Daniel F. Bowman writes historical fiction focusing on clashing cultures. He is the winner of a publishing contest by Creative Print Publishing in the UK. I am very pleased to welcome Daniel here on No Wasted Ink.
Besides writing historical fiction, I enjoy an eclectic range of hobbies: playing piano and composing music, hand balancing, reading Greek, Hebrew and Latin, and teaching English as a Second Language to students from over fifteen countries. I’m married to my first and only girlfriend, and I play at the park with my two young children, as this gives me an excuse to hang on the monkey bars. We live in West Michigan.
When and why did you begin writing?
When I was a child, I wrote 1½-page stories of alien abductions, quitting before the main character ever made it to the spacecraft! I also liked the idea of writing pirate novels, though these always fell apart after the third mutiny—lack of ideas! During college, I began writing a couple fantasy stories, which flopped because I never knew the endings.
I found the solution to my problem to this problem while watching a History Channel episode about the Goths. I stared at the screen as I heard how a group of farmer-soldiers was cheated by Rome but stood against her, though she was the greatest empire in the world. They refused to put up with her abuse. The program ended: “Oppression sires rebellion, and when pushed too far, even the weak and the shattered can rise to challenge their oppressor.”
This story had a clear outline for me: I knew how the book would end, as well as where the characters had to be on certain dates. At the same time, the lack of details in this time period gave me freedom.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I would define a writer as someone who not just completed a written work but improved it to the point of getting positive feedback from others, whether or not it is published. I was definitely a writer by the time I completed the rough draft of Alaric.
Can you share a little about your current book with us?
“Alaric, Child of the Goths” is about Alaric, the son of a Gothic clan leader, who wants nothing more than to live an adventure. That is, until his young life is interrupted by a series of brutal acts: the raiding of the savage Huns, the cruel trickery of greedy Roman officials, and the murder of his father. Meanwhile, another clan leader named Fritigern leads the Goths in battle against Rome’s armies. But they endure—and from that moment on, they are driven to survive in the face of death, to make a home for their people, and to exact revenge on Rome at the epic battle of Adrianople.
It is the first book in a trilogy which will trace Alaric as he grows up in a foreign land divided between conflicting nationalities—his Gothic ancestry and his Roman citizenship. This struggle will culminate as Alaric is forced to decide between settling for less than he deserves or risking everything in order to gain what no one will give him: the highest rank in the Roman army.
How did you come up with the title of this book?
As a trilogy about the main character, each part of the trilogy has his name and his primary characteristic in its story.
“Alaric, Child of the Goths”
“Alaric, Soldier of Rome”
“Alaric, Enemy of Rome”
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I want readers to feel that they have hope no matter what happens. Nothing is decided until it is over.
What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?
Stephen R. Lawhead is my favorite. He has written fantasy and sci-fi, along with historical fiction (usually with a fantasy twist). I’ve read his “Song of Albion” and “King Raven” series numerous times. Even though I know what will happen, I can’t wait to experience it again.
Bernard Cornwell’s “Warlord Trilogy” is like Lawhead’s—I’m always ready to enter that world again.
Steven Pressfield has the best descriptions of the brutality of the past, most notably the training of the Spartans in “Gates of Fire.” He also has the best one liner, aptly spoken by a laconic Spartan officer at Thermopolae, following a day of holding off the Persian hordes: “Not today, you sons of whores! Not today!”
Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?
Creative Print Publishing (in the UK) held a writing competition in 2012. From over 600 entries, I was one of twelve winners. Each winner received publication and a cover designed by Phillip Grizzell. As a first time indie writer, this was an excellent beginning. I spent no money on publishing, only on copies for signings and giveaways.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
The best advice is often the most obvious. For some reason, all of us want the secret formula that guarantees success, while ignoring the common sense and hard work necessary to achieve it.
In order to write well:
1. Read actively.
Depending on your schedule, set a goal. It may be one novel a week, whatever you can handle.
Try to read the 100 books that are most similar to what you wish to write. This helps you find your niche (how your book is unique) as well as what people expect from your genre.
But don’t get stuck on your genre. As you read others, pay attention to characters that you like (or hate). What can you use from the battles, scenic descriptions, dialogues?
If you don’t have time to read, get audio books. I listen to these on my commute, while I wash dishes, and as I fall asleep.
2. Write consistently.
Again, set a goal. 1,000 words per day seems like a noble goal. But pick a number you can easily achieve.
As you write, keep track of things you’ll need to change. But keep going! It’s more important to finish a rough draft than to make a good rough draft.
3. Test regularly.
It’s great if you love your book. It’s better if others love it, too.
Share it with friends and family. (Especially if they can give you more input than just “Good job.”) During this time, don’t even look at it. This way you can later read it fresh.
You need to know that your book is the best you can make it, so that you don’t give up when rejection letters arrive.
When it’s ready, sent it to competitions, agents, publishers.
In sum: set goals, stay consistent, and enjoy meeting your characters and building your world!
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you! Write to ask questions or talk about Alaric. As a newer author, I will respond.
I also want to brag about my wife Amanda, the unsung heroine of this project. She not only read and edited the book multiple times, but she also designed the map and spent way too much time listening to me repeat myself as I kept telling her what was happening as I wrote it.
Thanks for your time and questions, Wendy.
You are very welcome, Daniel! Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed here on No Wasted Ink.
Daniel F. Bowman
West Michigan, USA
Publisher: Creative Print Publishing
Cover Artist: Philip Grizzell