I was born in Cleethorpes Lincolnshire UK in 1948: just another post-war baby. After attending grammar school and studying to the sound of Bob Dylan, my little grandson is called Dylan, I went to Nottingham University and studied Medieval and Modern History (Archaeology subsidiary). I have done many different jobs while living in Radcliffe-on-Trent, Leamington Spa, Glossop, the Scilly Isles, Puglia and Calabria. They include teaching English and History, managing a Day-Care Centre, being a Director of a Trade Institute and teaching university students English. I even tried being a fisherman and a flower picker when I was on St. Agnes, Scilly. I have lived in Calabria since 1992 where I settled into a long-term job at the University of Calabria teaching English for 25 years.
Now retired, I have written 15 historical novels to be found on Amazon.
I began by writing ‘pure’ historical novels but then decided I’d like to link the twenty-first century to the Anglo-Saxon period. I started with a time travel novel Angenga, which is currently being made into an audiobook and translated into Spanish. I followed this with a series of Jake Conley novels, six of them. He’s a psychic investigator and some of his experiences are based on real inexplicable events in my life. These books embrace a lot of fantasy including the old gods, angels and demons.
For my books see this link: https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/john-broughton
When I started writing, I wanted to achieve very few things, among them to offer my readers (I hoped for at least twenty!) my ‘world view’ and so, my first novel The Purple Thread contains some light philosophy. I am something of a pantheist but it’s not complicated: I love our planet.
As for my writing technique, well, I use a Mac and do everything from my keyboard, but I fill exercise books with notes because I love using pen and paper. To write convincing historical novels, you have to do plenty of research, so I’m enrolled in many academic sites. It’s ironical but sometimes I can only find the info. I’m seeking about Anglo-Saxon England in American University libraries. My first two novels were meticulously planned with a ‘road map’ of the three-act structure but to be honest, I found it suffocating. After that, I became a ‘pantser’, which gives me great freedom to be spontaneous but also guarantees writer’s block halfway through the novel. I get out of these by reverting for two or three chapters – planning my ‘escape route’. I prefer to research in the morning and do my best writing late afternoon and early evening. I write every dy. My record is to complete a novel of 65000 words in 32 days – OK, I was in a viral lockdown, but it’s still crazy. The best thing is, it just flowed. It’s book 1 of a new trilogy. I’m currently on book 2 – and writing this now because I’m blocked on Chapter 15. It’ll be all right because I never block for more than a couple of days.
What inspires me? How do I come up with ideas? I would say to the first question—people inspire me, especially strong women—morally strong not physically, I hasten to add. My wife, Maria is exceptional in that sense and I based my Saint Leoba on her in my first book. But my favourite female character is in my second novel Wyrd of the Wolf. A noble woman called Cynethryth, who has to face some incredibly difficult choices with great courage. During the following two years I had several female readers plead with me to write a sequel to know what became of her, so when I finished the novel I was writing, I decided to try and wrote one of my more popular novels In the Name of the Mother. As to he second question, it’s usually something I read that triggers an idea. For example, The Purple Thread grew out of an intriguing sentence in an eighth-century letter. It got me thinking…but no spoilers…read it and find out.
My 32-day book is completely off the scale. Usually, I can write a 70000-page novel in six months. My first book was my longest in word count and in time taken but even that was finished in nine months, oh! My first baby! I know I’m prolific and if anything, compulsive. As soon as I finish a novel, I begin research on the next.
My favourite part of writing a book is the last paragraph and the two magical words THE END. I always try to create a satisfying ending for the reader, because if I don’t, I may be compelled to write a sequel as with Wyrd of the Wolf! I think my most inspired ending so far was to Angenga.
My least favourite part of writing … I hope this isn’t cheating…is the marketing. I’m not very techno-savvy and find it almost impossible to keep a website going. I really need someone to do it for me. That’s why I’m not a pure Indie writer but prefer to entrust my books to my brilliant publisher Next Chapter Publishing.
My favourite among my characters? That’s difficult. There are so many, but if I have to choose just one, I’d go for Cynethryth. I explained y earlier.
How did I break into publishing? I’m ignoring the fact that I had children’s books published in the 1980s since they are all out of print. In my second reincarnation, I sent my first manuscript to an agent, who liked it enough to approach it in a personal way. Not a standard printout. She is American and her appreciative remarks encouraged me even if she didn’t take me on. I don’t believe you get an agent, as far as I’m concerned, they get you. Even so, I haven’t got an agent …hey, you out there! So, encouraged I sent it to various indie publishers…innocents beware! Anyway, I was accepted by Endeavour, who published my first four novels. However, I found myself more comfortable with Next Chapter and, preferring to have all my books with them, reverted the ownership and passed them on to NC. That meant he covers had to change and I lost my brilliant reviews on Amazon, but I believe I’d do it again.
