INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR OF ‘The Prince of Prigs’, Anthony Anglorus
I am delighted to share with you today an Interview with Anthony Anglorus, author of the novel ‘The Prince of Prigs’. Anthony lives in England and has been married to a Russian Doctor since 1999. Thank you so much for taking the time to come chat with me and the fine readers and lovers of historical fiction here at Historical Fiction Addicts.
Why don’t we start by getting to know you a little bit better…
I’m nothing special or particularly unusual. Just a very ordinary guy who spent his career trying to be productive doing accounts and such, and scraping a living along the way, usually. But when the pressure got too much a few years ago, I semi-retired and started writing. I’m married to my soul-mate, who happens to be Russian and we lead a very busy life.
When you are not writing, what do you like to do?
I enjoy watching football – soccer for American readers – attending concerts and performances of good music. Almost any genre, the last one was David Gilmour, the next is an opera I’ve neither seen nor heard before; ‘L’Etoile’ by Chabrier..
Coffee? Tea? Or something with a little more kick?
I love coffee. I go to extremes with it, buying green beans, roasting my own, blending my own and always through an espresso machine. Sadly, it is less keen on me so I have just the one treasured mug in the morning; otherwise, insomnia threatens. So I have to drink tea for the rest of the day.
I love tea! My husband in a loyal coffee drinker as is my father. But me, I love a nice cup of tea…anytime and anywhere.
Now, let’s dig into your novel and learn a little about Anthony, the author and writer.
The Prince of Prigs takes place just after the union of England and Scotland, what was it about this time period that interested you and led you to write this historical fiction piece?
It was the character. Captain James Hind was an extraordinary man, combining social conscience, loyalty and a sense of humour with, well, with being basically a thief. The more I learned about him, the more I liked him, and being a dashing and daring highwayman made it a must-write book. He was, in fact, the original role-model of this type of thief and was a folk hero in his lifetime.
The title of your novel is unusual and intriguing, how did you come up with it?
In a way, I didn’t. As I said, he was a folk hero in his time, and dozens of pamphlets were written about him, some fictitious, some true – he refused to reveal which were true. But also, one ‘J.S.’ wrote a play about him. ‘J.S.’ is believed to be James Shirley, a very noted playwright of the time. But it was all in vain, theatre was banned as being too frivolous and it was never performed. But the title was ‘The Prince of Prigs’, and I found it irresistible.
What was the most challenging aspect of writing this HF novel?
I wrote this novel in a straight line. What that means is that I wrote most of James’s story but then came to a difficult bit; if I proceeded, I would enter into a period of warfare. I know nothing of warfare, nor do I really want to know. So I was stuck from November 2012 until June 2013 when I encountered author Ben Kane walking Hadrian’s Wall in full Roman gear – as you do. He told me to just go with it and see how it went.
This prodded me back to life. In fact, I still evaded writing about war and instead wrapped contemporary events around my story. With the story now broader, I was able to see a good conclusion to the book and actually never needed to write about war.
What are you most proud about in this HF novel?
My desire was to write a story about a real character, sticking closely to historical fact, in what is called ‘the American Style’, which is the most readable style being full of action. I believe that I succeeded.
Is there one character in your novel you most relate to? Why?
Captain James Hind is the central character, and whilst I was writing his contribution to the story, I had to think like him, almost become him – to a degree, anyway. The idea of me riding a horse, flintlock in hand, chasing a bus along a motorway with a view to a robbery is too daunting.
But when I began to expand the book width-wise, I encountered Thomas Fairfax.
Thomas Lord Fairfax was an aristocrat who joined the Parliamentarian side in the Civil War. Not because he wanted to overthrow the king but because he wanted more delegation, a fairer society. His skills as a general effectively won the war, not Cromwell as is generally perceived, and he was actually Cromwell’s superior officer throughout until he resigned as Commander-in-chief of the New Model Army in 1649. But Cromwell was a far better politician who managed to outmaneuver Fairfax repeatedly. He did not want to the king to die and made a last ditch attempt to delay the execution. But Cromwell took him into a nearby chapel to discuss it, having given the nod quietly for the execution to proceed; so even in this he was outwitted. But I like his integrity, his honesty, his character and fully intend to learn more about him when I can find the time. I already know that he spent his twilight years encouraging the arts.
Is there a message in your novel you want readers to grasp?
