In today's interview, we are delving into the world of historically-based fantasy fiction, as we get to know author Daniel Kelly.
PB: Hi Daniel! Welcome to pjbermanbooks.com. Tell us a bit about your background.
DK: Good evening Peter, and thanks for having me here. A bit about myself…well I am a chef who just happens to like to read a lot, so probably not qualified to write as such but it seems to be going down quite well. I was born and raised in Donegal very much in the shadow of Doe Castle, literally a few hundred metres from my parents’ house which I think instilled my initial love of history, that was the playground my brothers and myself grew up playing in. playing out the battles and swordfights we imagined had taken place there, growing up with those stories of the wars. Between that and the teachers we were lucky enough to have as children, stories and imagination were a big part of my childhood and it’s something I would like to pass on.
PB: What made you decide to become an author?
DK: I actually decided to become a chef… though that was as much accident as anything else. I took a summer job working in the kitchen of the cove restaurant at sixteen. The atmosphere was something I loved in kitchens, the friendships I made. History and reading, I had always loved. When we were told to pick careers at seventeen, well, it’s a pretty daunting prospect for anyone at that age, what would you like to do for the rest of your life? I applied for a mixture of options I had an interest in, history, archaeology, IT, computer software design and engineering, and professional cookery. Professional cookery college required you to accept or reject before the results were out for the leaving cert exams… and what careers were really available if I did history and archaeology? But everyone always needs to eat. Chefs would always be needed. I took what seemed the rational choice at the time but I never stopped reading. One day, after reading David Gemmell’s Troy series, I just started writing for myself.
PB: When did you first start writing?
DK: One of my first memories is actually of writing, even before I knew what letters were, no joke. We were living in our old house before my parents current one was even built and I wasn’t at school yet so I would have to say I cant have been more than three which always surprises me I can remember it so clearly. My mother has the most beautiful cursive handwriting, I think we had visitors coming over or something so she gave me a sheet of paper and a pencil expecting me to draw I expect, while she cleaned. Instead I did… what I thought was the same as she did. I drew squiggly lines across every line of the page, and brought it to her saying “What does this say”? lol. But seriously, I wrote the odd story at school, but I don’t think I started actually actively writing until I was almost thirty. To be honest, during most of my jobs I wouldn’t have had time, restaurants and hotel are… long hours, to put it politely. Only during the recession, during which I took a job in a hospital did I eventually have time to get back into it.
PB: What was the first story that you can remember writing?
DK: Does “How I spent my summer holidays” count? I have vague memories of writing a story of red Hugh O’Donnell when I was in school. He is one of the local hero’s in Donegal, and was a member of the flight of the earls. It’s a story I would still love to write sometime, but that version is long gone. Unfortunately my handwriting is virtually illegible so anything I wrote before I got a laptop would be like trying to decipher hieroglyphics.
PB: When you begin writing a new novel, do you always know the ending?
DK: Oh gods no…I can’t read a book I have read before because I already know how its going to end. I will usually have a very basic idea of the direction I want it to take, but if I knew how it was going to end at the start, I don’t think I would be able to write it. It’s as much a mystery to me as it is to whoever is reading it.
PB: If you could meet any of your characters, who would you meet, and what would you say to them?
DK: I think I would tell Agamemnon, either not to go home, or to kill his wife as soon as he gets there. If that doesn’t make sense… you can either google what happens when he gets home, or get excited because my version of it is coming in my sequel “A Hero’s Welcome” part two of the Heroes of Troy series.
PB: Where did the idea for The Fall of the Phoenix come from?
DK: After reading Gemmell’s Troy series I wondered why, when they wrote the histories, the Greeks always seem to look like the bad guys in troy. I realise morals were different back then, honour, glory all had different values to modern society, but also that the Iliad was written some five hundred years after the events and is probably as accurate as guessing. So I wrote it initially to try to make sense to myself more so than thinking about publishing.
PB: Tell us about your research process for The Fall of the Phoenix.
DK: I am very fortunate in that there is an abundance of writing on Troy, none of which can be reliably relied on. Everything we know, or nothing, may be true. We know there was a city there which was destroyed. History at the time was passed down by word of mouth with the Iliad only being the accepted version because a Spartan king advocated it. So keeping as accurate to bronze age history we do know as possible, weapons, armour, clothing etc, it leaves a lot of leeway in the story. I had read as much as I could on it over years without really knowing I was researching what would be my first novel, with small obscure articles throwing up details now and again.
PB: That process sounds like a lot of fun! Of all your achievements, which are you most proud of?
DK: Getting published at all I am quite proud of. But outside of that, Spartacus actor Manu Bennett aka Crixus (BIG FAN) did a promotion video for me after I sent him a copy, and some of my favourite authors, like Christian Cameron and S.J.A. Turney read and reviewed it. But honestly, when almost especially, someone you didn’t know enjoys it, and takes the time to contact you and say they enjoyed your work, and leaves a review, I think there is very little like the feeling that can give you. When someone says they loved your book, that makes you more proud than the awards it has gotten.
PB: What is your favourite book series to read and why?
DK: Oh, this is a very difficult question to answer for various reasons… Christian Cameron’s killer of men from his long war series ignited my love of Greek stories after a few years away from them, but Ben Kane’s forgotten legion and Conn Iggulden’s emperor series did the same for me in Roman History. Added to this, I LOVE fantasy, Tom Lloyds The Stormcaller, I consider one of the best books ever written, combining fantasy heavy magic mixed with medieval history, and I had never really been into modern fantast, until I met Dyrk Ashton at worldcon when it was in Dublin. I got on really well with him and he gave me a copy of his book which is… an urban fantasy setting for a war of the god, and I never really expected to like it, but I devoured it, and the second, with the third being my most anticipated read this year because, yes, Paternus is THAT good.
PB: What are your long term ambitions with regards to writing?
DK: I think every author dreams about being successful enough to be able to just write. I would like to think that one day I could support myself with writing and give myself the time to put down all the stories that are in my head. Obviously TV deals and million euro contracts would be nice, but you have to be realistic.
PB: What’s the next target for you?
DK: I think, for the minute, I would like my next book to go down as well as my first. Maybe be more successful and reach a wider audience, but really just to grow.
PB: Tell us a random fact about yourself.
DK: Hmmm… I represented Ireland as a chef in international competitions.
Well, if that doesn't make you want to read The Fall of the Phoenix right now, I don't know what will! Thank you so much to Daniel Kelly for joining us today.
If you would like to purchase a copy of The Fall of the Phoenix, or find out more about Daniel himself, you can do so via the links below: