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Archive for the day “March 15, 2016”

Interview with Luke Waterson

Luke Waterson

I had the pleasure of meeting Luke Waterson at his book launch last December.  It took place at The Cutty Sark Pub in Greenwich and it was just the perfect venue with wonderful views.  I really enjoyed learning about his debut novel, ‘Roebuck’.

Here’s an interview I have done with Luke.


For the benefit of my readers can you tell me a bit about ‘Roebuck’ please?

Purely and simply, Roebuck is a cracking good adventure – and an adventure based on events that really did take place. It follows the story of Anthony Knivet, a common English sailor with most uncommon ambitions, who sets sail with the explorer Sir Thomas Cavendish’s on his fated circumnavigation of the globe in 1591. Circumstances conspire against the somewhat luckless Knivet and after the fleet reaches Brazil he gets abandoned on a hostile coast populated by cannibalistic tribes and Portuguese colonists who are little less hostile. But Knivet is not a man to be discouraged. And, finally, deep in the South American jungle, he does find his calling in this strange New World – setting in motion events that will change Brazil beyond recognition.

On another level, however, the story is a psychological study – on what we do to get noticed in this world, the extent to which we are prepared to go to get that recognition, and where exactly the line is between sanity and madness.

I always hesitate over assigning a particular genre to Roebuck. It is perhaps best categorised as historic fiction, and so it has been for marketing purposes, but I like to think of it as historic literary adventure fiction with elements of travelogue thrown in. Perhaps most of all, Anthony Knivet is the ultimate traveller. Not only did he describe, for the first time by western eyes, many places throughout Amazonian South America, but he is prepared to go anywhere, do anything and bear every level of physical and emotional hardship that epic journeys can throw at you.


What inspired you to write this book?

Originally, it was a small column in the Economist in 2011 that inspired me. The Economist article was on unsung explorers, as I recall. Knivet is unsung, but unfairly so, as I believed from the very beginning. After all, he spent a longer period of time with the indigenous tribes of Amazonian South America than any other foreigner until the mid-twentieth century (almost a decade). And his observations on these peoples, many of whom died out completely in the decades following his time with them, are of lasting importance. Knivet captivated me the more I read about him, and about seafaring during his lifetime. But the backdrop of Knivet’s story was also one I was very familiar with. As a travel writer I have visited the Amazon a lot for work, and therefore the scenes I wanted to write were quick to come alive in my mind.


How long did it take you to write?

From first research to final edit , almost three years. I might need to speed up a little for my next novel, but that was three years writing around a full time job, I should say.


Did you have to do much research for it?

With historic fiction, part of the pleasure of the writing is doing the necessary research to me. I don’t claim that every single line of Roebuck really happened, but it all COULD have happened based on what we know of the period, and I think that is the important thing. To get to the stage where everything you write about a period centuries in the past takes a great deal of research. In Roebuck’s case this totted up to several months altogether.


Would you like to see ‘Roebuck’ made into a film and if so who would star in it?

It’s every writers’ dream to see their book made into a film, so yes. As to who would star in it? An interesting question. A little-known lead, for sure, that can really bring out the personality of Knivet and stamp some of his own personality on the role.


Will you be having any more books published?

I hope many more. I’m working on a new novel at the moment. The research has gone well and I should be beginning the first draft soon: watch this space! My website http://lukeandhiswords.com will have the latest on how all my new writing projects progress.


What exactly does travel writing involve?

Perhaps two to four months away travelling in total per year and most of the rest of the time at the desk, invariably endeavouring to meet umpteen simultaneous deadlines. There is an element of uncertainty about it occasionally – where the next commission is coming from, etc, but the other side to that is that life is thrillingly open-ended. Just to dispel a common misperception though, it’s not all cocktails on beaches, by any means!


Do you take lots of pictures?

I am primarily a writer but where travel writing is concerned, many publications also want me to take pictures of the places I am writing about. My pictures have appeared on the BBC and for Lonely Planet, among others. I also took the majority of the images for the first guidebooks I ever wrote on Scotland.  Pictures are also an invaluable personal record as well, of course.


I take it you’ve been to Brazil where you book is set?

Yes. Mainly in the jungle. There are lots of places in Brazil I would like to go – particularly in the north.


Do you spend a lot of time away in rainforests etc.?

The Amazon rainforest is one of the main areas I write about as a travel writer. I spend probably a month on average every year in the Amazon jungle – be that the Peruvian, Ecuadorian, Bolivian or Brazilian parts of it.


Can you tell me about some of the amazing sights you’ve seen?

In the Amazon? Doing the three-day trip by slow cargo boat by river through tangled jungle nothingness to emerge in Iquitos, the world’s largest city not to be connected by road to the outside world, goes up there with the very best experiences. The sudden stark contrast between wilderness and 450,000-strong metropolis has to be seen to be believed.


Is travel writing something you’ll always do?

I think so. I love the sense of discovery. Perhaps I’ll never quite enjoy the level of craziness or intrepidness Anthony Knivet did, exploring in the sixteenth century, but I’d always like to think I’ve enough spirit of adventure left to give it a good go! Travel writing is also an incredibly challenging industry to succeed in to the extent where you are earning a living from it, so having got there, I would like to stay there! In any case there is no better job to have for novel inspiration…


‘Roebuck’ is available to buy from:-

Urbane Publications  – http://urbanepublications.com/books/roebuck/

Amazon – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Roebuck-Admirable-Adventurer-Luke-Waterson-ebook/dp/B019IN4B7W/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1457808456&sr=1-1&keywords=roebuck


Twitter – @Lukeandhiswords



Book Cover


Matthew Smith is kindly giving away three copies of ‘Roebuck’.  To enter just leave a comment telling me where you’ve travelled to or would like to travel to.


Terms and Conditions

This competition is open worldwide.

The closing date is 11:59 p.m. on the 3rd April 2016.

The winners will be randomly chosen within 7 days of the closing date.  Their details will be passed on to Matthew Smith who will send out the prizes.


Good luck!


Interview with Stuart Thomson

Stuart Thomson

Stuart Thomson’s new book, ‘Public Affairs: A Global Perspective’ is out on the 24th March 2016.  I asked him a few questions.


Could you tell me a bit about your book, ‘Public Affairs: A Global Perspective’, please?

I’ve worked in public affairs for nearly 20 years and I’ve always wondered whether what I do to help organisations engage in politics and policy-making in the UK, which is what public affairs is, is the same as others do across the world, for instance in the US or New Zealand.  So that was really the starting point for this book.

It explores public affairs and lobbying in established, new and emerging democracies around the world with each chapter looking at the techniques and methods as well as discussing the political structures.

Its written by practitioners so readers really get an insight into what is involved and what people do to work with Governments.

I was really pleased when Tim Bale, Professor of Politics, at Queen Mary University London said the book “provides myriad, real-world insights into a business every bit as vital to politics and policy these days as elections are. Highly recommended for practitioners, academics, and anyone wanting to find out what it’s all about.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself!


What do you hope your readers will gain from this book?

I’m really pleased with how the book has turned out.  All the chapters are really strong but each has its own different style.  I was conscious of the need to make sure there was some variety otherwise it could get quite boring just reading about structures of government.

I think readers will see how lobbying is part of the democratic process and how good public affairs leads to better policy-making.  Its all a long way from the idea of brown envelopes changing hands so the book busts a few myths and misconceptions as well.

The book will also help readers see beyond their own national boundaries as well. That can give confidence as well as ideas and inspiration.  Readers can learn about some of the practices that work and a bit about what to avoid as well.


How long did it take you to write?

It’s an edited book so there were periods of intense activity and periods where each of the individual authors were busy doing their own thing.  From the initial conversation with Matthew at Urbane, through to identifying and contacting authors, providing them with a clear brief and requirements, getting the chapters back, commenting and discussing with authors through to finalising took around 18 months.  Now we have the marketing to deliver and sales to secure!


Have you always been interested in politics?

Totally.  From watching John Craven’s Newsround (a BBC children’s news programme) through to actively discussing issues at home when I was young, politics has always been there.  I don’t want to come across too much like a geek (well, maybe just a little bit!) but I always took great delight in having a political opinion at school and being ready to discuss points with friends and teachers.  I’m not sure all the teachers enjoyed that but I certainly did.

I did politics and economics at University and have been fortunate enough to be involved in politics through my work as well so I suppose that is a bit of an obsession.


Do you give talks on politics at all?

I do.  I often give talks on business and politics but also on public affairs as well, sometimes to graduates or those wanting to know more about what a career in public affairs might mean for them.  I’m also fortunate enough to do some media work as well so in recent months I’ve talked about the EU referendum, the Google tax issue, business growth and back in 2015 I spoke quite a lot about the General Election.

As well as talking about politics, I also run training on public affairs as well. As well as demystifying what it is all about, the training also gets some great discussions going about the challenges people and organisations have faced in engaging with government and politics, and we talk how they could have overcome them.


Are you currently working on any other writing projects?

I am hoping that a chapter I’ve contributed to a book of political ‘what ifs’ for Biteback has made the grade.  I also write quite a few articles for trade publications around more specialist technical issues as well so the writing is ongoing.  It’s something about my job that I really enjoy and value.

I’ve got a couple of other ideas as well but Matthew doesn’t know about them yet!


How did you come to discover Urbane Publications?

I worked with Matthew, the founder of Urbane, in one of his previous roles so when he went ‘solo’, I was delighted he came to me with an idea.  My first book with Urbane, ‘Public Affairs: News, Views and Hullabaloos’, was based on my blog.  To be able to work with an enthusiastic, ideas-based publisher is a dream come true.  Matthew is a pleasure to work with and I am honoured to be part of the Urbane family and it really does feel like a family.  Just without the drunken arguments at Christmas…  Actually, does that make Matthew, the patriarch of the family, a publishing Peggy Mitchell?


I see you have a blog as well.  What do you mainly write about on there?

