In his twenties, Angus Watson’s jobs ranged from forklift truck driver to investment banker. He spent his thirties on various assignments as a freelance writer, including looking for Bigfoot in the USA for the Telegraph, diving on the scuppered German fleet at Scapa Flow for the Financial Times and swimming with sea lions off the Galapagos Islands for the Times. Now entering his forties, Angus lives in London with his wife Nicola and baby son Charlie. As a fan of both historical fiction and epic fantasy, he came up with the idea of writing a fantasy set in the Iron Age when exploring British hillforts for the Telegraph, and developed the story while walking Britain’s ancient paths for further articles.
Hi Angus, welcome over at The Book Plank and for taking your time to answer these few questions for us
BP: First off, could you give us a short introduction as to who Angus Watson is? What are your hobbies, likes and dislikes?
AW: I’m a married 41 year old with 10 month old baby, two cats and a dog who lives in west London next to the Thames. I get excited as a puppy about going on walks and don’t really mind where it is – hiking in the Alps in summer or a short stroll through the suburbs of Stoke on Trent, it’s all good to me. I’ve recently become a keen photographer and particularly like taking photographs in the various deserts and national parks near Las Vegas, when I can get there. Deserts are good because without much foliage it’s easier to spot the animals, and the animals tend to be weird. I used to love video games, but no longer have time for these (see first sentence in this answer).
BP: Age of Iron is your debut into fantasy fiction, when and where did you decide that you wanted to become an author?
AW: I’ve wanted to be a writer as long as I can remember. I’ve always enjoyed reading and writing, but my chief driver is probably that I don’t like commuting, bosses or office hours.
BP: Writing a debut is daunting task, how did you went about it and plan it?
AW: I started. Planning came later.
BP: What gave you the idea behind the story of Age of Iron?
AW: It was a combination of many factors, but there were two main annoyances which fueled the story. One is that we know nothing about the sophisticated, busy times in Britain before the Romans came two thousand years ago. It’s a stupid thing to be annoyed about, because we can’t learn history that we have no record of, but it does bug me that we don’t even give it a go, and history is taught as if the things we know about are the only things that ever happened. Secondly, and similarly, is the fact that Caesar unsuccessfully invaded Britain twice, leaving with no profit or any benefit, and after that the Romans didn’t come back for a hundred years, yet historians accept the only account, his, that says it was all a massive Roman victory. Bollocks to that, I say. So I wrote a trilogy explaining what really happened.
The other point is that there are loads of Iron Age hillforts sitting around massively in the British countryside, and I wondered what they were and what happened there and thought other people would want to know too.
BP: Age of Iron was released last August, if you would have to sell it with a single sentence how would it go?
AW: Age of Iron is first in a trilogy in which a lazy warrior, a crazy, beautiful archer and strange little girl join forces to unite Britain and defend it against Julius Caesar’s legions and the terrifying forces of dark Roman magic.
BP: Age of Iron has a definite historical feel to it, just the cover alone says enough. Did you have to carry out additional research for your book?
AW: Luckily there’s not much you can research about the British Iron Age since they didn’t write, and any oral histories and cultural traces were wiped out by 400 years of Roman occupation, then the Dark Ages, etc.. So I read everything there is to read, which is not a lot, visited museums and hillforts and walked a few ancient tracks. For the next couple of books, when the Romans get involved, I did a lot more book based research because there are thousands of books about the Romans.
BP: Did you encounter any specific problems so far in writing Age of Iron?
AW: When I started the book, I had no wife, son or animals. Although I love all of these and would not change a thing, they don’t help with the sitting at the desk and writing part of writing.
BP: What has been the hardest part in writing Age of Iron?
AW: The niggling notion that everything I’m writing is steaming pile of crap. That’s why I write mostly in the mornings. After lunch I become too paranoid and self critical.
BP: Besides the hardest part, which chapter/scene did you enjoy writing about the most?
AW: The end. It’s not horrible writing a book, but it is draining and it takes a long time, so finishing a book is like coming home from a brilliantly fun holiday that went on a little too long. Scenes I enjoyed writing included Dug’s first conversation with Spring when she realizes that they are kindred spirits even if he doesn’t, when Dug meets Lowa and rescues her with Spring’s help, and Lowa’s fight against the chariot.
BP: If you would be given the chance to retract Age of Iron and make one final adjustment, would you do so? If yes, which parts and why?
AW: I can always edit anything so I’d change pretty much every word. If I had my way my first book would never be published and I’d just carry on tweaking it. I know that’s not a satisfying answer, but since I can’t change it now, I don’t want to think about how a major change could make it better, because I might realize and that would be depressing.
BP: Age of Iron is the first in a trilogy, do you have any other plans or projects that you wish to pursue in the near future?
AW: When I’ve finished the third book I’d like to catch up on my photography. I have a few massive photography and Photoshop text books to read, a lens that I haven’t even tried yet and I’m about six months behind on looking at the photos I’ve taken and putting them through Photoshop. Photoshop is a little annoying, since once you discover that pretty much every photo can be improved, you have to use it for every photo. On the plus side, it means you keep far fewer photos so you’re left with maybe thirty good shots from a day’s photography rather than a billion that you’ll never look at again.
BP: Everyone enjoys science fiction and fantasy in their own way, what do you like most about it?
AW: I think I like if for the same reason as a lot of people – the freedom and the joy of imagination.
BP: If you would have to give your top 5 favorite books, which would they be?
AW: Impossible to say, but the first that come to mind are Watership Down, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Brazzaville Beach, and pretty much any of the Master and Commander or Flashman series.
BP: And just lastly, can you give us a sneak peak as to what will be in store for the readers of Age of Iron series and possibly the direction of a possible sequel?
AW: In book two of this series some of the characters have adventures in Gaul and Rome, but there are bigger problems at home, which require a massive, destructive solution.
What I do when I’ve finished the trilogy depends on how it’s received. If nobody reads it, I’ll look for bar work or possibly start up a car washing company. If it goes well, I may take some of the surviving characters across to prehistoric America to have a look at the animals and culture and possibly get involved in the massive war between humans and something else that took place there two thousand years ago (not really, but I’ll make one up).
BP: Thank you for your time Angus and good luck with your future writing!