KYDD, My First Book

Looking back at this, the debut novel in the Kydd series, it hardly seems that a decade has passed since I very nervously submitted a proposal to write a series about a young man press-ganged into the Royal Navy, who eventually goes on not only to cross the great divide between the lower deck and the quarterdeck, becoming not only an officer, but eventually to make admiral!

The book’s cover was commissioned as an original oil painting by Geoff Hunt RSMA

The book’s cover was commissioned as an original oil painting by Geoff Hunt RSMA

The agent to whom I sent my little package (it wasn’t done by email in those days…) was Carole Blake. Kathy and I had made up a long list of agents we planned to approach. Although we both believed in the series with all our hearts we were realistic enough to know that it would be highly unlikely to find an agent willing to take the project on at our first attempt – and we were starting with one of the country’s very top agents…

However, the patron saint of writers must have been looking down on me and Carole came back very positively and suggested a meeting. We liked each other and it went from there – auctions both sides of the Atlantic, foreign translation deals, audiobook contracts…

As it is my first book, KYDD will always hold a special importance for me. My first contract was for four books, which seemed a huge undertaking – even though as a computer systems man I had mapped out outlines and plots for the first twelve titles (that’s now expanded to over 20!). When I decided to see if I could write about the great age of fighting sail I took the big step of giving up full-time work and accepting a half-time position lecturing in computing at a local college. (Kathy was still working full-time.) In stages I gave up the day job and then Kathy joined me so we could work as a full-time creative team.

Favourite scene? Probably Kydd’s first night aboard when he finds solace deep in the bowels of the ship thanks to a kindly boatswain – and a little warm, furry creature…

Why choose a wig-maker for your hero?

I wanted to have someone not at all connected with the sea, taken against his will into His Majesty’s Royal Navy but who grows to love the life and find a natural ability as a seaman. I chose to have him as a wig-maker somewhat on a whim but also as this was an occupation facing many challenges with changes in society at that time and through this I could also reflect the Georgian age ashore.

Where did his name come from?

Ah! I thought long and hard about this, wrote down hundreds of possible names from the period, wandered through numbers of graveyards looking at tombstones. I knew I wanted something manly, of the time, but also with a modern ring. Princess Diana’s mother’s name was Frances Shand Kydd. ‘Kydd’ somehow rang a bell and when I checked I confirmed it would certainly have been found in Georgian times.

Spotted on TV - with the Blake expedition up the Amazon

Spotted on TV – with the Blake expedition up the Amazon

What was the hardest thing you encountered in writing this book?

That’s easy – adjusting to having Kathy critique my work! In the early stages she was kind but very firm. I would look at the proverbial blue pencil marks (she is an ex magazine editor-in-chief) all through my lovingly crafted work and resent every change she suggested. But in a fairly short time I realised she has superb editorial judgement, and I trust her unconditionally now.

How much of your own naval career was brought to bear?

For me, it has to be said that having served in the Navy has proved invaluable in my writing. I know the traditions of the sea, many of which have not changed even to this day. And quite a few of the characters in my books are based on actual mariners I have known. I was not pressed but I served both as a common seaman and as an officer.

Charles Fox, larger-than-life Georgian politician

Charles Fox, larger-than-life Georgian politician

Why did you kill off Bowyer?

That was very hard and in fact upset me writing it but there were two reasons behind it. First, I wanted to show that the sea is and always will be neither cruel nor malevolent but simply indifferent to we insignificant mortals. Second, I had to make way for the forging of a friendship between Kydd and Renzi.

How much research did you have to do for this book?

Well, location research initially was very little as I lived in Guildford and knew Portsmouth and Sheerness very well from my Navy days. By that stage I had amassed a quite considerable library on the Napoleonic period but I needed to flesh that out with information from museums, libraries and talking to various experts. In all I probably put in about six months’ research time.

Copyright notices
Fox: Image: By Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Every effort is made to honour copyright but if we have inadvertently published an image with missing or incorrect attribution, on being informed of this, we undertake to delete the image or add a correct credit notice

55 Comments on “KYDD, My First Book

  1. Pingback: KyddFest-1 : KYDD | Julian Stockwin

    • At the point of being pressed a man was offered the chance to volunteer and receive the bounty. If he declined he could volunteer later but would not then get the bounty.

    • Just finished Victory. Loved it. The next book will have to wait ‘tlll I get back from vacation. Expect the grandkids, 2 and 5, will run me ragged. (I’m 81).
      Life in those days were a bit brutal, to say the least.

  2. Thanks on your marvelous posting! I certainly enjoyed reading it, you will
    be a great author.I will be sure to bookmark your blog and definitely will come
    back in the future. I want to encourage that you continue
    your great writing, have a nice evening!

  3. I have just read the first KYDD book and found it very good .What is the next book called or could you send me a list of them all thank you

    • Delighted you enjoyed it, Peter. The next book is ARTEMIS. You can find a downloadable ‘Kydd Series Complete Summary’ on the home page of this website. My next book will be PASHA, out this October.

