The Silk Tree: Getting a Historical Mindset

It’s just a month today to the launch of The Silk Tree, my upcoming historical novel set in the time of Emperor Justinian.

On location, THE SILK TREE

On location, The Silk Tree

All of my Thomas Kydd books have been based in the Georgian era, 200-odd years ago. I now know that period pretty well and can mentally go back in time there with reasonable ease. However, when I decided to write The Silk Tree I recognised that I faced a challenge – I would need to get my head around a time not 200 but 1500 years in the past. And across two very different great civilisations – China and Byzantium!

With such a very different writing project I have to admit I was somewhat nervous as to whether I could pull it off, but the early feedback has been very encouraging. One reviewer described it as ‘Conn Iggulden meets Robert Harris.’ Quarterdeck magazine pronounced: ‘Stockwin’s page-turning prose, vividly drawn characters and ability to draw the reader right into those ancient times create a grand and compelling historical epic.’

And this email just arrived from one of my Kydd fans, Brian Chellis, who’d won an advance proof copy and took it with him to Cyprus on holiday. ‘What an enjoyable, well written book… Couldn’t put it down, totally intrigued with what was going to be next. Having read the complete Kydd series twice, I was a little concerned that The Silk Tree would not come up to par, but I was wrong! Potential for a sequel! I suspect a lot of us devotees will be crying out for one soon.’

The genesis of The Silk Tree lies in the magical city of Istanbul. On location research there for the Kydd series Kathy discovered in the Grand Bazaar a rather lovely silk scarf. While she was chatting with the merchant I idly wondered how silk was brought from China to the West. Intrigued, I later did some ferreting around and the creative juices started flowing – and I knew I had another story I just had to tell…

If there’s one thing I’ve learned since becoming a wordsmith it’s that all life’s experiences are grist to the mill for a writer – and for The Silk Tree I was able to call upon my admiration of Chinese calligraphy which goes back to the time I lived and worked in the Far East. And all those hours of dry study of ancient Greek and Latin at grammar school came in handy, too!

I guess the hardest part of getting a historical mind set for this book was to internalise the limits of the known world in those far far away times. Stripping away the trappings of modernity. Getting an empathy with my main characters Nicander and Marius and where they saw their horizons.

Turkey has world-class museums and archaeology sites and being able to actually see ancient Greek and Roman domestic artefacts and priceless Byzantine treasures up close and personal went a long way to bringing the period really alive for me.

Then there was the physical location research in Istanbul and other places. I’ll never forget standing on the Galata bridge as the sun was setting and looking up the whole length of the Golden Horn, gradually taking my mind back in time through the vistas of history it must have seen. I saw beautiful and mysterious goods from all over the known and unknown world arriving in ships of all kinds: red sails, tripod masts, galleys.

Justinian the Great

Justinian the Great

Then my eyes travelled to the city itself, first founded by Byzas in 667 BC and having seen the Athenians, Lysander, the pax romana – it gives you pause to know that when the empire was moved there by Constantine, the city was already 1000 years old.

The Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia

And later, of course, visiting the glorious Hagia Sophia. Among other things, just standing in the entrance and looking down at stone steps worn in deep curves by feet over a continuous one and a half thousand years…

Read chapter one

A Collectors Edition of The Silk Tree is being offered, strictly limited to 150 Sets – but don’t delay if you’re interested, it’s nearly fully taken up!

The Silk Tree is published by Allison and Busby on November 6

And if you’re in London on October 30 you are cordially invited to the Launch Party at Goldsboro Books. I do hope you can join me to raise a glass to Marius and Nicander’s epic adventure!

The Silk Tree Facebook page
The Silk Tree Pinterest Board

Copyright notices
Hagia Sophia image: By Arild Vågen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons; Justinian image: By Meister von San Vitale in Ravenna [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

5 Comments on “The Silk Tree: Getting a Historical Mindset”

  1. G’day Julian I have just received my copy of Pasha and the cards you added thank you,have not missed a book of yours yet We spoke years ago at the start of Kydd you introduced me to Robert Squarebriggs a great help in my boat building endeavers have lost track of him in the passed years I do hope his health is ok will close very best regards Phill Murray
    ps Keep up those magnificent books and love Renzi

    • Thank you for your kind words, Phill. Hope you enjoy PASHA! I’ll email you Bob’s email so you can get in touch again if you wish. We’ve kept in contact over the years. J

  2. really good attention grabbing first chapter! Wow – this will be a terrific book. Thanks

  3. I have read all the Kydd series and I am looking forward to reading Pasha next week but when are you planning to release The Silk Tree in Canada? I see Amazon UK has it in hardcover only! Will there be an electronic version. If not I can have it delivered to my brother in Yorkshire who will then ship to me. Thank you. Gordon Hellowell

    Sent from my iPad


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