It is my pleasure to welcome onto my blog today, Stuart MacAllister. Many of you know him as the blogger behind Sir Read-A-Lot and today you can get a glimpse of him not only under that alias, but also under the alias of writer! Enjoy my bloggerinos:
Tell me a little about yourself, Stuart? (e.g. name, what type of food you like etc)
What do you want to know? Well, I am a decrepit, middle-aged teenager from Bristol, England with a passion for writing and historical fiction. I have a blog called Sir Read-A-Lot where I review historical fiction books by independent & mainstream authors and it has proven to be very successful in the year it has been online. I am the Managing Editor of the Independent Review Team of the Historical Novel Society, a job I very much enjoy – even if it is hard work!
I suffer with a medical condition called fibromyalgia which basically means I live with chronic and constant pain on a daily basis. It is challenging to say the least, especially as I have to cope with other health problems. What I don’t do, however, is let it get me down too much. However bad I am, there is always someone worse off than me, even if it doesn’t feel like it at times!
I love football and I support Liverpool FC and my local side Bristol Rovers. I enjoy baking & cooking too.
That’s very inspiring that you have such a positive attitude. Now, I know you mostly as a blogger, but I’d love to know, when did you start writing?
I started writing when I was at school. I remember writing stories about dragons, knights and other wonderful tales of heroes and heroines. My teachers at junior school were always telling me off because I would fill up exercise books so quickly and in the end I stopped writing until I reached secondary school because I felt no one liked me writing, even though I loved doing it.
I was very lucky from the ages of 11-16 as I had some wonderful English teachers, Mrs Brown in particular, and they were each responsible for re-igniting my love of writing. I cannot count the number of times I had my stories read out in class, or the number of “A”s I was awarded for my writing. That isn’t being bigheaded, but rather shows how important teachers can be to students. I will always be grateful to them – Mrs Brown sadly passed away many years ago, but she is still the most positive influence on my work! I will be mentioning her in the dedication of my debut novel.
What a lovely thought, and so interesting to hear the impact teachers can have. So, you mention a debut novel, very exciting stuff, and it leads me to ask, what genre do you write in and why?
I write historical fiction mainly. I say mainly because I am also a poet and I have written two thrillers. Like many, at this moment in time I am unpublished, but I do not see that as a hindrance and I still believe I can justifiably call myself a writer.
I love history and happen to live in a city with a vibrant past. Bristol is filled with fascinating stories, characters and has contributed not only to the growth and development of England and the UK, but also the world. John Cabot sailed to NewFoundLand, George White developed and built the first jet engine and formed the British and Olympic Airplane Company which became BAC one of the world’s largest airplane manufacturers; John MacAdam developed and laid the first ever covered road, a process known as TarMac; Thomas Chatterton, the boy poet, was born here – as was Sir Michael Redgrave (Actor), Cary Grant (Actor), Banksy (Artist), Paul Dirac (Physicist/Mathematician), Samuel Plimsoll (Social Reformer & inventor of “the Plimsoll Line”), Damien Hirst (Artist) and J.K. Rowling (Author) – all famous Bristolians!
History is absorbing because it encompasses everything we are. It helps us understand the present and can teach us how to improve our lives as well as educate and entertain us. Whether you like battles, medicine, social issues, the monarchy, literature, the arts or more modern pursuits, the study of history directly influences your passion.
I had no idea Bristol had produced such a distinguished line of individuals! Tell me a bit about your work in progress?
I have an idea to write a series of novels set in different eras of Bristol’s long and colourful history. I have three planned out but have finished the first draft of my first novel, set in the 12th Century and titled “Slave to No Man”. Bristol was, at this time, a port that had a history of importing slaves. By the time of Richard the Lionheart, the practice was probably almost redundant thanks to the social reforms of Bishop (later Saint) Wulfstan, but with close links to the traders from Ireland and in particular Dublin, it is not inconceivable to assume that some slave traders still traded here.
