Mastodon The Writing Desk: Special Guest Interview with Robin Burnage, Author of The Threat In The Atlantic (The Merriman Chronicles Book 8)

16 June 2024

Special Guest Interview with Robin Burnage, Author of The Threat In The Atlantic (The Merriman Chronicles Book 8)

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Barely months after returning from the Adriatic, Captain Sir James Merriman is enjoying some rare time with his wife and children. But his nation is exhausted by an apparently endless war and Napoleon’s continental system is denying Britain crucial supplies. Worse still, the French 80-gun ship Hercule has captured numerous British ships near the Cape of Good Hope. Captained by a wily veteran known as the lone wolf, the Hercule presents Merriman with his greatest adversary yet.

I'm pleased to welcome author Robin Burnage to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

The Threat In The Atlantic’ is the eighth in the series, but can be considered my debut novel. My late father (Roger Burnage) was the creator of “The Merriman Chronicles.” He had a long-term love of the sea and sea stories, fully rigged ships, and the life of men at sea during the age of sail. The writings of C.S. Forester and Patrick O’Brian amongst others were the inspiration for him to start writing when he retired. He had a plan for some forty or fifty titles – he manged nine in total. Shortly before he passed away, he asked me to continue writing the series.

I have tried to pick up the story directly where my dad left off. At the end of book seven “The Threat In The Adriatic” we see Captain Merriman and his ship HMS Thunder recalled to England following a mission in the eastern Mediterranean. In book eight, we catch up with Merriman getting some rare time at home with his wife and young family. Merriman’s time at home gets interrupted with a letter from The Admiralty. Duty must come first, and he heads to London to find out what is required of him.

Inevitably at the height of the Napoleonic Wars, there is trouble brewing with the French. An 80-gun ship of war called Hercule is terrorising shipping around the Cape of Good Hope and causing losses of essential supplies for the Royal Navy. The country is under pressure from years at war and Napoleon’s continental system blockading trade within Europe.

He learns of the French captain known as ‘the lone wolf’ who is zealously attacking and capturing ships in the name of France and Napoleon. He is also out and to avenge the deaths of his own brothers, killed at the hands of the British. Merriman’s mission is simple – capture, sink or destroy Hercule and restore the trade route.

What is your preferred writing routine?

Honestly, I don’t really have one. My previous professional life was very structured with reports, meetings, and all that the typical nine to five entails. I sold my business to go sailing with a dream of being free from all of that. I manged a few years sipping beer in the sunshine and relaxing without a care in the world. Now I am back on land, I’m getting back into a more normal routine.

I have tried to use the old habits to structure writing sessions – planning how the day will be organised, how many words to write etc. I find that impossible, so writing happens as and when inspiration hits and that can be anytime day or night. I have read about authors who advocate writing something – even if it is bad – every day. That approach doesn’t work for me, it’s too rigid. If I am in the groove I go with it, if not I have plenty of other things to be involved with, not least promotion and marketing. I will say though, I  bsolutely agree with the saying “If you can’t write anything, then read something.” My TBR list is huge!

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

With the latest book there was an immediate audience of people who read my dad’s books and were left waiting for more. That is a double-edged sword of course – they have to accept me as the right person to keep Merriman going. So far the responses have been tremendously positive. With Dad’s first book “A Certain Threat,” my involvement started because he couldn’t find any representation. He had given up with query letters and trying to land an agent. I found out about self-publishing and published his book, then started getting the word out on social media.

I am still active on X (formerly Twitter) and building a following on Facebook and Instagram which helps. Giveaway offers on Goodreads have worked well too. I had 752 people apply for the one hundred copies of Book Eight which means it is getting seen by potential readers. Paid advertising on Amazon, X and META is what really reaches a new audience. It costs, but there is a certain reality about “speculate to accumulate.” Big companies spend fortunes on advertising for a reason!

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

Not one scene in particular, but getting the technical aspects right, especially of ship handling took some doing for sure. At one stage I was mapping out scenes using paper cutouts of ships on the kitchen table. Working out how an encounter would progress, passing to larboard and firing a broadside, tacking across the wind, and trying to come alongside again with the starboard battery to bear, the commands shouted to the crew, death and mayhem, throwing in a wind shift to add a complication. 

All fun to write, but it’s easy to get carried away with overly complex details of manoeuvring a fully rigged ship that can bog down the pace of the action. As a sailor (RYA Yachtmaster) I am familiar with being in command of a vessel. Much of the terminology we use has been around for centuries and certainly used in Merriman’s time. Tacking a modern yacht is second nature to me – even sailing solo - but getting a third-rate ship of the line through the wind is another matter. All those ropes and sails and the numbers of men working under intense pressure to make it all happen. How they managed to do this in the heat of battle is extraordinary!

What are you planning to write next?

I already have ideas sketched out for the next adventure for Merriman and a timeline of events up to the end of his career. Unfortunately, I cannot really give any details as it could prove to be a spoiler for the end of book 8 and start of book 9. I will leave some hints though - Merriman’s decisions are put in question and he starts to face political headwinds from senior figures as his career progresses.

I am also working on another series about a soon to be retired Police Officer in the Metropolitan Police. The first book is about 65% done, but I honestly don’t know when I will get the time to get
it finished.

Robin Burnage
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About the Author

Robin Burnage is a first-time author taking on the challenge of continuing his late father’s series “The Merriman Chronicles”. His debut novel “The Threat In The Atlantic” picks up the story of Captain James Merriman on his return from his mission in the Adriatic in 1810. Previously a property professional (for which he does actually have recognised qualifications), sailing and travelling always had a greater pull than accounting and spreadsheets. He sold his business in 2012, bought a yacht and headed off on a five-year adventure as a full time liveaboard sailor. He also then travelled through Europe in an old Land Rover and then a motorhome before settling back in bricks and mortar. He lives in Wales overlooking sand dunes and the Irish Sea, and is already dreaming of his next adventure. Fin out more at Robin's website and find The Merriman Chronicles on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @Merriman1792

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