Author Interview: Richard Denning
Layered Pages has the honor of introducing Author Richard Denning. Two time winner of the B.R.A.G Medallion! -Stephanie
Richard please tell us about your book, The Last Seal.
The Last Seal is a historical Fantasy set during the Great Fire of London in the year 1666 – a fire which destroyed the heart of the city and made 70,000 people homeless. I started reading up on the fire when I was designing a board game I published a couple of years ago AND for a scene in a Time Travel novel I also wrote. When I read about the fire I came across a lot on what beliefs and superstitions people had. I found about the widespread paranoia about foreign plots and conspiracies that people had at the time as well as their belief in magic being real. All that came together very quickly into a idea. I asked myself what if the fire was not just an accident, what if there really were secret societies involved and a supernatural explanation behind the great event?
So here is a synopsis of The Last Seal. September 1666: a struggle between two secret societies threatens to destroy London. Three hundred years previously the Praesidum defeated and incarcerated a demon beneath the city. Now the Liberati aim to release it and gain its power for themselves. Meanwhile agents of the King are seeking four suspected foreign spies who are, in reality, disparate and unlikely heroes: GABRIEL, the sole remaining member of the Praesidum, crippled by his fear of failure; FREYA, a young thief orphaned by the Great Plague, driven by poverty and self-interest; TOBIAS, a cynical physician, obsessed by his desire for vengeance against the Liberati cavalier who killed his father, and finally and most vitally, BEN, a Westminster schoolboy, whose guilt over his parents’ death threatens to destroy him. Thrown together by chance when Ben finds an ancient scroll revealing the location of arcane seals that bind the demon beneath London, the story launches into a battle between the Liberati and Praesidium, a battle which takes place within the Great Fire of London. These four must overcome their personal problems and work together if they are to foil the plans of the Liberati, protect the city and gain the means to defeat the demon.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I don’t consciously write books to get across a message to readers. I enjoy books where fantasy is blended with reality. I have to deal with gritty reality in the day job – I am a family doctor – so I really never watch or read stories about real life dramas if I can avoid it. Give me a good bit of escapism please! Thus I loved Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman and Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko – where fantastical events and creatures live alongside us. So it was that I decided to write a novel where the real historical background of 1666 and of the fire was the back drop to a story of sorcery, entombed demons and secret societies.
Having said all that it is a tale of good vs evil, courage and having to face one’s own demons and deal with them.
What was your biggest challenge in writing this book?
Historical research. I wanted the reader to FEEL like they were walking around London in 1666. I wanted the fire to seem real too and the scenes involving the fire to be accurate and believable. All that took time – and perhaps that is the challenge of historical fiction – fantasy or real history. You have to spend hours visiting locations, reading about the clothes and weapons, food etc. Fortunately I enjoy all that.
What is your greatest strength as a writer?
Folk who give me good reviews usually say that I inject a good pace to my books, that they are fast moving and exciting. I also write a good battle. Not too much blood and gore but hopefully again a feeling of being in the middle of the action. I think I am also good at descriptions – particularly of locations.
Who or what inspired you to become an author?
Reading a lot. I spent my teens, twenties and thirties reading – devouring is a better word – anything historical and fantastical I could find. Gradually I got ideas for my own stories. So it is really my favourite authors who are to blame 😉
What books have influenced your life the most?
I am a fan of historical fiction such as by Bernard Cornwell and Simon Scarrow. I also enjoy fantasy and I am a huge Terry Pratchett fan as well as having devoured The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, the Belgariad by David Eddings and most of the works of Raymond Feist for example. Lately I have enjoyed Helen Hollick’s Harold the King and her Pirate Trilogy and of course have read all the Harry Potter books.
What is your next book project?
Shield Maiden – which should be out about the time of this interview – is historical fantasy which blends the historical world of Early Anglo Saxon Britain with the mythology those people believed in. It is the first of my Nine Worlds Series aimed at top primary schools.
What is your favorite quote?
Roads go ever ever on,
Under cloud and under star.
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen,
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green,
And trees and hills they long have known.
As a doctor I have seen my share of horrible things – both in Africa as a student or even here in the UK. If times are tough that poem reminds me that home awaits me at the end of the day.
What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Read a lot. Then write, rewrite and rewrite. Then get an editor. Only an editor can help take your book and mould it into something worth publishing. You won’t always agree with them, you may have the odd row but they are usually right!! (Hope Jo Field , my editor, is not reading this 😉 )
Many thanks for the interview.