Anthony Riches – Writing the Novels of Ancient Rome

Report by Lisa Nightingale

No Roman Centurion costume from Author of the Empire series, Anthony Riches sorely disappointing some of us. But, he did let us call him Tony.

Having experienced rejections, Tony put his writing career on hold. But a true writer’s imagination will not be shelved for long. A Riches family ‘summer holiday’ visit to wet, windy, winter in August Housesteads Fort on Hadrian’s Wall enthused the writer in Tony. Such a bleak place on the edge of civilisation was inspiration for the swords, shields and swearing series which is now on book 7 of 25!

Feb 15 Anthony Riches_1685Tony has a lust for life. He enjoys his successful ‘Day Job’ immensely and empathised that it is hard for the writer to take themselves off to that book following a rewarding meal and glass of wine at the end of the working day. Splitting time between this and the Empire is constant tension.

Tony subscribes to the advice; to be a writer one must first be a reader. The ‘Day Job’ brought plenty of down-time, mostly in flight and he devoured Roman historicals – fiction and non alike. Wikipedia, he advises us is a useful tool. It may sometimes be wrong, but it is great place to start your research. And it throws up many villains and murderers extraordinaire.

Wounds of Honour began to take shape. Tony imparts a tip: Come up with your own title. If you don’t, your publisher will. You may not like it!

A successful project manager, Tony also had a completed manuscript sculling around on a memory stick. By chance, during an extensive, dark and rainy wait for a taxi, Tony met a self-publication guru and security guard. He offered to take a look at Wounds of Honour. It must be disconsolate, discomfort that fires Tony on, because he agreed.

Feedback, this time was positive. A succession of submissions and rejections toughened Tony’s resolve and gave us tip no.2: Take the Writers and Artists’ Yearbook with a pinch of salt!

An agent was secured and so is Tip no 3: A writer does not just sell their masterpiece to a commissioning editor. It is to be sold to the entire publishing company.

Tip no 4 speaks for itself: NEVER GIVE UP. Arm yourself with the skin of a rhinoceros and persist! Read and re-read the rejections. There will be something in them that will help you in your future writing and thus avoid further heartache.

Tip 5: Historical fiction writers must be enthused by their chosen time period. The time period chosen must yield more than one book. Publishers are easily spooked. Agents and editors can become ruthless in their quest to get your work commercially viable.

Tip 6: Watch your language! Meticulous in his authenticity, Tony threaded his way through a completed manuscript correcting one word. Had this been wrong though, the reader’s belief in the story may have been lost. And so would the publisher.

Harsh words from his agent taught Tony to trust the publishing company. Every time a book is produced, he hates the cover. But he now recognises that they are the Sales department and as such, they know what they are doing.

Self-publishing no longer holds a stigma. The unfortunate truth is that salacious celebrity autobiographies and cook books are a publisher’s biggest sellers. Many publishers picking up authors who are already published by themselves. So tip 7: do not diss self-publishing.

Characters are tip 8. Historical fiction needs plenty to play with – you may want to kill them off later on!

Tip 9: That time period must be a broad canvas to work on.

Tony’s future? More Empire and possibly a children’s’ (YA) historical fiction novel. Go for it, Tone, you seem to like a challenge! The Hampshire Writers’ Society are all Young Adults at heart – we will look forward to reading it.

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