On the Chaise Longue with Vanessa: Meet Author Tim Taylor
My latest victim guest on the chaise longue is author Tim Taylor. We share some things in common: a first degree at Oxford University followed by a career in the public services (although I worked in book publishing in between). We also have publication by Crooked Cat Publishing in common. Tim is a versatile author who can step seamlessly between periods of history. He tells us today how he came to write and about the genesis of his latest novel, Revolution Day.
Hi, Tim, and thanks for joining me on the chaise longue today. You formerly worked in the Civil Service and now teach and write about philosophy. How did you get into writing fiction?
Hi Vanessa, and thanks for inviting me! I have always had an urge to write, and wrote a couple of unpublished novels while I was in the Civil Service. After a longish break from writing due to pressure of work, the idea for Zeus of Ithome came to me after reading a book about Sparta – it seemed to me that the struggle of the Messenians for freedom and nationhood was a story crying out to be told.
Tell us how you first came to be published by Crooked Cat Publishing.
I knew Kimm Brook (a.k.a. K B Walker) through Holmfirth Writers’ Group. She spoke highly of Crooked Cat, who had published her novel, Once Removed, so I thought I’d give them a try. I submitted the first three chapters of Zeus of Ithome, and the rest is, er, history!
Zeus of Ithome is set in ancient Greece. Revolution Day jumps more than two millennia to a 20th-century Latin American dictatorship. What did challenges did the transition from the ancient to the modern world pose you?
Rather than a challenge, if anything I saw it as a relaxation of the discipline I had to adopt when writing Zeus – of imagining the perspective of people in a very different age and checking that all the details were historically correct (which I enjoyed, but it was hard work). Being set in the present, and in a fictitious country, simplified the scene-setting for Revolution Day, though it is in other ways a more complex novel.
Vanessa: historical fiction is enjoyable to write but challenging, for the reasons you give. I also had to try to imagine people’s perspective in early 20th-century Corsica for The House at Zaronza; at least that was somewhat closer to the present day than ancient Greece…
What inspired you to write Revolution Day?
For a while I had been toying with the idea of writing a novel about a person who has been very powerful but is ageing and starting to lose their grip. At one point it was going to be a king, but after the fall of Saddam Hussein, Mubarak and Gaddafi I thought, “why not a dictator?”
I wanted to have a strong female character (the dictator’s estranged wife Juanita, whose memoir of their marriage and his regime alternates with the main narrative) which suggested Latin America rather than the middle east, and hey presto, Carlos Almanzor came into existence!
As the ideas started to come together, it also became a novel about the ways in which power corrupts people – different characters are affected by it in different ways. Carlos does not crave power for its own sake, but has an intellectual arrogance and a deluded conviction that he alone can be trusted with the stewardship of the nation, so must keep all power in his own hands. His vice-President, Manuel, frustrated by his subordinate role, does desire power for itself, and has no scruples about manipulating Carlos and exploiting those close to him, including Juanita, in order to get it.
Authors have to be their own marketers/publicists these days. What works best for you in marketing your fiction?
What had most success with Zeus was reading events, often in libraries. This will be more of a challenge with Revolution Day, as at present it is in e-book format only, so there is no physical product to sell. I’ve heard authors swear by Twitter as a medium for promoting their books, so I’ve been working quite hard on that, though I don’t feel I’ve cracked it yet.
Tell us a bit about your work(s) in progress and your writing plans.
Well, I am at something of a crossroads at the moment! I have for some time been researching a sequel to Zeus of Ithome, taking in the early career of Philip II of Macedon. But in the last few days I have had an idea for a completely different novel, about an old lady with dementia who goes on the run from a nursing home. At the moment that one has the momentum, but we’ll see. I will no doubt write both novels in due course.
The one about the old lady would be a new departure! I look forward to hearing more about both of your planned novels.
What’s the nicest thing that’s happened to you as an author?
I think the nicest thing is when someone tells you sincerely that they have really enjoyed your novel. It’s that, more than the mere selling of books, which makes you feel you are achieving something as a writer.
You write on your website that you “like walking up hills” (and presumably down again). What else do you like to do in your leisure time?
I have always loved playing the guitar, and have acquired a collection of fourteen of them (and a couple of keyboards) at the last count. I try to spend some time every week in my music room, playing and sometimes doing some recording. I also play in public from time to time, though not as often as I used to. Apart from that, all the usual stuff: I like books, plays, films, museums, and spending time with family and friends.
Many thanks once again for hosting me, Vanessa. I enjoyed answering your questions.
Thanks for joining me Tim. Fascinating!
Tim was born in 1960 in Stoke-on-Trent. He studied Classics at Pembroke College, Oxford (and later Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London). After a couple of years playing in a rock band, he joined the Civil Service, eventually leaving in 2011 to spend more time writing.
Tim now lives in Yorkshire with his wife and daughter and divides his time between creative writing, academic research and part-time teaching and other work for Leeds and Huddersfield Universities.
As well as novels, Tim writes poetry and the occasional short story. He also plays guitar, and likes to walk up hills.
You can find Tim’s books on:
Zeus of Ithome on Amazon UK.
You can connect with Tim on:
Copyright © T. E. Taylor, Vanessa Couchman 2015. All rights reserved.