One Minute With: Ben Kane, historical novelist
Boyd Tonkin is Senior Writer and a columnist at The Independent. An award-winning journalist, he was formerly Literary Editor at The Independent, and before that Social Policy Editor and then Books Editor at the New Statesman magazine. He has broadcast extensively for BBC arts and current affairs programmes and has judged the Booker Prize, the Whitbread biography award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the David Cohen Prize. In 2001, he re-founded the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for literature in translation, and serves on its judging panel every year.
Friday 06 January 2012
Where are you now and what can you see?
My office at home [just south of Bristol], and I can see my computer and about 200 Roman textbooks.
What are you currently reading?
'The Caspian Gates' by Harry Sidebottom, 'Friend or Foe' by Michael Morpurgo – and I'm re-reading 'The Spartacus War' by Barry Strauss. I'm ashamed that I hadn't read 'War Horse' before I saw it in the theatre but now I'm a huge fan of Morpurgo's books – they're great.
Choose a favourite author, and say why you admire her/him
Rosemary Sutcliff. I was probably no older than nine or 10 when I read 'The Eagle of the Ninth' and it had a huge influence on me; it's one of the reasons I ended up writing about Rome. I was so struck by her imagery of Hadrian's Wall and the wilds of Scotland, and the idea of the soldiers disappearing there.
Describe the room where you usually write
This office, which is basically a large garage, about four square metres, with double French doors looking down our garden. It has Roman bits and bobs – shields, helmets, swords. I do use the swords and shields sometimes when I'm writing a fight.
What distracts you from writing?
Just about everything. My kids, the chance to make a cup of coffee, Twitter, the Historical Writers Association website, and other internet fora.
Which fictional character most resembles you?
Probably Romulus, the main character in my first trilogy ['The Forgotten Legion Chronicles']. Everyone who writes probably puts a lot of their own feelings and beliefs into their characters.
What are your readers like when you meet them?
Incredibly brilliant! I really, really like meeting them.
Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?
Ellen MacArthur. Because she had an ambition to do something completely out with her life experience, and she went and did it.
Ben Kane's new novel, 'Spartacus: the Gladiator', is published by Preface
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