Absolutely not. I write for readers to enjoy, I am not trying to teach anything; everyone’s truth is different. But there is a lot of true history in my novel and hopefully people can learn about this critical period and enjoy doing so. But if they merely enjoy the story, then I feel fulfilled in my aims.
How long did it take you, from the inception of the idea to the finish manuscript, to write The Prince of Prigs?
I started it in early 2012, and signed the publishing deal in November 2014. So almost 3 years in all. But remember, I was ‘blocked’ for seven months, and I finished the actual writing part in early February 2014. After that, came the editing and submissions period.
Tell us about your writing routine.
That’s easy, there isn’t one. But I have a spreadsheet with all of the events of the story in sequence and numbered. I often look at this, and if an event catches my eye, sometimes I get specific ideas about that event and will sit down and write it. I do allow the event to follow its’ own path, and if it goes off into an unexpected direction, I let it and adjust future events to fit.
The storyline is therefore very fluid and has changed dramatically from the initial tale. I should point out here that whereas ‘The Prince of Prigs’ is mostly true, the sequel comes primarily from my imagination, but still built as much as possible upon the framework of actual history. ‘The Prince’ covers the period summer 1648 until April 1649. The sequel takes us up to Christmas 1649. This was a quiet time in history, Parliament was very busy granting payments to each other and redefining the crime of ‘Treason’ to mean criticizing parliament. They did very little else, leaving me with a nice clean canvas upon which to write.
How do you navigate your way out of the terrifying abyss of Writer’s Block?
Apart from the block of not wanting to write about a subject I knew nothing about (War), I’ve not really encountered it. Rather, it is life itself blocks me; I’m a very busy man. There are occasions when writing should happen and I’ll pick an event I feel comfortable writing about. What this does is trigger my subconscious, and even if what I’m writing is utter crap, I’ll get ideas and gradually, it improves. Then I go back and rewrite the crappy bits.
Are you a “pants” writer or do you outline and plan your novels?
I’m a bit of both. Yes, it’s planned and outlined. But if I think of an improvement, or an event I’m writing takes me in an unexpected direction, I adjust the story without hesitating.
Do you have any interesting writing quirks?
Not really. Did I tell you that I have a full highwayman costume, based upon contemporary woodcuts of James Hind? I find that when I’m meant to be out and about as a highwayman, donning the hat seems to change my character from the quiet man in the corner to the noisy one in the middle.
I love this! I am also a drama teacher/director so the idea of donning a hat to get into character while writing appeals deeply to me!
Describe your writing room/space.
Ah. Yes. <blush>. The tiny bedroom in our 3-bed house. Two filing cabinets, a growing reference bookshelf, a vertical cupboard and a desk. Plus papers and books everywhere, and three computers. A wool cloak hangs on the back of the door, my hat sits on top of the printer.
We’ll move to France in a few years and are now creating my writing room, and it is far more attractive. The ceiling is done, painted sky blue with small spotlights inset. The facing wall will be decorated with forest wallpaper, even the doors. To my left, a wall made up of sliced log ends and on the floor will be artificial grass. Much better than a tiny, very cramped bedroom.
It sounds like you are creating your own pastoral oasis indoors! I finally have my own office after years and years of using the kitchen table. My office is a combination of white, greys and blacks. I hope to put up some wallpaper that looks like birch bark trees. I love nature.
I love quotes, particularly Ernest Hemingway’s quote, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Is there a quote you have found particularly inspiring that motivates you as a writer?
Put simply, no. I do drink in quotes by classical writers, but we live in a different world now. Most of the classics would be rejected today because the focus is firmly set upon money, not merit. Only small publishers are interested in actual literary merit and they lack the financial clout to market them as well as, for example, one of the Big Five publishing houses will market a ghosted autobiography by a seventeen year old reality star.
What authors have inspired you?
We can certainly include Ben Kane here, he inspired me with his words of wisdom. But the writing style of Tom Clancy and Clive Cussler inspired me and I seek to emulate them. It would certainly be nice if I could emulate their success rate! But their style where there is always something happening makes their books impossible to put down, and that is what I want to create. I can also point to Richard ben Sapir, Patrick Tilley and Jean Auel, although with the last two, their detailed descriptions do cause me to skip sections sometimes. But the storytelling is sublime.
What novel from your childhood/teen years was your favorite?
Dr E E ‘Doc’ Smith’s “Masters of Space’. I loved the ease of reading. Cringed at the ‘good chums’ bits, loved the vastness of the scope of the story.
Do you have any advice for writers?