My novel is a “What If?” – What if, whilst King Richard the Lionheart was on Crusade, Prince John decided to make a bid for the throne of England? What if John made the decision that “my enemies enemy is my friend”? So – John convinces a well-known Bristol slaver, Richard de la Warre, to use his connections and recruit an army of Muslim warriors in order to usurp the throne from his brother.
There is a young knight in Acre who stands between De La Warre and the restoration of his family’s name and reputation. Richard has sent word to his younger brother Hugh in the Holy Land to not only recruit Muslim warriors of a certain rank and reputation, but to find Samson d’Bristou and kill him. However, the apple never falls far from the tree and Hugh sees a chance to double his profit and captures Samson and intends to sell him to the wealthiest and most discerning of his clients. A high ranking General in Saladin’s army has already been captured by Hugh and is being readied, along with 400 muslim warriors, to be sent to Bristol where they will be kept in a specially constructed palisade, outside the city until John is ready to make his move.
A Templar Knight inadvertently hears of the kidnapping and the description of the abducted knight brings back long buried memories and a past he had hoped to forget. And so, making a decision that imperils his oath as a member of the Templars, he rescues Samson and they race back to Bristol to stop John and De La Warre from achieving their goal.
I hope that sounds interesting and exciting enough for you!!
Very exciting indeed. I like Ken Follett who also goes along with ‘what if’ scenarios in his novels. So, the most important question for a writer to answer in my opinion; do you prefer writing with pen and paper, or on a computer?
I have to admit that writing with a pen and paper is my favourite method, but I suffer with arthritis and holding a pen for an extended length of time is problematic – as is typing on a computer keyboard! I have a voice recognition program which allows me to dictate my handwritten notes or passages. It is not an easy program to use because it “learns” about your voice and gets more accurate the more you use it. But I love using a fountain pen – I feel like Charles Dickens!
So, we’ve covered your writing exploits, now for the blog. What was it that made you start blogging?
I have always been an avid reader and I noticed that most historical fiction review blogs were based in America and run by women. So being a man and based in the UK, I saw there could be a “gap in the market” and I approached some trusted friends to see if they agreed – they did! So, after a few days of mulling over a pseudonym and learning how to use Blogger, “Sir Read-A-Lot” was born in May 2011!
In the twelve months I have been live, I have been so fortunate. The most influential and respected names in the genre have been gracious enough to be interviewed and even promote my blog. Four major publishers send me ARCs of their latest bestsellers and I get to read some of the best independent writing around. It is very humbling when writers like Sharon Penman, Helen Hollick, Robyn Young & Elizabeth Chadwick send you an email saying how much they enjoyed your latest review!
But the best thing about blogging is the contact I have with readers from around the world who love to read the books I review and feedback their own comments. Lively discussions are sometimes had and I love exchanging emails with the people who follow my blog.
Finally, as per your request, I want to ask you, at which event in history would you have liked to have been a fly on the wall?
I ask my guests this question and realise now how difficult it is to answer! I am going to be totally greedy and pick two. The first is the Crucifixion; I would love to see what really happened from the time of the Last Supper to the time of Christ’s death at Calvary. Those few days have carved out the last 2000 years of history and influenced our lives in ways that we cannot possibly comprehend. The second event is a bit more sedate; I’d love to see what Bristol Castle looked like in its heyday. It was built in the 12th Century and was vitally important to the Angevin Empire; when Bristol was given over to a publicly elected council, King Henry II retained the Castle as his own and kept it under his military control. For nearly 500 years it stood towering over the ever growing city before going into decline and eventually being destroyed by Oliver Cromwell after the Civil War. Sadly there are no surviving illustrations of the Castle, but the administrative records survive to this day and are wonderful to read!
Well, Stuart, it has been lovely to have you here on my blog and I have really enjoyed learning more about ‘Stuart the writer’ as well as the ‘blogger’. People who are interested in Stuart’s writing and his reviewing, can use the links below to follow him:
Twitter – @SirReadalotUK
Thanks for stopping-by everyone!