Saturday, 13 May 2017

Diana talks to Paul Bennett, author of "Clash of Empires" - book one of The Mallory Saga.

Author’s interview – 2017. Diana talks to...Paul Bennett


Thanks so much Diana for inviting me to answer some very intriguing questions. It was a lot of fun.

It is my real pleasure, Paul.

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!

Is it really possible for any citizen of the US to grow up to be President?

Sure is…look at who we have now.  L

If your latest book (Clash of Empires) was adapted into a TV show or a film, who would you like to play the lead role?


I’m going to glean from Lonesome Dove and choose Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall, younger versions mind you than the characters of Call and McRae.  Tommy for Liam and Duvall for Daniel.  For Liza again from Lonesome Dove, Diane Lane. 

(You may read Rob Bayliss's review of this excellent book here but please note the competition is now closed.)

What made you choose this genre?

Firstly my love of history.  All through my educational phases up through 3 years of college, I was far more interested in history classes or other classes that delved into our past.  At Wayne State University in Detroit, MI, I majored in Classical Civilization, basically the study of ancient cultures form the Mesopotamian Crescent through the Roman Empire.  I also minored in Physical Anthropology.  After I left college, needing a break from 18+ years of school the last 5 of which included working full time, I found myself free to read what I wanted.  Mary Renault got me hooked on historical fiction and later Colleen McCullough’s First Man in Rome series sent me searching for more.  Boy what a treasure trove of books to choose from.

How do you get ideas for plots and characters?

Surprisingly perhaps, while driving to and from work.  My commute is a lengthy one, and the Boston area traffic is always a challenge.  So I have at least an hour and a half for my Muse to do her stuff on my way to work and then again on the way home.  Mostly that is plot related ideas but sometimes specific narrative or conversations find their way to the surface.  I’ve even had to a couple times tell Wanda, that’s her name, to slow down.  Sometimes she starts giving me ideas for book 4 or 5.  Let me get done with number 2 first, please.  J 

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?

Either humor or fantasy.  I write journals of an annual golf trip I make with 3 or 4 of my buddies and they are rather humorous in content.  But I think I would do fantasy.  I have a few tales about a group of warriors that are stuck in some kind of time travel existence and are transported to various historical battles such as Gettysburg where they play prominent roles in the outcomes.  It’s fun playing with history.  In the Gettysburg story, Lee doesn’t make the mistake of trying to take the Round Tops, and the Confederates win at Gettysburg, due in some small part by my group of warriors.

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’ve dabbled with writing most of my life, doing the odd short story and trip journals/stories but I didn’t take on a full length novel until "Clash".  I am indebted to many people for encouraging me write "Clash", among them SJA Turney, the author of the excellent Marius Mules series (among others as well).  He and the others who read my first attempts saw something they liked and that reinforcement kicked me into gear, so to speak.  So much so that I’m making Clash the first story in The Mallory Saga – I will follow the family through the course of the history of the USA.  Right now I plan to finish the saga with the end of the Plains Indian Wars in the late 19th Century.

Marmite? Love it or hate it?

First I have to Google it.  J (Laughing here.)

Do you have any rituals and routines when writing? Your favourite cup for example or ‘that’ piece of music...??

I do most of my writing in the pre-dawn hours partly because my three night/12 hour shifts at work has wreaked havoc on my sleep patterns, but also partly because I’ve always loved the early morning.  Accompanied by cups of good, strong coffee – freshly ground and as freshly roasted as possible – and with one of my playlists blaring in my headphones, I wait for Wanda and when she is ready, my fingers start dancing along the keyboard.  The playlist I am listening to as I write this includes a mixture of goth bands such as Within Temptation, Nightwish, Leaves Eyes etc and the angelic, mystical Loreena McKennitt. (NICE)

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?

Since I write mostly when everyone else is asleep I rarely have to make that choice but if I’m in the throes of Wanda’s ministrations, I’ll finish what I’m writing and then address my 4 ½ year old granddaughter’s request for food or to have her tablet recharged.  J

Other than writing full time, what would be your dream job?

I am 65 – my dream job is to not have to need one.  J  A short jaunt down memory lane: when I was in my early 20’s I was what you might call a hippie.  A young man just discovering what the world was really like and trying to figure out my part in it.  I would often comment that all I wanted to be was a Forest Ranger assigned to some fire tower in the mountains where I could spend my time writing the great American novel.  Of course that didn’t happen and I have spent the last 40 years working as a computer professional.  (What a wonderful dream...)

Coffee or tea? Red or white?

Coffee – but only really good coffee, like I get from my friends at Thanksgiving Coffee. J  Red or White – that would be better phrased Ale or Stout.  Not a wine drinker but do enjoy fine ales, stouts and porters.

