Mastodon The Writing Desk: Special Guest Interview with Robb Pritchard, Author of Brethren (Foundation of the Dragon Series: Book 1)

4 March 2023

Special Guest Interview with Robb Pritchard, Author of Brethren (Foundation of the Dragon Series: Book 1)

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

His sons were ripped from his arms and he was sold into slavery… Now he has a terrible choice. Cadwal, a widowed Celtic warrior is a dedicated father raising his children in his mountain stronghold. In these uncertain times, the tribe must be vigilant, as caught between the expanding Roman empire and power-hungry neighbours, treachery is rife.

I'm pleased to welcome author Robb Pritchard to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book  

Set in AD77 in what is today North Wales, Brethren is based on the true story of how the native Ordovice tribe tried to stand against the Romans. I left Wales when I was a teenager and have spent nigh on thirty years travelling and living around the world, but a few years ago started to get really nostalgic for the area I grew up in. 

One day I Googled the ancient history of the land of my fathers, as the Welsh national anthem goes. I was sitting up on Dinas Bran as I did that and was quite shocked and disappointed in myself that I didn’t know the name of the tribe that had called that hillfort their home. There’s a few lines about them that survive and (not to give a spoiler) they were poignant enough to feel as though their story should be written… Five years later, here is Brethren.

What is your preferred writing routine? 

In the winter, I live in Prague so have literally dozens of cosy cafes a short walk away. I love the places with comfy chairs, the smell of freshly brewed coffee and other people tapping away at their laptops. Casa Nostra in Zizkov, where I am writing this, is one of my favourites. There’s something about places like that which helps me focus and get into the story. Headphones with Merrow (the music on my video) or Byzantine. 

Brutally heavy, awesome grooves and perfect for the moody, almost Grimdark feeling I like for writing about people trying to save their lives against impossible odds. I am daftly old-fashioned in that I can only write my first draft long hand. Often until my hand hurts or the pen runs out. Then I voice-record it and print it out. I am usually in a good mood when I come home with pages of text but often feel quite disappointed at the lines of utter chonk I type up. That needs to get edited a couple of times before I can move on.

I still have a day job, so emails, writing about Porsches, Ferraris or off-roaders in the afternoon and I am by no means an expert on ancient history, so the evenings are when I slip helplessly down online rabbit holes researching two thousand-year-old stories. I fall asleep ruminating on the new things I learned and the next day I scribble them down in barely legible chunks in a cheap notebook.

What advice do you have for new writers?  

Don’t be arrogant like I was for years. Just as you can’t pick up a guitar for the first time and play like Steve Vai, the act of tapping a keyboard isn’t going to make you a good writer. You might have the most wonderful story ever told in your head, but it’s still going to be an unreadable hot mess if you think you can publish your first draft. You need to study your craft, just as any other acquired skill. There are plenty of free resources online so it doesn’t have to cost you anything. One I recommend that really helped me on my journey to get where I am is the Facebook group 20booksto50000. A few years ago I paid 500 GBP to an author / editor called Hal Duncan. His critique of my draft was both the impetus and key to getting myself published.

Also, forget ‘traditional’ publishing. Don’t waste your time querying. I lost years doing that. Self-publishing is 100% the way to go… on one condition. You need to run it as a business. You’ll need to make initial investments in cover art, formatting and editing, etc.

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

I’m not sure I’ve cracked that yet. Facebook ads are what are selling copies at the moment. After three months of haemorrhaging good cash, I’ve just shut down my US AMS ads with a huff. I’ve entered a few competitions, got some half-hearted FB and Instagram pages, but it’s just not in my personality to be a regular poster. On Facebook ads, I recently zoned in on the region Brethren is set to get people from North Wales to see it as a local interest book and those FB ads are doing really well. I plan to do a few more of those, like targetting people who live in Llangollen and mentioning that it is Dinas Bran on the cover.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research  

Well, I knew nothing about the Ordovice tribe when I began, so pretty much everything was a discovery! Mostly, how hard life was back then, when you had to survive on vulnerable crops and everyone around you wanted you dead and your children as slaves. They must have been a very hard and very brave people… which I hope comes across in Brethren.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?  

Technically, the mine scene set in the copper mines on the Great Orme near Llandudno. I re-edited that chapter so many times I literally couldn’t read it any more, but I’m happy with how it eventually turned out. Emotionally, the ending. Three times I edited it and three times I spent the morning bawling my eyes out. My ex-wife thought I was mad. I have heard other writers say that they get attached to their characters and I really understand that now. The fact that it was a true story made it even more meaningful.

What are you planning to write next?  

The sequel. I am about halfway through the first draft of the next book. It’s set in North Wales again, but three hundred years later. With Brethren, I had a single paragraph to go on, but this time there is a relative wealth of information, so I have books and dozens of websites to glean information from to weave a plot. The dragon in the series title Foundation of the Dragon is the Welsh flag. I write about the semi-mythical people from the far distant past in that tumultuous time when Roman rule waned and the native Britons emerged. Magnus Maximus and St Elen are the main characters and it’s quite fun to bring them to life, tying their needs and actions into known historical events.

Robb Pritchard

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About the Author

Robb grew up in North Wales but left for a life of travelling when he was a teenager. After living in a dozen different countries around the world over nearly thirty years, he became nostalgic for his home country. Hiraeth, in Welsh. For the day job, he has the unbelievable privilege of travelling the world to test drive, and write about, classic Porsches and Ferraris and the occasional crazy off-roader and has lived off his writing, and some half-decent photos for the last fifteen years. The passion though, has long been writing novels. It took a few long years for him to get here but Brethren is malting its fluffy fledgling feathers and has been released into the wild. Hopefully, he wrote it well enough that it can fend for itself. Find out more from Robb's website 

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