How do I market? Badly, in a word! But I try my best through the social media and I rely on my publisher to organise promotions. I have made some little videos and used some fun photos but that’s it really. I’m convinced that word of mouth is best. Read one of my novels, enjoy it and tell your friends!
I have had to research some very strange things. I live in Italy and worry that the Carabinieri will knock on my door! They include, for Jake Conley – neo-Nazi organisations; Black Masses; seraphim—need I go on? Most of my research is historical. At the moment, it’s ninth-century England.
Tips for new writers? Sure. I’d say believe in yourself. Write, don’t revise until you’ve got your first draft on paper or on the hard disk. Above l, before you start, know your theme and make it clear at once to your reader.
Is writing an innate gift? My primary school teacher told me that I had no imagination after a creative writing classwork. I was 10 and it hurt! But I then went and won a certificate for creative writing from Nestlé and he had to announce it with a dose of sarcasm to the class. So, I’d say it’s innate but has to be nurtured though a love of reading and maybe stimulated by a sarky teacher! Leave us kids alone!
No, I haven’t participated in Writing Courses. I’m sure they would be beneficial but I’m a lone wolf. I have no writing group for support either. I have one very good friend, who is also a writer, we read all of each other’s work. It’s invaluable. My opportunities in that respect are zero because I live in a remote part of Italy. Writing related qualifications? Well I taught advanced English to university professors, which means I have extensive grammatical and lexical knowledge. Yes, it helps. I’ve had so many provocative questions to answer like, “John, what is the difference between mirth and merriment?” I know, but I’ll let you find out for yourselves!
Who are my favourite authors? Phew! Well, they’ve changed with age but as a youth, they were undoubtedly Russians. All the usual suspects but in particular, Mikhail Alexandrovich Sholokhov—I adore his descriptive writing. In my existentialist phase, Hermann Hesse and now in my dotage Haruki Murakami because he introduces that pinch of fantasy that keeps me turning the pages. Why hasn’t he been awarded a Nobel? Also, Italo Calvino is my favourite Italian author part from Eco.
My favourite novel is The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. I studied the twelfth-century renaissance at university. This book was published well after I’d graduated but I was amazed at the depth and accuracy of the research combined with the fantasy of basing a monk on Sherlock Holmes.
If I weren’t an author, I’d love to be a surgeon—but I’d need a different brain and skills or I’d be a butcher—to save lives, surely the most incredible calling. Surgeons have saved me twice when I was almost a goner.
My dream would be to have a bestseller, which would enable me to have the cash to go to Japan. That’s my main unattainable dream. I adore Japanese culture and the beauty of their country.
Currently I’m on book 2 of a trilogy about the influence of St Cuthbert as his life affected common people. Book 1 a leather-worker, the book’s titled Heaven in a Wild Flower (no prizes for spotting my pantheism. Book 2 my current work, has no title yet, I’m at the halfway point and it’s about a horse-thegn. I wanted to title it simply, The Horse-Thegn but my writer friend says no—in his opinion, the average reader doesn’t know what a thegn was. He may be right, but I’m stubborn, we’ll see. Book 3, I’ve no idea yet.
A favourite excerpt? No, I can’t do that. It’s up to my readers to find a favourite passage. I have no idea, but I thought maybe a taste of Cynethryth as she comes to terms with her betrothal as decided by her father:
The older woman bustled about arranging clothes on the bed before unbraiding and combing out her mistress’ hair till it hung lustrous down her back.
“We must plait it again as befitting one betrothed.”
“More’s the pity!”
The servant halted her patient task, “How can you say such a thing? Is that what ails
you? He’s a fine young man, tall and blessed with fairness of brow, soon to be King of the Kenting and you his lady.”
“Nelda, to be the king’s lady I care not! What use is a fair countenance if the bearer pleases the eye but not the heart? He is given to base jests and supping ale.”
“As are all men!”
The two women shared a reflective silence at last broken by a sigh from Cynethryth, followed by, “And yet I marry for love.”
“Child, you bewilder me. First, you say — ”
“Oh, Nelda, have no truck with a whimsical girl. Six and ten years make of me a woman. It’s on duty I dwell.” A toss of her blonde tresses elicited a growl of annoyance and a tug at the half-completed braid, making her wince. “Still,” she flicked at a reed on the floor with the toe of her shoe, “I wish Eadric had not forsworn the gods of our forefathers.” She ground the rush underfoot, “With the man, I shall not espouse the god…”