I’ve been writing the blog for over 3 years now and it focuses on public affairs.  That gives me latitude to write about politics, communications and business.  Its quite a broad field but for those work in public affairs, we tend to have to deal with challenges from a number of sources, all the things that can come the way of politicians.  So I try to explore all of these in the blog.  I also blog for the Huffington Post and get to contribute guest posts to other sites as well.  I’m always happy to submit pieces.


What do you think about the Government?

That’s a loaded question!  This Government, and David Cameron in particular, did really well to secure a majority at the last election.  The question now is what they want to do with the five years they have in government.  There is a danger that the EU referendum takes over and then, whatever the outcome, the Conservative Party fixates on who takes over from Cameron, as he ‘pre-announced’ his intention to stand down. They are though being helped by the lack of a coherent opposition at the present time.  Jeremy Corbyn, as leader of the Labour Party, has still to assert himself on his party or the country as a whole.  I spend my time as work helping organisations work all this into the way they engage with politicians and build their reputations.  It’s a complicated time.


Are there any past Prime Ministers you’ve really admired?

Loads – they all have their own traits and simply getting to be Prime Minister is a sizeable achievement in is own right.  If I were to pick a few then I’d say Tony Blair for the way he enthused the country and won elections for the Labour Party (which historically doesn’t happen often), Clem Attlee for quite simply rebuilding the country after the devastation of World War Two and Margaret Thatcher for her dedication to her own beliefs (like them or not).


Do you find social media useful?

I love social media!  The way it allows you to engage with people is fantastic.  I know it has its much darker side but the openness and transparency it brings can only be good for democracy.  There are though still only a few politicians here that really understand it and do it well.  Done badly it just means that politicians have a new channel to broadcast their own voices and opinions.  It should all be about the engagement.  The same goes for organisations as well.


If you could be the Mayor of London for a day what would you do?

This might be a dull answer and I’d hate to end our chat on a really serious note but as the parent of a ‘soon to be going to secondary school child’ and with two others behind him, I’d sort out the availability of secondary school places.  There simply aren’t enough and that will hold London, and critically its children, back.  That and more housing, Crossrail 2, more cycle lanes, improving air quality…. I could come up with quite a list.


About Stuart Thomson

Stuart Thomson is a public affairs and communications consultant with leading law firm Bircham Dyson Bell. He advises clients on political and media engagement, reputation management and crisis communications.

As blogger for Bircham Dyson Bells ‘Public Affairs Blog’ and the author of ‘Public Affairs in Practice’, ‘New Activism and the Corporate Response’ and ‘The Dictionary of Labour Quotations’, Stuart’s reputation has seen him appear on the BBC and Sky News, judging for the PR Week and Public Affairs News awards. He now also blogs for leading news publisher, The Huffington Post.

Stuart is an honorary research fellow in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Aberdeen, and amongst it all finds time to tweet @redpolitics.


‘Public Affairs: A Global Perspective’ is available to pre-order from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/public-affairs-2/

Amazon UK – http://amzn.to/1R7L93N


Stuart Thomson’s Website – http://www.stuartthomson.co.uk/



Guest Post by Anne Coates

Anne Coates

Anne Coates is having her novel, ‘Dancers in the Wind’ published by Urbane Publications later this year.  She has written a guest post for this event about her inspiration for this book.


My Inspiration for Dancers in the Wind by Anne Coates

With most of my fiction, the initial idea comes from a real life incident ­–  something I have read or someone has told me about and sometimes a dream sets off a chain of thought. I take the seed and think “What if…”

The inspiration for Dancers in the Wind came from interviews I did many years ago with a prostitute and police officer at Kings Cross. This was for a Sunday newspaper and I had to pay the prostitute for her time in cash. Like an idiot I gave it to her in the envelope it had arrived in – with my address on it! In the end the newspaper didn’t run the story as it was so gut-wrenchingly sad.

A few weeks later, when I had fallen asleep sitting by my baby’s cot, I was woken by a loud knocking at my front door. It was 2am and I crept downstairs, heart thumping, and looked out of the window. There was no one there… However, as you can imagine, I felt totally spooked. In Dancers this scene heralds the arrival of a badly beaten up prostitute.

I set Dancers in London where I have lived most of my life. I love my local area and community and am blessed with good friends both here and in other parts of the country. Some may realise I’ve lifted a characteristic or trait from them here and there but hopefully I won’t have offended anyone!

Friends who have read the manuscript say that they can see me in the protagonist: freelance journalist, Hannah Weybridge. There are superficial similarities. Of course I have drawn on some of my own experiences but she is not me – for one thing I’m far too much of a wimp but I do have a vivid imagination.

Dancers in the Wind will be published by Urbane Publications in October 2016, with the sequel due in spring the following year.

Anne’s flash fiction has twice won 99Fiction award and her short stories have appeared in magazines like Bella and Candis. Two collections: Cheque-Mate and Other Tales of the Unexpected and A Tale of Two Sisters are published as ebooks.


You can follow Anne on Twitter – @Anne_Coates1


Countdown to ‘Doorways’ Cover Reveal



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