How much of your work is planned before you start? Do you have a full draft or let it find its way?

I’m not much of a plotter, more of a seat of the pants approach.  Of course, I have a basic idea in my head for the foundation of the story.  I have a notebook in which I jot down ideas, dialogue etc, but most of the work is done when I am hovering over the keyboard.  It amazes me when I have a sudden epiphany; a thought just hits out of the blue and when I look back at what I’ve just typed I often remark I didn’t see that coming. 
I would be guilty of a heinous sin if I didn’t at this point sing the praises of my editor, Marguerite Walker II.  She takes those amazing epiphanies and coaxes even better ones out of me.

If you had free choice over the font your book is printed in, what font/fonts would you choose?

I did Clash in Georgia 12…the aforementioned MW found an article on good fonts for books and we went with Georgia. (My favourite serif font.)

Imagine that you could get hold of any original source document. What would it be?

The scorecard from a Detroit Tiger game on which I had gotten the autograph of my favorite ball player, Al Kaline.  It regretfully was stolen roughly 50 years ago.  (Very cross and unhappy face.)
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!?

Not yet…but it’s early in my writing career.  I have characters who demanded larger roles, however.  J

How much research do you do and do you ever go on research trips?

Most of my research is online or by reading books about the subject in hand.  I do love road trips though so for Clash I did visit Forts Ticonderoga and William Henry.  The next couple books in the Mallory Saga take place during the American Revolution.  I am fortunate in that I live 20 miles north of Boston so don’t have to travel too far to follow along, say, the Battle of Lexington and Concord or Bunker Hill.

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?

The one who springs to mind is George Armstrong Custer.  Since this isn’t in Clash I don’t mind this little spoiler…in my Gettysburg story, I kill off Custer.  J

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?

To the best of my knowledge, I stayed true to the historical facts in Clash.  My only deviation was changing the date of a battle by a couple days.

Have you ever totally hated or fallen in love with one of your characters?

My editor would argue that I like Liam more than his siblings, Daniel and Liza.  Methinks she may be right.  As far as hating a character, there are a couple of them, but one dies early on.  The Shawnee nemesis of the Mallory’s, especially Liam, is a warrior named Huritt.  I don’t want to say too much, suffice that Huritt is a good example of his culture; one that could be brutally violent. 

There are a couple characters in Clash who end up playing a much larger role than I had originally intended, but I had so much fun with them, I couldn’t say no when they requested more face time.  Wahta is a Mohawk, his name means Maple Tree and he is built along those lines.  He becomes a good friend of Sergeant Glyn Mulhern, an Irishman serving in the British Army under a Scottish Colonel.  I loved writing the byplay between the two of them.

What do you enjoy reading for pleasure?

I read quite a bit, I’ve done close to 200 reviews in 4 years.  Most of them are historical fiction from various periods of history.  I’ve learned more about the history of Britain the last couple of years than I had in the prior 63. J  I must admit that my favourite periods are ancient Greece and Rome.

What drink would you recommend drinking whilst reading your latest book?

Ale – there’s a good bit of ale drinking in Clash of Empires.  Might as well join them for a pint or two.

Last but not least... favourite author?

A question that is difficult to answer given the number of authors who I count as friends, so, I am going to try to offend no one by choosing an author not of the historical fiction world.  Kurt Vonnegut gets my vote with Mark Twain a close second.  J

About the Author

Paul’s education was of the public variety and when he reached Junior High he discovered that his future did not include the fields of mathematics or science. This was generally the case throughout his years in school as he focused more on his interest in history; not just the rote version of names and dates but the causes.

Paul studied Classical Civilization at Wayne State University with a smattering of Physical Anthropology thrown in for good measure. Logically, of course, Paul spent the next four decades drawing upon that vast store of knowledge working in large, multi-platform data centers, and is considered in the industry as a bona fide IBM Mainframe dinosaur heading for extinction.

Paul currently resides in the quaint New England town of Salem, Massachusetts with his wife, Daryl. The three children have all grown, in the process turning Paul’s beard gray, and have now provided four grandchildren; the author is now going bald!

You can find Paul:

His Facebook page

On Twitter


© Diana Milne January 2017 © Paul Bennett 03/27/17







  1. I visited Alaska in 2015, and didn't find Marmite or an equivalent 🙁
    Great interview, enjoyed it very much 🙂

  2. A muse called Wanda! love it!Cherish her, Paul - she does the business especially with those lightning bolt epiphanies. Is she hiring??

  3. Great interview. Thanks, Diana, Paul Bennett.

  4. Loreena McKennitt's Lady of Shalott is splendid, and has been very inspirational for me :)