Whenever I write dialogue, I find myself cringing at it. But when anyone else reads it, they like it – I’ve never been ‘pulled up’ on my dialogue. So I say, if something you’re writing seems off, trust your fingers and wait until you hear outside criticism – in many ways, you are the worst judge possible.
Are you working on a sequel to the Prince of Prigs, tentatively titled, Dark Days, Dark Deeds, can you give HFA readers a sneak peek?
Yes, I am, and it is progressing – slowly. The story is evolving too. Nothing has been edited and most has not yet been critiqued, but here is one early event.
Scenario: Captain Zachary Howard has been captured. As he has done things to anger both Lord Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell (these are within ‘The Prince of Prigs’, and are true – but you’ll have to read the Prince to find out what he did!), they are keen to ensure he does not escape.
Arriving at Newgate, Fairfax climbed from his horse to escort the prisoner, now struggling in vain to release himself from his bonds, as the troopers led him through the foreboding gates of Newgate Prison. He turned to address the gatekeeper.
“This man receives no visitors and remains in his cell until the day of his trial. If he is missing when we return to collect him, you will go in his stead.”
The gatekeeper nodded nervously and led the cortege through the gloomy courtyard to a doorway with green mould despoiling the magnificent old wood. A wizened, dirty gaoler stood outside with a nervous grin, revealing rotten teeth. At a nod from him, the gatekeeper retreat and hurried back to his post.
Passing through the doorway, the gaoler lit a torch and stretched downwards to ignite a second just inside a staircase. Fairfax recoiled as a vision of hell was revealed. Torches were attached at intervals down a steep, moss-covered staircase. Water dripped from the walls and an evil, foetid stench pervaded the air.
“General, you might not want to follow; we keep these cells for very special prisoners, and the steps are very slippery,” croaked the gaoler.
“I want to check the cell for myself and see the key turn in a solid lock before this man passes from my sight.”
The gaoler nodded and with no further comment, started gingerly descending the staircase, lighting the waiting torches as he reached them. The troopers followed suit, dragging Howard behind them. Fairfax watched them descend, and then gingerly followed.
Down, down the stairs led until an area of flat rock came to light. Howard intensified his struggles and pulled so violently that the troopers lost their footing, descending the last dozen steps helter-skelter and dragging Howard tumbling behind them.
Fairfax stopped and drew his pistol, remaining higher up on the staircase. “Captain Howard, your struggles can bear no fruit. If you free yourself and try to climb the stairs, I shall shoot you. There is no other way out of here?” he looked towards the gaoler.
“There is only this staircase, General.”
Howard paused, and then climbed to his feet. The troopers regained their footing and pulled angrily on the ropes binding Howard, causing him to jerk and grimace.
The cortege resumed its progress until a door loomed at the end of the short corridor. With difficulty, the gaoler turned the key and flung the door open.
Fairfax gestured to the troopers who pulled the prisoner to one side as the General took a nearby torch and strode into the cell.
Hastily, he removed his hat as his head bumped the ceiling, then he looked around.
No windows disturbed the solid stone walls at any point, no openings whatsoever. He walked around, examining the joints between the stones, but there was no evidence of any possible weaknesses. As he passed the back corner, his boot crunched on something, and he bent to examine. Only a pile of human faeces, dried with age. The floor was solid rock. Satisfied that escape was impossible save through the door, he turned back to the gaoler standing nervously in the doorway.
“You will provide straw for him to sleep on, clean water or cheap beer to drink and the minimum of food. No man shall enter this cell other than to provide food and water, and even then, you will have an armed man waiting at the bottom of the stairs, with his gun cocked and instructions to kill.” He strode back across to the door and resumed his position behind the troops. “Take him in and release him.”
Once the door was closed behind Zachary Howard, the general moved forwards again to check the lock. Satisfied, he turned to the gaoler. “You must check on him hourly, but otherwise, no one descends those stairs without an order from Parliament. Should he escape, the penalties for you will be extremely severe. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yessir. No visitors ‘cept me.”
“Good. Now let us get out of this hellhole before I vomit.”
Outside the prison, Fairfax returned to his horse.
“General, we have new orders,” announced Cromwell, “There is a riot to the North of the city and Parliament has asked that we ride with haste to quell it. Hind will have to wait.”
Fairfax nodded and spurred his horse forward at a trot with the soldiers following.
Wow! This sounds very interesting and intense. I can’t wait to see it in print!
Until Next Time…Read On!