AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Tim Leach
Tim Leach is a writer of historical fiction, specialising in the ancient world, unreliable source texts, and the crossover points between myth and history. His first novel, The Last King of Lydia, was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize in 2013. A sequel, The King and the Slave,followed in 2014, and Tim's latest book, Smile of the Wolf, was published this summer. He is also a graduate of the Warwick Writing Programme, where Tim now teaches fiction as an Assistant Professor. Originally from Essex, Tim now lives in Sheffield, where he is a keen fell runner and rock climber in his spare time.
Hi, Tim. I’ve noticed you’ve written historical fiction books. Can you tell me a bit more about why you’ve chosen this as a recurring genre?
I fell into it somewhat by accident, I tried just about every other genre of writing first. It was simply that I was reading Herodotus (I was on a Classics binge at the time to try and plug a hole in my education) and came across the story of Croesus. I knew that I wanted to write that story, and so I’d have to teach myself to write historical fiction. Once I’d gotten into it for the first novel, it turned out to be an excellent fit for the kind of things I like to write. I love the puzzle of looking at myths and folklore and unreliable source texts and trying to think of what might have inspired them. The kind of pressure that ancient and medieval worlds put on characters is interesting to me, the combination of physical danger and intense social/cultural pressure lends itself to characters making challenging decisions. And I love the unusual worlds and landscapes it takes me to - I was a big fantasy reader when I was a kid, and I still have that love of people on horseback questing across strange and dangerous lands.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I teach creative writing at the University of Warwick as my day job, which is often very stimulating for my own writing (though also stressful at times!). For fun, I like to run, rock climb, and play board games and the like. Like many writers, I’m a huge nerd for things like Dungeons and Dragons. I think games, roleplaying games in particular, have a huge amount to teach us about narrative and storytelling.
In your opinion, what’s the most difficult part when writing a novel?
Definitely the middle. I thought it was just me for a long time, but it’s actually fairly commonly known amongst novelists that past 30,000 words you often start to lose the will to live. That’s why lots of novels get abandoned, it suddenly gets really hard and you feel the writing is terrible and you’re doing something wrong. But it’s just part of the process, and you’ve got to fight your way through. Beginnings are tremendous fun. Endings are satisfying. The middle is often just hell. And of course, a novel is mostly middle! That’s what makes them so challenging to write. And immensely satisfying, of course...
How long did it take you to write ‘The Last King of Lydia?'
Hard to say exactly! I’d say about two and a half years - a little over a year to produce the first draft, and then another year and a half of editing and polishing to get it into shape.
What would be your advice to aspiring writers?
There’s so much advice to give! But I’ve always thought of the three main qualities of a writer as being persistence, patience, and curiosity:
Persistence - committing to writing and finishing stories on a regular basis, the cultivation of discipline, habit and routine.
Patience - the humility to accept that it’ll take a long time to get anywhere (most writers serve about a ten year apprenticeship before their work is strong enough to publish), being able to abandon that hunger for immediate validation and committing to the writing for its own sake.
Curiosity - always looking to experiment, reflect, improve, learn, and try new things.
This was a pleasure, Tim. I'm looking forward to reading your new book 'Smile Of The Wolf', which is out now.
Smile Of The Wolf is an epic story of exile and revenge, as two friends struggle to survive in a desolate land where honour is the only law men know.
You can follow Tim Leach on social media:
Personal email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Email for Press enquiries: Blake@headofzeus.com