  4. Pingback: ARTEMIS: Sailing seven seas | Julian Stockwin

  5. After a long career as a non-fiction writer (wine, travel and food, in that order), I’ve “retired” to writing fiction, which is quite a challenge. I’d be most interested in hearing more about how you approached writing, what you found (and perhaps still find) most difficult, how you structure your writing day, and how you edit.

  6. I am a 70 year old women, married to a wonderful man who is blind, so we read audio books together, and with the greatest pleasure, my husband, Bud, introduced me to your Kydd series books. I love them so much, we take vicarious trips back in time together and share many enjoyable cups of coffee, discussing what “must have been”. Thank you, we hope to live long enough to read all 20 – so hop to it!

  7. Having retired after a thirty year career as a Sussex police officer I managed to get a job as a Quartermaster on HMS Warrior. This is the worlds first sea going sail and steam iron warship moored at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and near to HMS Victory. Whilst on Warrior my Chief Bosuns Mate knowing I am an avid reader introduced me to Kydd, stating I will never find a better author for the sea going Napoleonic period. I have never looked back. Sadly I do not have one Julian Stockwin book in my huge collection as they are all on kindle. It drives me mad and this year I must start my collection. Those that are aware I am now a tour guide on HMS Victory and I find the Kydd series of great assistance in doing my job and talking to visitors. Keep up the excellent writing Jules, where would we be without you.

    Kind regards,

  8. I have been addicted to Naval books and authors including Monsarrat, Forester, Reeman and many others. But my wife’s son put me onto Kydd and your books a couple of years ago and I haven’t looked back. I have the whole series to date the last three first editions which are my pride and joy. Julian keep up the good work, don’t know what I would do without my annual Kydd fix. Still difficult to wait another 10 months.

  9. I wish you had left Kydd a pressed seaman. I found the first two books to be the most interesting as they were unlike the typical ‘ Hornblower’ under another name pastiches. I have read some of the following books; but they are less interesting.

  10. Found the first of the Kydd series in a second hand bookshop in Lithgow in NSW’s Blue Mountains for $3 while on holiday! It was the only cheap one I ever got. I was hooked straight away and then bought and read every book up to current Carribee in about 6 weeks!
    When is the next one??!!
    Best Regards,

  11. Hello BJ,

    The Kydd series is a thrilling read. I am currently reading tenacious and have bonded further with Tom Kydd. The death of Bowyer was unexpected and I could feel Kydd’s pain and depression. Renzi lifted Kydd and still continues to guide him. I enjoy your style of writing which makes it hard to put the book down. Being retired, I now have more time for reading and look foreward to catching up with you. Please keep the books coming.

    Continued success,
    Firman Lawrence

  12. I have read every book from cover to cover cant wait for the next book can you write a little faster please

  13. Greetings,
    I fist picked up Kydd on a whim being drawn by the title and thinking some of pirates. I soon found that I couldn’t put it down. I was very pleased to find out there is a treasure trove of enjoyment in each volume. Carribbee has been digested and I’m eagerly anticipating Kydds next adventure.
    Thank You

  14. Hello Julian:

    I read KYDD when it first came out and knew right there and then that you were an author to be watched. I think I was probably one of the early ones to compliment you on your work. I’ve since read all of your novels and they are all uniformly excellent! Keep it going – its a difficult genre and those of us weaned on Hornblower and Aubrey/Maturin need Kydd in our lives!



  15. Hello from frozen Western Canada, East of the Rockies. I really enjoy the Kydd books, having read them all and got my Star Wars orientated son reading them! I enjoy the balance between shore and ship, the elevation from press gang entry to officer ranks and Renzi’s contribution but not dominance. I await the next with real enthusiasm. By the I received a Kydd cap for my son’s Christmas present so quickly and such good value. Thankyou.
    Anthony Heazell

  16. My copy of Kydd became a victim of flooding under my house but I rescued it and carefully dried the pages. It sits, looking a bit, the worse for wear on the bookcase ready to be read again and again. Many thanks for such a wonderful series and for the opportunities to interact with its author.

  17. I came to Kydd through the recommendation feature of I had listened to all the Aubrey-Maturin series and needed a new line of Napoleonic Wars books to listen to. I was not disappointed, nor have I been since. I am 4 books behind you right now, but I have much to look forward to, as I buy the new ones as the become available in hardcover here in the States. I love reading the blog and will be cracking the next one in the next week or two.

