Have you ever killed off a character your readers loved?
I made that mistake with the second series I wrote, Aelfraed. I had decided to write a trilogy. This was the first time I had written in the 1st person and I wrote the three books back-to-back. I made the mistake of giving him a glorious death but it was too soon. I remedied it by having one of the minor characters, Ridley start a new series. It has become one of my most popular series: Anarchy. I have killed off other popular characters but their deaths were not premature. Readers do like my characters and when I killed off Dragonheart (he was in his seventies) people were unhappy but understood.
Have you ever travelled as research for your books?
Yes- I went to the Shenandoah Valley to research my American Civil War trilogy. I went to Waterloo to research my Napoleonic series. I also travel a great deal in England, where most of my books are set. I like to get a feel for the place. Some places I return to again and again and each time I do I see a different aspect. I had planned a trip to Italy to research my Sir John Hawkwood books but Covid scuppered that one. I tend to use holidays as inspiration for my books. I have been to the Amalfi Coast on a number of occasions. When I first went there it was not with the intention of writing a book about it but I did as a result of the trip.
How do you come up with character names in you stories? And what comes first for you- the plot or the characters and why?
Sometimes they are real people but, in the case of fictional characters I research the names that were common at the time. It can be challenging, especially as, when writing about Vikings, you are reliant on names written down by Christian priests who clearly had their own agenda. Sometimes it can be problematic. In my Conquest series I had so many Williams, all real names, that I had to devise some way of differentiating them. So, the plot comes first as it is the wardrobe rail upon which I can hang my characters. I use the plot to create different characters.
How do you develop your plot and characters?
I try to hang my plots around real events. In Hastings that was the Battle of Hastings. It meant I knew the ending of the book and I had some way points to use for the plot: Earl Harold’s shipwreck, the comet, King Edward naming William as his heir, Taillefer beginning the battle. Once that is done I create characters. In the case of Hastings I wanted a nobody who would become a somebody and I used the real life Taillefer as the vehicle to mentor the character of Richard fitz Malet. It is the same for all my books. The plots come from history but the characters come from my mind. I want them to be believable characters who behave realistically.
How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?
As of October 2023 I have published 180 novels. I have two more finished and ready for publication in November and December. I am halfway through my first book of 2024. As for my favourite…it is like saying who is your favourite child. I loved my first book, The Sword of Cartimandua but my character from my Dragonheart series is such an engaging one that I would have to say Viking Slave. I could, in all honesty, give a different answer tomorrow. Whichever book I am working on always seems to me to be my favourite. I find, when I edit my books, that I am pleasantly surprised that I enjoy reading them. I am very self critical. It is my litmus paper test. If I don’t enjoy reading the first draft then I start again.
How many hours a day do you write?
I am a morning person. I rise each day at six and with a pot of coffee first answer my readers’ emails. Then I edit yesterday’s work and finally start writing. I like to work until 11 or so. I may do some editing in the afternoon but I find that my best work is in the morning. My target is 5000 words each day. Other authors tell me that is too great a target but I am goal orientated and it works for me.
How much research did you need for your book?
As I write in series (21 up to now) the first in each series normally takes the most research. My first books were about periods in which I was already immersed. My latest book about the 30 years war (1618-1648) is new to me and I find I am spending every afternoon researching. The second book will be easier. I find my readers help me as they send nuggets of information to me once they get into a series.
What books have you read more than once in your life?
I have read Lord of the Rings more than 42 times. It is an inspiration as the characters are so well drawn that each time you read you see a different aspect. I like the way Tolkien uses both character and plot to weave a story which always engages. I loved the Alexander Kent books about Richard Bolitho. I have read the whole series two or three times. He is the inspiration for my series. He showed me how you can create a character and then develop him over a lifetime.
What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focussed?
I can only work in my study. I tried to write in an apartment in the South of France. In three weeks I wrote not a word but the wine was nice. I have my screen in front of me behind which are the photographs of my parents, my wife, children and grandchildren. The rest of the room has my books, hundreds of them so that I can find what I need immediately. I have models of characters, aeroplanes, tanks and ships so that I can physically try out movements. I have swords and guns to enable me to actually feel what my characters feel. Everything is to hand and my study is my creative place.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
I have an inquisitive mind and I do use the internet as well as books. You have to be careful with the internet but I have learned to find different sources to validate information. Sometimes I find information that I can’t use in one book but I store it for another, future book. I have a notebook I use for every series. I get ideas when I am out and about too. My local pub has people with different interests. One is a keen railway buff and he is a mine of information. (He has timetables from the 19th Century). There is another chap who knows all that there is to know about Northumberland. I get ideas from him. I visit as many historical sites as I can. I like to meet re-enactors who not only have great uniforms and equipment but also stories. I am using the East India Company re-enactors to write a series about the East India Company. That will be a 2024 project. I am a magpie, seeking shiny bits of knowledge.
https://www.griffhosker.com/ (author website)
https://tinyurl.com/2d34ttxf – Griff Hosker Amazon store
https://twitter.com/swordbooksltd (Sword Books Ltd – independent publisher)