Looking back now, writing historical fiction with a soldier hero as its main character seems a natural culmination of my many interests and experiences over the years. Growing up, I traveled a lot with my parents. They were avid vacationers. Every year my Dad would carefully plan a new annual holiday quite often to an exotic locale. A large part of the vacation was often spent learning about the history of the place too. I don’t know if it’s ‘in the blood’ as they say, being British, but experiencing those new places and learning about other cultures are some of the best memories of my childhood and even into my early 20’s. A lot of what I am writing about comes from places I have actually seen and been to and I think that helps bring an element of authenticity, that (I hope!) makes the story richer.
Along with a love of travel, I’ve always enjoyed a good adventure story and read all the time. My favourite stories are those with a fighting hero. The interest in armies and wars comes from the stories my Dad used to tell me from his enlistment in the Second World War. I have his medals, his enlistment papers and his recounting of what it was like to be on the front. Most of my early heroes were military, I guess you could say the first one was my Dad.
To say school was not ‘my thing’, is an understatement. I left when I was sixteen to go into a career in forestry at an estate in northern England. My work there meant most of my days were spent outside dealing with the elements and often under the stars. This is where Jack’s awareness of nature would come from.
So how did it start? Well, I was bored, and I hate being bored! Several years ago I started writing short stories to entertain myself using my phone notes when things got slow at work. Sometimes I would send them to friends for a laugh and got a lot of positive feedback. After a while it just sort of gained momentum and I eventually ended up writing an entire science fiction biker club book in this way!
A friend who had spent a lot more time at educational institutions than I did (translation: stayed in school and went to University) offered to read the book and correct any (or, as it turned out, many) grammar or spelling mistakes. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on whose perspective you take, a PhD funding windfall meant this had to be shelved for quite a while. So, in the meantime, I had the idea for a fighting man named Jack Wolfe who starts off in the Crimean war and once again started writing the adventure story I wanted to read.
The best part of writing for me is that it often feels like I am just taking control of a story I am reading and as such, is an immensely enjoyable activity to while away an afternoon. By the time the first book was edited and sent off to the publisher I had already completed a second adventure for Jack, and as you read this the third is in the works!
(Video coming soon!) Author John Saxxon talks about what it was like creating the adventures of Jack, Bull & Skeiron.