David Donachie

David Donachie

DAVID DONACHIE I was born in Edinburgh in 1944. My father was serving in the Royal Air Force and I suspect that my conception was due to an senior officer's love of fresh salmon. A despatch rider, my Pa was sent from Inverness to Edinburgh with a freshly caught fish for onward transmission to a fellow called Air Chief Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory, who was entertaining General Eisenhower to dinner. Since Pa also had a 24-hour pass and 9 months later… the rest you can imagine. Had the chance of a decent education, but boredom helped me throw it away, leaving school aged 14 years with no qualifications but an abiding love of history. The blurb on my first book jackets said that since then I have had more jobs than birthdays, which was true until output caught up with me; decorator, salesman, truck driver, ice-cream vendor, cleaner, packer, theatre worker, entrepreneur who launched a dozen projects and never made much of any of them. Some of it has been exciting, most not. Painting Sean Connery's mother's flat when he came back to Edinburgh after making From Russia With Love, which I am sure pricked my ambition, like him, to do something different. Working in the theatre alongside - and it is in a good theatre - Laurence Olivier, Alec Guinness and Peter Ustinov, Rudolf Nureyev and dozens of names recognized worldwide. Selling Ice Cream - and making good money - while bands like the Who, Cream and the Stones played at the Roundhouse in London. The best gig for sales - obvious really - was Oh! Calcutta. Once asked by a radio interviewer; why I had become a writer, my reply was honest. I said, “Desperation. I've tried everything else.” In truth my first novel came by accident. I sat down to write a radio play for a BBC competition and ended up six weeks later with a 400-page novel. That got an offer from a major publisher- £3000 - half up front but I was far from impressed having painted someone's flat the week before for £1600 cash. Thanks to an agent’s advice - he thought we could do better - I turned it down and the novel was sent round to all the London Publishers and it fell flat. They didn't want it and neither did the rather annoyed editor who had originally offered. That book has never been published, so I turned down an offer for my first novel,which generally makes other writers shake their heads and look for a polite way to say idiot. The agent's plan backfired bit I don’t blame him – if you take the advice you are responsible. It took that experience to teach me that I could write and to trust my imagination. It spurred me on so I can now list 42 published novels, (Inc.Ghosting) and there are more in the pipe under my own name and the pen names Jack Ludlow and Tom Connery. It has been far from plain sailing having been with four different publishers. As writer you can suffer from takeovers, changes of management and it has to be admitted the odd personality clash. I have had a novel, bought and paid for, sent back, in one case the same one twice, to then finally published. I had to threaten one publisher trying to cheat me out of £15K, possible because I had the backing of the Society of Authors. All that said I love what I do - nothing excites me more than reading history and finding perhaps the tale told is either little known, or one that does not really tell the story in a way that reveals the true character of the protagonists. With the Privateersmen Mysteries it was a new way to approach naval fiction by mixing it with crime. With Nelson the aim was to tell a a more revealing tale of a man treated as a secular saint - he was human, a hero, and his paramour was remarkable but neither was perfect! John Pearce is a pressed sailor who prospers even if he does not want a naval career and very prone to making bad calls. People often ask why series end. It's not the writers but the vagaries of publishing, which is a business like any other and is subject to shifting opinions. But a writer moves on and so we have John Pearce in the naval fiction genre at 12 books now, a set of trilogies on the Roman Republic, the Normans in 11th Century Italy, the Crusades and the Byzantine General Belisarius. Where do the ideas come from? A conversation in the pub, something in a newspaper, an item on the radio or TV, a flash of inspiration at 5am. I admit to having too many and not enough time to write them all but what a great position to be in! There's more to come, of that my readers can be sure, and to those already in that circle, thank you. If I have entertained you that is enough.
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