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 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.
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.
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.
Fox: Image: By Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) (worldroots.com/brigitte/royal/royal17a.htm) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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Excellent Read. Great info.
Very good information. Lucky me I recently found your blog by accident (stumbleupon).
I’ve book-marked it for later!
I was just wondering – once pressed, was there anything a man could do to make himself a volunteer in the ship’s books?
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.
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!
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.
I’ll take that! 😀 I’d love to see what all the commotion is about.
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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.
I answer most of those questions in the FAQs
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!
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.
Congratulations, Chris – a signed paperback of KYDD will be in the post to you shortly!
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.
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.
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??!!
The next one’s out in October, Rob. Had some enjoyable days in the Blue Mountains when I was in the RAN! J
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.
I have read every book from cover to cover cant wait for the next book can you write a little faster please
Great first book of the series. You had me hooked and I can’t miss a one now.