  18. it all started when I picked up ARTEMIS in a discount bookshop I read the first
    chapter then scoured all my local bookshops for KYDD I had to hide Artemis so that I couldn’t get ahead of myself in reading the books many a night Ive been up at some late hour with my head in a Kydd series book only to find my ever patient wife asleep in bed with all the other lights out and me finding my way to bed in the dark
    the best was when you visited our local air cadet unit for a talk and book signing I’ll never forget it
    best wishes

  19. I have read all the Kydd series and enjoyed them immensely. You inspired me to write my memoirs, Flotsam and Jetsam, A collection of sea stories that have washed ashore from a 40 year career in the US Navy.
    Best regards,
    Hank McKInney, RADM, USN(ret)

    • Congratulations on writing your memoirs, Hank – delighted that in some small way I was able to inspire a fellow Old Salt to put pen to paper!

  20. I’ve read them all and loved them all. Keep them coming. Julian Stockwin, the true successor of C.S. Forester, Alexander Kent and Dudley Pope.

    A Fellow Vietnam Veteran, Tom

  21. Hate to admit but I just read it for the first time. It came up in the recent blog roll recently and I became curious. Enjoyed it very much and I now have the second one sitting there with a pile of library books…it’s next on the agenda.
    A real gritty portrait of the times and especially the sea-going culture.

  22. When I read Kydd I was new to nautical fiction. The technical language felt foreign and, well, intimidating. As I soldiered on through that first chapter, I imagined how intimidating and alien it was for Kydd as well. As the pages turned, I felt more comfortable – got my sea-legs, I guess you could put it! Bowyer’s death shook me more than I could have imagined – your explanation in the blog made it sadly natural.

    May you be given the strength to write many more volumes.

  23. It’s been a wonderful series and we are looking forward to Pasha -write faster boats! I was at at first dismayed by Kydd’s meteoric rise in ranks during the first few books, and thought that nigh on to impossible. Things have moved in a very positive vein since. Thank you both for the hard work and great reads. John

    • Kydd’s rise is based on the historical record and the men who did achieve as he did. This was down to part talent, part luck, part the demands of wartime. It was not the usual rate of progression, but then Kydd’s a pretty special guy…

  24. I knew I was getting “Caribbee” for Christmas so I decided to go back and reread “Kydd”. Having read all of your books, it was interesting to go back to your beginning. This article help me understand Tom Kydd’s root and the road you choice to follow. Looking forward to your next book.

  25. Big Jules, I write a little from time to time as I have time, but never to the extent you do. I find that I am most creative early in the morning and run down by mid morning if the subject of the writing has not “caught me up”. I can and do write later in the day and into the night, but my creative “ah ha” moments come early in the day. What is your experience?

  26. Kydd had to come to terms with learning the ropes. Has the time now come for you to write a companion volume ‘How to sail a 19th century warship’? Then the rest of us lubbers can keep tabs on what you are on about when it comes to sailing on a maxi scale. Loved the book.

  27. Writing a series like Kydd is like the birth of a child. There is a lot of pain and angst initially. Then, will that “child (Kydd)” be accepted and acquire “friends (readers)”? Then, as in this case, (you Julian) have “raised” a child who has grown up to be successful and his “friends” can’t wait to hear more about him.

  28. It was not just KYDD who joined his first mess, we joined with him.

    To this day I remember my first mess, and the circle of faces, who watched me as I put my bag down, wondering what will happen next….

  29. Hi Bosun
    I wonder if you can help me? I have read all of the Kydd series but due to an
    error when I moved they were all disposed of. I am now starting from no 1 to re read them can you give me a list in order so I can purchase them again
    Many Thanks
    Peter Pingree

  30. When I first picked up kydd I thought “what the hell” the speech almost seemed incomprehensible , but then it clicked and suddenly I was rolling with the sea shanty and the waves and have been a firm fan ever since, my father in law is ex merchant marine and as picky as they come with mistakes … He loves these books… Which for me proves the accuracy of the seamanship and life.

  31. These interviews are extremely interesting and very much appreciated by one who has read the Kydd series and looks forward to his future adventures. I have learned a great deal. Edward J. Hawie, St. Simons Island, Ga.

  32. I am a big fan of the Kydd series and as I am a tour guide on HMS Victory I am always being asked about books of that period. Naturally I always recommend Jules’ series and the best bit even I get feedback, mainly cursing me for the expense I have cost them and where has Julian Stockwin been hiding.

    Hope to see you all on my ship sometime,

  33. I think killing Bowyer was a perfect step, as it immediately set a tone of the unexpected (a little bit comparable to George R.R. Martins “A Game of Thrones”). Suddenly you can’t be sure if any character other than Kydd could die as well, even including Renzi. This gives the books a sense of realism, as the chances to be wounded or to die were quite high. I like it, if important characters can succumb to the vagaries of the elements or war. It makes the characters that survive that more valuable.

  34. Hi Bosun, I am in the process of reading KYDD for the sixth time now before going on to read the next thirteen in the series ( of which I have a few of the signed and embossed copies). Keep up the good work and I hope your good lady Kathy keeps cracking the whip. If not it’ll be to the gratings for you with the cat.
    Best Wishes, Mike.

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