Thanks to Angus for answering my questions and I hope you'll be intrigued enough to pick up a copy of the book. I don't think you'll regret it!
Wondrous Reads: Hello Angus, thanks for answering my questions! To start with, can you tell us why you chose to set Age of Iron during the Iron Age?
Angus Watson: I wrote an article on Iron Age hillforts for the Telegraph. There are loads of these gigantic forts – ditches and ramparts dug around the flattened top of a hill - all over southern Britain. The Iron Age was a busy, massive, but totally unknown part of British history despite being relatively recent (just over 2000 years ago). Walking on a hillfort with Iron Age expert Peter Woodward, I asked him if the British Iron Age was like Conan the Barbarian, full of muscle-bound warriors rescuing virgins from snake temples. He said that as far as we know, yes. I decided to write a novel set in the period there and then.
WR: Were you already quite knowledgeable on this period in history or did you have to do a lot of research? If so, how did you approach it?
AW: Because they didn’t write, and the period was followed by 400 years of Roman occupation which obliterated any oral history, very little known about Britain in the Iron Age. So it’s not that tricky to read pretty much everything that’s been written on it, which I did. It’s also easy, and a joy, to walk up a hillfort like Maiden Castle (Maidun Castle in the book) and look around and wonder what people got up to.
WR: What was your road to publication like?
AW: It was smooth. I sent the first 20,000 words and a synopsis to 20 agents. Two of them liked it and I chose the excellent Angharad Kowal of Writers House. She suggested some changes and that I finish the book, which I did. Then she got me a three book, international deal with Orbit pretty much straight away. While I think there’s much about Age of Iron that’s original, it is a traditional beginning, middle and end story with varied characters and plenty of suspense, so there was no real reason not to publish it. One thing I learnt constantly pitching article ideas to newspapers as a freelance is that editors like freshness and individuality, but they don’t like you to be too different. I suspect that having had several hundred articles published in newspapers over the previous decade probably helped with convincing Orbit to look at the book, and that I was a good prospect to complete my contract, but I don’t know.
WR: What influenced Age of Iron, with its bloody battles and political intrigue?
AW: I’ve always enjoyed epic stories and historical fiction, so I guess it comes from that, but I’ve always thought that personal relationships and character development are important. So possibly the Narnia books are a big influence, but I don’t know. My favourite childhood books were Watership Down and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. I reread them often, so perhaps they are my strongest influences.
WR: Dug, Lowa and Spring make an unlikely set of allies. Did you always plan for them to meet and work together, or is it something that developed as you were writing?
AW: They were always going to be important characters, but I didn’t know how they were going to interact. Ragnall was going to play a much larger, more heroic part originally. He does have a big role, and a bigger one in the next two books, but he’s no hero.
WR: I really enjoyed reading the action scenes in Age of Iron, particularly those in the latter half of the book. What were your favourite scenes to write?
AW: I think I prefer dialogue, which may be why the action scenes are good – I found them more difficult, so I tried harder. There are only so many ways to say ‘he hit him with a sword’ and I think I’ve used them all.
WR: Age of Iron is a fantasy featuring small amounts of magic performed by Druids. Will magic feature more heavily in the next book or will it continue to take more of a backseat to the gritty realism?
AW: It bubbles along in book two, surfacing every now and then, then there’s a massive magical event at the end. Massive. But, generally, gritty realism rules.
WR: I'm assuming it's Dug we see portrayed on the cover of Age of Iron, so who would you like to see represented on the next book cover? Lowa, perhaps?
AW: I don’t do the covers, and bow to the marketing expertise of Orbit. So it’s Dug on the cover of the next two books, I guess so people who’ve read book one can recognise them. Perhaps if the series does very well, future editions will have covers featuring Lowa, Spring, and other characters who become more prominent in books two and three.
WR: Speaking of Clash of Iron, can you tell us anything about what's in store for Dug, Lowa and Spring?
AW: Well the Romans are coming of course, so some characters go to Rome to look at them and some travel to Gaul to try and halt Caesar’s bloody progress towards Britain. But maybe, just maybe, there are bigger dangers back home, and there might even be a huge, evil army from Ireland to deal with. ·
WR: After this trilogy is complete, what's next for you?
AW: I’m going to exercise a bit, get the filing up to date, sort my photos out, then start the next book. Or the next trilogy, which may or may not feature characters from this one and may or may not be set in prehistoric America.
- My review: Age of Iron by Angus Watson
- Follow Angus on Twitter: @GusWatson
- Angus's site: guswatson.com