Name Tim Taylor
Where are you from:
I was born in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent and brought up in North Staffordshire, near Leek. I lived in South London and Kent for a while, but since 2001 I’ve been living in Yorkshire.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I went to Newcastle-under-Lyme High School, then I studied at Oxford and subsequently London University. I was a civil servant for quite a few years, but I left in 2011 to enable me to spend more time writing. I also do academic research in Philosophy and teach part-time at the University of Leeds. I live with my wife Rosa and daughter Helen in Meltham, near Huddersfield.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Well, my novel, Zeus of Ithome came out in November. It’s a historical novel set in ancient Greece, about the struggle of the Messenian people to free themselves from three centuries of slavery under the Spartans, told through the stories of Diocles, a young helot slave and Aristomenes, an old Messenian rebel. You can find it here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Zeus-of-Ithome-ebook/dp/B00G7S04D2
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve always written to some extent, since I first learned to write. It’s just an urge you have.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Good question! In a way I always have, but I didn’t really dare use that word of myself until I’d got a book published – that was at the end of 2011 (Knowing What is Good for You, a non-fiction book on the philosophy of well-being).
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
What inspired me to write Zeus of Ithome was reading about the Messenians in a book about Sparta. It seemed to me that their story was crying out to be told. (It’s not my first book, but I can’t remember what inspired me to write that!)
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I don’t know – it might be easier for someone else to answer that question.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
It was very hard! I came up with several really bad ones before I settled on Zeus of Ithome, which is the name of the patron god who looks over the Messenian people. Though the god himself does not make an appearance, the characters’ belief in him (and other gods) plays an important role in the story.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
There is no cryptic message, but in part the novel is about the importance of freedom and identity, friendship and perseverance.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
It’s based around real historical events, and I’ve tried to recreate the world of ancient Greece as accurately and vividly as I can. I did a fair amount of research for it. But most (though not all) of the main characters are fictional.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Not consciously, though I suppose that our experience always has some kind of influence on what we write.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
When I was young I was much influenced by The MAD Book of Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions – not entirely for the better!
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Probably William Golding. He wrote the kind of books I aspire to write.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
The Secret Agent, by Joseph Conrad. I read it some years ago, but it is a set text for my daughter’s English AS-level, so I said I would read it again so I can talk to her about it.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I’ve been impressed by some of the other Crooked Cat authors. It is great to be joining a strong list of historical fiction by the likes of Mark Patton and Nancy Jardine.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I’m working on a novel about a fictional Latin American dictator, and also a short story which is a mini-prequel to Zeus of Ithome.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
As a writer I have been helped a lot by my friends in Holmfirth Writers Group. The other Crooked Cat authors, and the publishers themselves, have also been very helpful.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I see it as a calling, something I’ve always been driven to do, and I am delighted that I am now in a position to be able to spend a lot of my time doing it.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I am generally very happy with it – though somebody has pointed out to me a typo that I wish I had spotted before it was published!
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
It’s always been there, from when I was a child. I think that as soon as I started reading books, I was thinking about writing them.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Here is a little taster: the opening paragraphs of Zeus of Ithome:
“The old man made his way slowly up the winding path to the summit of the mountain. It was not yet dawn and the faint glow in the eastern sky provided scant illumination to guide him. But it was enough. Though the path had been here for centuries, in recent years it had been his feet alone that had kept the grass from reclaiming it. They knew the way, even if his eyes could not see it. Gradually, the ground about him turned from black, to grey, to brown; and out of the gloom emerged his own long shadow, looming in front of him like the silhouette of some great god. The path began to level out, and soon he could see in front of him the columns of a ruined temple: pink fingers against the dark blue of the sky. He was tired from his long climb, but this sight raised his spirits, as it always did. He lived a solitary life: often months would go by between encounters with other human beings, but he did not feel alone here.
This was a poor home for a god, he observed sadly as he sat down to rest upon a cylinder of fluted marble that had once been the base of a great pillar. Like many of the others, that pillar now lay in fragments scattered around the small summit plateau. Plants grew over them, thrusting roots into many deep cracks. Nevertheless, he had no doubt that Zeus Ithomatas still lived here. Where else would Zeus of Ithome live but upon Mount Ithome itself? Certainly not in the mean, shabby little temple where he was now worshipped in the valley far below. His very name proclaimed his union with this mountain. His power was still strong here. Why else would the Spartans forbid their helot slaves from visiting the ancient home of their great protector? He could feel the God’s presence – particularly now in the stillness of dawn, before even the birds had broken the silence with their song. It seemed to fill the air around him; to seep into every pit and crevice of those ancient stones. And he knew that the God was aware of his presence too. Zeus Ithomatas was listening … waiting.”
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I find the most difficult thing is working out what is going to happen at a particular point. Once I know that, the writing itself is not difficult.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their
I wouldn’t say that I have a single favourite author. Authors I particularly like include Haruki Murakami, Paul Auster, William Golding and Graham Greene. I like different authors for different reasons. With Murakami and Auster, it’s partly the surreal quality that their work sometimes has – the juxtaposition of the strange with the normal; with Golding and Greene their understanding of the human condition. I also like authors with the power of imagination to create fictional worlds of great depth and richness, like Tolkien and Iain M Banks.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Zeus of Ithome is set in Greece, and the central character, Diocles, travels around quite a bit. I had been to some of the places that feature in it. I would have loved to go back there to visit all of the locations where it is set, but it wasn’t feasible. Instead, I followed Diocles’ journeys using Google Maps, Google Earth and Wikipedia.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The picture used on the cover is a nineteenth-century engraving of a ruined Greek Temple. The overall design of the cover was by Laurence Patterson of Crooked Cat.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
I think the hardest part was probably to do with the historical sources. Not so much doing the research itself, but deciding what to use and what not to use in the novel.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned some things about Greek history that I didn’t know before.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
If you love writing, persevere with it, no matter how hard it is to break through.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you for reading my book – I hope you enjoyed it!
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Probably not, but the first one I have a memory of reading is Now We Are Six by A. A. Milne.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I love playing the guitar, both acoustic and electric. I own fourteen of them. I also like walking up hills.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I watch a lot of documentaries – science or history, mostly; some comedy and some drama. I’m enjoying the new Sherlock series.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Depending on mood, I like Italian, Chinese or British food. My favourite colour has always been green, since I was quite small. I like a wide range of music, including some jazz and classical, but I suppose I mostly listen to rock music, ranging from the 70s bands of my youth (e.g. Led Zeppelin, Yes, King Crimson) through the 80s and 90s (The Cure, Crowded House, Stone Roses), and into the 21st Century (Radiohead, Sigur Ros, Everything Everything).
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I always wanted to be a guitarist in a rock band, and I had a go at it in my twenties. Sadly, it was not to be. I do sometimes play at open mike nights, though – mostly solo acoustic guitar.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
My website is http://www.tetaylor.co.uk/. It includes a blog, on which I interview other writers, as well as posting thoughts (and sometimes poems) of my own