Today in the Library we have Dominic Fielder who has dropped in to say hello and to share some insights into his life as an author.
You are very welcome, Dominic, please introduce yourself:
I’ve held a variety of working posts, some I’ve been good at, and others appalling. Before the world of Marvel and DC became popular, I ran a comic book store and worked for my parents’ family book business (which ran for 61 years and only recently closed). Either side of that, I worked in the Banking and Insurance sector, when such jobs seemed glamourous, but really weren’t, and as a telephone sales and alarm services clerk, which never seemed glamourous but allowed me to meet some interesting characters.
I undertook a History degree and after achieving First class honours had a change of direction in life.
For the past ten years, I’ve become a tutor, specialising in Maths and English for students between years 5 and 11 (10 to 16 in old money). During lockdown, I moved my tuition to an on-line delivery whilst training to become a Secondary school Maths teacher. When I’m not doing those things, I try my best to be a reasonable father, and whatever free time is spare from those commitments, I give to writing.
The King’s Germans series that I’m now working on, is a twenty book and twenty plus year commitment. Fingers crossed, I will stay the course.
Which genre do you write in and what draws you to it?
My genre is military history, set in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars.
One of the earliest memories that I have is of a writing bureau in the hallway of my home. It was an object that fascinated me, with its hidden compartments. Finding things in these was like discovering treasure, even if these were used envelopes or an old stationery book.
One day, in one of the central sections, I found a colour film brochure for Dino de Laurentiis’ film ‘Waterloo’. After that, my parents would frequently find me perched at the bottom of the staircase, gazing at the splendour of the uniforms, even if I couldn’t grasp the words.
It took a while for me to realise that the ‘splendour’ of those times was illusory, but by then I was hooked. When the military fiction series Sharpe came along, I felt as though they had been written just for me and I scoured the bookshelves of WH Smith looking for each new release. I was also fortunate that my family owned a second-hand book stall, so gems were always turning up there too. My hours spent there fuelled my love of reading and that wonder at the craft of story-telling.
I’d love to have that writing bureau now, but it has long since gone the way of all things. The wonder of the Napoleonic age has not left me though, and I hope that I can capture some of that in my stories.
Are you an avid reader? Do you prefer books in your own genre or are you happy to explore others?
I am and I will often read outside of my genre. The books that I tend to read inside of the Napoleonic genre tend to be research based. My guilty pleasure is a bit of science fiction but often the joy of reading is to revisit an old friend and I’m quite habitual in reading works for a second or third (or umpteenth) time.
Are you a self-published/traditional or hybrid author?
Currently self-published. I’d like to have an agent but I’m not sure that will ever happen.
Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?
Can I be rather cheeky and have three? If so, I’d like to claim Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe for, well just about everything that has followed on the writing front. But my absolute favourite author and a book I have read and reread before leaving primary school was Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. I wont ever have his style or craft but if I can make another person have the same feelings for my work, as I do for Dumas’, that’s not a bad trade. The last is that with each book, I apply the ‘Figures in a Landscape’ test (Barry England). This is a book that pitches you straight into the action. It made me want to read it, and every time I write, I try and set it as my litmus test.
What part of the writing process do you find most difficult? How do you overcome it?
Only finding the time to write. I’m a prodigious planner, so I tend to know where a scene is heading. This doesn’t mean that scenes can’t surprise me, they often do. Characters tend to be a little rebellious at times and ideas can spring from the long grass and make you suddenly think…” Hang on, what happens if…”
If you weren’t an author, what would you be up to?
I would teach maths, my current day job! It’s a subject that I like to try and make fun and exciting, and to de-mystify.
If a movie was made of one of your books, who would you like to play the lead roles?
I’m really rubbish at putting actors to match my characters. If ever it were to happen, I would like it to be a series of relatively unknown French and German actors. I do try and match my characters to people I know or actors from other eras. The photo I have of Erich von Bomm (who is 24 in my books), is of a young Michael York (circa 1973), so you can see why I’m hopelessly dated on modern actors!
If you could live the life of an historical figure for one day, who would you choose and what would you get up to?
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – I can’t play a musical instrument or converse in a foreign language so to be able to ‘see’ music in the way that he could and then write about it, in either German or Italian, would be beyond incredible.
Please tell us about your latest published work.
Queen of the Citadels takes place in Flanders during the autumn of 1793 and into the spring of 1794. It tells the stories of a series of characters, principally various ‘German’ soldiers (Hanoverians and Hessians) fighting in the service of George III in the war of the First Coalition against France. The stories are interwoven, and just to make things a little more complicated, there is a thread of French and British stories, so that you are swept along (hopefully) as the decisions taken in London and Paris, play out on the fields of Flanders.
This is a vast canvas, and whilst Sebastian Krombach is the character that most of the stories are written around currently, that might not always be the case. I deliberately avoided naming this series after a person, that merely signals their near immortality. The King’s Germans will see ‘main characters’ die, that’s the nature of war. And this is a story of love, war, revolution, politics, and all points in between. It’s also the third book in the series, The Black Lions of Flanders and the King of Dunkirk being books 1 and 2 respectively.
Whilst there is a degree of explanation of the backstory, reading Black Lions first would make more sense.
I do hope that one day you can make time to discover the series.