22 May 2018

Special Guest Interview with Philip K Allan, Author of On The Lee Shore (Alexander Clay Book 3)

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

I'm pleased to welcome author Philip K Allan:

Tell us about your latest book On the Lee Shore

My Alexander Clay books are set in the Royal Navy of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. On the Lee Shore is the third book in the series. Alexander Clay is asked to take command of a troubled frigate, the Titan which has mutinied against its previous sadistic captain. The ship is sent to join the Channel Fleet blockading their French opponents in Brest. 

Stationed amongst the reefs and rocks of the Brittany coast, he finds the dangers of this notorious lee shore and its French defenders are the least of his worries. Corrupt officers, determined mutineers and rebellious Irishman all combine to insure that the main threats that he must face will come from within the wooden walls of his new command.

What is your preferred writing routine?

Each of my books are broadly set in a different year of the war – so my starting point is to research the events of that year to supply me with the context for the novel. Then I plan out the arc of the story and the various plot lines. I try not to over-plan, as I find that new ideas will emerge as I write, and these can be some of the most interesting. 

I try and write at least two thousand words a day. Once I have a completed manuscript that I am happy with, the next phase is to have it checked by my sternest editor, my wife Jan. I want anyone to be able to pick up one of my books and enjoy it, whether they have a knowledge or interest in the sea or not. If I have pitched it wrong, Jan will let me know, and I go away and re-write the offending passage. The result seems to work well – I get positive feedback from both naval enthusiasts and landlubbers alike.

What advice do you have for new writers?

I have found that my own writing is part “art” and part “craft”. The art part is the story, the characters, the plot and the scenes. It is the emotional, creative element that comes from within. But while a cracking story, with well thought out characters and plot is the essential starting point for a good book, it is not enough. 

The second part is the craft of writing – how you turn the idea in your head into compelling prose on the page. Like all crafts, I find it needs to be worked at, and in my experience you become better at it with practice. Since I became an author, I now read the work of other writers with a very different eye, trying to learn from their method. If a character is seamlessly introduced, for example, I now find I go back to see how they did it. In writing, I find that practise makes perfect. When I am struggling, I remind myself that I can always delete it and try again. 

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

I am published by a small independent US publisher, which is both nice and challenging. The good side is that they look after me very well; the challenge is that they do not have the marketing resources of the giant houses. This has meant that I have to be very active online. I publish a weekly blog on a subject around ships and the sea. This gives people a chance to sample the way I write in advance of trying one of my books. 

I also regularly post on Twitter and Facebook. I am fortunate in that my books have generally been getting good reviews, and readers of naval fiction seem to be very active in spreading the word to each other. I do like the social media side – it is lovely to hear directly from readers who have enjoyed your work, and I almost always learn something new from reader reaction to my weekly blogs.   

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

The naval blockade of Brest is one of the great untold stories of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. For over twenty years the Royal Navy maintained a fleet in all weathers, month after month, off one of the most dangerous coasts in the world. Nine days in ten the prevailing westerly wind tried its best to drive their ships onto the dangerous reefs and cliffs of Brittany. And on the tenth day, the wind would be favourable for the French fleet to come out of Brest. 

Some of the ships spent more than a year on station, with all their needs, including water, food and clothes, being brought out to them from Plymouth. Later in the war, the navy occupied a few of the small islands off the coast that had been abandoned by the French. They grew fresh vegetables on most of them, and even dug wells to provide additional sources of fresh water. 

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

In my second novel of the series, A Sloop of War, I introduced a black sailor who was a run slave, and who has grown to become one of the more important lower-deck characters. Because his experience and life are so remote from my own, I have found getting into his feelings, motivation and thought process to be very challenging as well as rewarding.

What are you planning to write next?

The next book in the series is with my publisher for editing, with a view for a late summer publication – it takes the story into the Mediterranean. I am pleased with it – it has a nice mix of my own storylines woven into historical events and characters, including Nelson and Emma Hamilton. It will also contain a bit of a whodunit on the lower deck, when a series of crimes are committed, which I thoroughly enjoyed writing.

Philip K Allan
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About the Author

Philip K Allan comes originally from Watford in the UK, and still lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and two teenage daughters. He has an excellent knowledge of the 18th century navy. He studied it as part of his history degree at London University, which awoke a lifelong passion for the period. He is a member of the Society for Nautical Research and a keen sailor. After over twenty years as a senior manager in the motor industry he has now become a full time writer. His debut novel, The Captain’s Nephew was published in January 2018, and immediately went into the Amazon top 100 bestseller list for Sea Adventures. The sequel, A Sloop of War, was published in March. On the Lee Shore is the third book in the series, and came out in May. His inspiration for his books is to build on the works of novelists like C.S. Forester and Patrick O’Brian. Like O’Brian’s his style is immersive, using period language and authentic nautical detail to draw the reader into a different world. But his books also bring something fresh to the genre, with a cast of fully formed lower deck characters. Think Downton Abbey on a ship, with the lower deck as the below stairs servants. Find out more a Philip's website https://www.philipkallan.com/ and follow him on Facebook and Twitter @PhilipKAllan 

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful read - for a taste of what life was like at sea in the late 1700s this series is worth read.Mr Allan knows his stuff!


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