Author interview with Geoffrey Wilson
Last year's summer I came across the first book of Geoffrey Wilson, Land of Hope and Glory which was also one of my first books that got me hooked onto alternate history. Land of Hope and Glory showed a lot of cool stuff and with the tables turned for the British, proved to be an interesting tale. All that Geoffrey Wilson included in his story from muskets battle to the mythic and mystical Sattva powered world just blew me away. The second book picked up the pace nicely and introduced us further to the concept of the world that Geoffrey Wilson envisions. War of the Grail is out now by Hodder and Stougthon. And if you think alternate history is boring? You haven't read one of these books yet!
Geoffrey Wilson was born in South Africa, grew up in New Zealand and then backpacked around the world before eventually settling in the United Kingdom.
He studied Hinduism and Buddhism at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, and has been fascinated by India since travelling there in the early 1990s.
He worked as a bookseller, technical author and IT project manager, until he finally found the time to get on with what he had always meant to do - write stories.
He lives in London with his wife, an ever-growing mountain of books and a peculiar cat.
Hi Geoffrey, welcome over to The Book Plank and for taking your time to answer these few questions.
BP: First off could you give us a short introduction as to who Geoffrey Wilson is? What are your hobbies, likes and dislikes?
GW: I’m pretty much obsessed with writing. It’s what I spend a lot of my time doing or thinking about. I’m a bit boring, really!
BP: If you would have to sell your book with a single sentence, which would it be?
GW: India rules Europe in the 1850s – the final book in the trilogy!
BP: You have a background working in the IT business, when did you decide to first pick up the pen?
GW: I’ve been making up stories since before I could write. I’ve been writing stories for almost as long as I can remember.
BP: Your books, Land of Hope and Glory and The Place of Dead Kings, fall into the category Alternate History. However the themes that you use aren’t often seen in this genre. What gave you the idea behind the series files?
GW: I’ve been interested in Indian religions and history for a long time. At university, I studied Hinduism and Buddhism, and I thought at the time that some of the ideas and mythology would work well in fantasy stories. When I started thinking about an alternate history book involving India, I returned to some of the ideas I’d had previously.
BP: Land of Hope and Glory was your debut novel, how did you went about and tackle writing your first book?
GW: I tried to write that book several times and it changed a lot in the process. I just kept going over it until I started to see something that seemed to work.
BP: The world you envision in your books is rich in history, be it alternate, did you have to carry out a lot of extra research?
GW: I had to do a lot more research than I expected. It was easy enough to come up with the basic idea for the series, but then I realised I actually didn’t know much about the relevant topics. So I had to do a lot of reading. And some experts in different fields were kind enough to give me some advice. I was surprised and pleased at how happy people were to help.
BP: The second and third book of the series have both been released as well. If you look back on your books and would be given the chance to change any scene or chapter, would you do so? And if yes, which one and why?
GW: There are little things I would tweak. But one key problem is that I didn’t include maps or a timeline in the books. I realised after the first book came out that many people wanted to know more about the background to the world, and wanted maps they could refer to while reading.
There is now a map to The War of the Grail up in my website. I will put up more information as soon as I can.
BP: Did you encounter any specific problems along writing your books?
GW: I underestimated the amount of research I would need to do. In the end, I enjoyed the process and I learnt a lot. But it did take over my life for a while.
BP: What was the hardest part of the series to write?
GW: The second and third books were tough because I only had a year to write each of them, due to the publication schedule. With the first book, I could take as long as I wanted. I didn’t have a publishing contract. I could set my own deadlines. But that all changed with the next two books.
BP: Jack Casey, the main protagonist of the series is an interesting character and you thrown him in quite some situations, how did you come by and create his character?
GW: I’m not sure exactly. I was reading quite a few first-hand accounts of 19th -century wars and Jack’s voice just started to emerge from the voices of those soldiers from the past.
I was especially influenced by the book From Sepoy to Subedar, which purports to be the memoirs of an ordinary Indian soldier who served in the British Empire’s forces. Jack’s overall situation is similar to that of the book’s supposed narrator, Sitaram Pandey.
BP: One thins that separates your books from a lot of others is the Sattva energized world and roughly can be said as a type of magic, however the Sattva adds a lot of mystic to the story. When did you came up with using this to energize the world?
GW: The basic ideas come from Indian philosophy. But I’ve taken many liberties with the concepts and added in things to suit my needs.
I first started thinking about these ideas when I was at university studying Hinduism.
BP: Everyone enjoys fantasy in it’s own way, what do you like most about reading and writing fantasy?
GW: There is a great deal of freedom. You can let your mind wander wherever you want.
BP: The War of the Grail is the third book in the series, published last November 7th, have you already mapped out how many books the series will run? And if there will be more books, can you reveal what will be in store for the readers?
GW: This third book rounds off the story begun in the first book. Things reach a conclusion. But I do have a few ideas for future stories set in the same world, potentially with the same characters. I don’t have any plans to write them immediately, however.
BP: Do you have any other projects besides the Land of Hope and Glory series that you wish to pursue?
GW: Yes. I’m working on a few new ideas at the moment. They are still at an early stage, though. Watch this space!
BP: And just lastly, if you would have to give your top 5 favourite books, which would they be?
GW: Tough question. If I had to choose 5 right now, I guess I would say, in no particular order, The Lord of the Rings, Gormenghast (Mervyn Peake), A Wizard of Earthsea (Ursula Le Guin), Gravity's Rainbow (Thomas Pynchon), and all the books of William Blake (OK, that’s more than 5).
BP: Thank you again for you time Geoffrey and I look forward to read your next story!
GW: thanks very much for taking the time to interview me.