curiosity is up there with it. Mysteries stimulate both. A good puzzle gets the brain working.
How do you get ideas for plots and characters?
I read. Lots. I think even more. I can sit for hours with my eyes shut plotting — and sometimes snoring while I do it.
If, as a one off, (and you could guarantee publication!) you could write anything you wanted, is there another genre you would love to work with and do you already have a budding plot line in mind?
No. I am very boring. This is it.
Was becoming a writer a conscious decision or something that you drifted into (or even something so compelling that it could not be denied?) How old were you when you first started to write seriously.
I was 69, so a late developer. I’ve always written non-fiction of one kind or another. Feeling bored with retirement, I thought I’d try a creative writing course. I hated it! Far too regimented and prescriptive. Being a contrary sort, I determined to do things my own way and see what happened. I’m now on my seventh book in two-and-half years.
Marmite? Love it or hate it?
Loathe it! You know it’s made from the scrapings from under the devil’s toenails?
Do you have any rituals and routines when writing? Your favourite cup for example or ‘that’ piece of music...??
I promise I won’t tell them the answer to this, but when you are writing, who is more important, your family or your characters?
I have been blessed with a ferocious ability to concentrate. Once committed to something, I don’t notice anything else.
Other than writing full time, what would be your dream job?
Being retired, as I am! Work is grossly over-rated and that includes writing. It’s wonderful not to have to worry about the money side of things.
Coffee or tea? Red or white?
How much of your work is planned before you start? Do you have a full draft or let it find its way?
I plan very carefully, then rarely follow the plan. I find the characters have minds of their own.
If you had free choice over the font your book is printed in, what font/fonts would you choose?
I do. I design and produce all my own paperbacks, including the covers, generally using Garamond or Caslon for the text and various display fonts elsewhere..
Imagine that you could get hold of any original source document. What would it be?
Sorry, no idea. I have enough to do coping with the vast number of source documents that actually exist for ‘my’ period.
Have any of your characters ever shocked you and gone off on their own adventure leaving you scratching your head??? If so how did you cope with that!?
Constantly. I go with them to see what will happen. Generally they know the way better than I do.
How much research do you do and do you ever go on research trips?
I research constantly and often take trips. I enjoy it and it makes sure I don’t drift away from the reality of the period I’m writing about. It also fuels my blog,“Pen and Pension”.
Fiction authors have to contend with real characters invading our stories. Are there any ‘real’ characters you have been tempted to prematurely kill off or ignore because you just don’t like them or they spoil the plot?
No. Real characters are like real events or the real culture and technology of the time. If they annoy you, choose another period.
Are you prepared to go away from the known facts for the sake of the story and if so how do you get around this?
No, never. That would seem to me dishonest and weak-kneed. All art thrives on discipline and difficulty. Nothing annoys me more than a ‘historical’ book or drama that gets the history wrong, whether deliberately or not. I have been known to hurl abuse at the TV and call down curses on sloppy or careless writers for the smallest mistake I notice. Born (and unrepentant) pedant!
Do you find that the lines between fact and fiction sometimes become blurred?
Hopefully I blur them all the time. I want my readers to feel what I have written is ‘real’ — at least while they are reading the book.
Have you ever totally hated or fallen in love with one of your characters?
Not that I am aware of.
What do you enjoy reading for pleasure?
What drink would you recommend drinking whilst reading your latest book?
Artisan gin or a large margarita.
Last but not least... favourite author?
William started to write fiction as a way of keeping his mind active in retirement. He had always lectured and written extensively on business topics, including three books, many articles and a successful leadership blog which garnered more than 5000 regular followers. He has no intention of letting his mind stagnate or his creativity wither. This means finding new sources of interest and inspiration.
Throughout his life, William has read and enjoyed hundreds of detective stories and mystery novels. One of his other loves is history, especially the local history of the many places where he has lived. It seemed natural to put the two together. Thus began two series of murder mystery books set in Norfolk. Four books have appeared so far and he is currently at work on a fifth.
William’s books are set between 1760 and around 1800. This was a period of turmoil in Britain, with constant wars, the revolutions in America and France and finally the titanic, 22-year struggle with Napoleon. The Ashmole Foxe series takes place at the start of this time and is located in Norwich. Mr Foxe is a dandy, a bookseller and, unknown to most around him, the mayor’s immediate choice to deal with anything likely to upset the peace or economic security of the city. The series featuring Dr Adam Bascom, a young gentleman-physician caught up in the beginning of the Napoleonic wars, takes place in a variety of locations nearer to the North Norfolk coast. Adam tries to build a successful medical practice, but his insatiable curiosity and a knack for unravelling intrigue constantly involve him in mysteries large and small.
William has spent a good deal of his life travelling in Britain and overseas. After obtaining his degree at Cambridge, he set out on a business career, during which he lived in most parts of the UK, as well as spending eleven years in the USA. He has been a senior executive, an academic and a consultant to many multinational companies. Now he is more than content to write stories and run a new blog, devoted to the world of Georgian England, which you can find at http://www.penandpension.com. You can also follow him on Twitter as @penandpension.
© Diana Milne January 2017 © William Savage May 2017