Why my book set in ancient times is written in modern language

The Age of Iron trilogy is set in north western Europe between 61 and 54BC. I wrote it in modern English, including slang. A couple of people have commented about this. “I hardly think they used the word ‘hot’ to describe attractive people in the Iron Age” said one. “Some characters say ‘OK’, even though that term was invented in mid nineteenth century America” said another.

I agree with both of them. Your Iron Age Brit didn’t use those words. However, lets take a look at the phrase with the offending hotness. It comes when a troubled young baddy called Weylin walks up and sees:  “two smaller chairs, one for that terrifying greased turd Felix and one for hot young Keelin Orton”. Weylin, in whose voice this section is written, would indeed not have said “hot” two thousand years ago. But then again, he wouldn’t have said “two”, “smaller”, “chairs”, or any other of the words in that phase – or the entire book – because he would have spoken ancient British Celtic, not modern English. Read More

Historical near misses, written for Orbit website

Why the world should be a very different place.

We should all be speaking Latin.

Julius Caesar’s first British invasion force in 54BC was the same size as William the Conqueror’s in 1066 – around 10,000 men. It stayed in Britain for few weeks. The second one in 55BC was two and a half times the size, but it returned to France after a few months. No Roman legionary set foot in Britain after that for a hundred years.

The accepted historical take of Caesar’s invasions is that the Romans won every battle and returned across the Channel victorious, twice. This version comes entirely from Caesar’s own diary and is clearly bollocks. He didn’t come to Britain with 25,000 soldiers for a summer holiday and he didn’t leave because he was winning too much. He intended to conquer. He should have been able to. His army was awesome and had overthrown all of France in two years . Something big happened to stop him. Read More

Piece on gore in books (particularly Age of Iron) written as guest blog for Karen Miller

Gore in books

I’m going through the copy edit of Clash of Iron – Age of Iron book two – at the moment. The copy edit is the second last edit before publication, when an expert reads your book and says ‘this bit doesn’t work, that word’s wrong’ and so on, then you get to go through what they’ve said and lament how they just don’t understand you and change it all back…. Not really, my current copy editor, a man named Richard Collins, is excellent (the final edit is the proof edit – basically a spell check).

Anyway, reading this copy edit almost a year after I finished writing the book, I’m surprised to be surprised by the gore. It’s not wall to wall by any means – most of the book is humour-stuffed and more about the relationships between the main characters – but the battles are pretty visceral and there are some shocking episodes Read More