Name  Nicholas Salaman

Age   I am 69 and a bit.

Where are you from? A little about yourself ie your education Family life etc  

I was born ‘where Exmoor meets the sea’, in Minehead, West Somerset. My first 6 years were up in the hills around those parts (my first novel The Frights was all about them), and then we moved to a village near Oxford. I was educated at Radley, and went on to university at Trinity College, Oxford.

I read English, did cabaret with Dudley Moore, enjoyed myself too much, and suddenly found myself with the prospect of looking for a job. What do you do with an English degree? I went into advertising as a copywriter. Advertising was full of poets in those days. I worked for a while alongside Dylan Thomas’s son Llewellyn and Ted Hughes’ tragic second wife Assia who wrote copy at the time for All-Bran.

I have four daughters. I am married to Lyndsay, and I live near The Worlds End.

Fiona: Tell us your latest news?

I launched my new historical novel The White Ship published by Accent Press in March. It went onto the W.H.Smith .


Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?

I studied English Language and Literature at university. The Language side included philology which gives you special insight into the derivation and taste of words. I never really enjoy writing but I love having written. I wrote my first play, a 60 minute piece, while working for a big advertising agency – it was produced on ITV’s Armchair Theatre. I write poetry on occasion. I like Housman’s comment that poetry for him was a morbid secretion like the pearl in an oyster.

Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?

After getting a TV play professionally performed. Besides, I was already a copywriter. I was working for Kodak, Rowntrees, Kellogg’s, Alcan, Gillette and the Sunday Express.

Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?

When we were living in Somerset in rather wild unsupervised circumstances, my brother who was more than 3 years older than me used to exert a hold over me. I was 4, he was 7. He managed to do so by telling me that unless I did this or that, played whatever game he wanted to play, he would stop putting a drop of sleeping draught in my bedtime cocoa. I said I never noticed anything going into my cocoa.

‘Ah, but I do it, you see. It has to be secret. It must never be known or the worst could happen.’

‘.Why do you have to give me sleeping draught?’

‘So that you don’t wake up in the night. You see, if you’re asleep when the Frights come, they can take you away…’

I believed him for at least three months before he went away to boarding school. Years later, I thought it had to be a good idea for a novel.

Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?

I like to find humor where it is suitable, as in life, even in sadness. Somebody wise once said: ‘Life is a comedy for the man who thinks, and a tragedy for the man who feels.’ I would like to think that is my position if not my style.

Fiona: How did you come up with the title?

My novel The White Ship had to be called that because the sinking of the White Ship was such a famous disaster, a sort of 12th century Titanic. I thought of twenty other titles but in the end The White Ship had grown on us like a barnacle. Each novel is different. Sometimes the title springs out and won’t let go. Other times you have to wrestle it out of darkness.

Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Life is a comedy for the man who thinks and a tragedy for the man who feels. These days we seem better at feeling than thinking.

Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Characters in a novel are sometimes a complete portrait of someone you have observed, but sometimes they are a composite of traits. In my novel, the drunken and malevolent husband of the heroine is a bit of this and a dash of him and a coating of someone else. Sometimes, as in The Frights, actions and situations come out of  your own memory or out of something you have watched or read, or a conversation at dinner or in the pub. Or someone you have met in dreams.

Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?

The King James Bible, PG Wodehouse, Alice Through the Looking Glass, The Lion,The Witch and The Wardrobe, the Short Stories of Guy de Maupassant, George Brown’s Schooldays by Bruce Marshall.

If I had mentors they were my English Master at Radley, Peter Way, who has recently died aged 94. He was also a good poet, and mentor to Sir Andrew Motion.

Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who  is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Favorite modern authors are William Boyd and Ian McEwan. They are bright of eye. They tell a good story using good English and interesting words.

Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

A glass of good wine at the end of the day is a great support. Van Gogh would have included a pipe but I don’t smoke. I would include music.

But if these two are not to be counted as entities, I would submit, as supportive entity, my first publisher, Barley Allison, at Secker & Warburg. She once said to me: ‘Nick, I would publish you if you wrote the London Telephone Directory’. You can’t say fairer than that.

Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?

Yes, but it was my day job too, as a copywriter – at least for many years

Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

It is set in Normandy, and there are a few names that need to be given early on in the novel to set the scene. I wish they could have been English names to make it even easier, but they have to be Norman French!

I am always put off novels which have a Cast List at the front. It makes the story seem more complicated than it really is.

Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I loved a good story as a child. My grandmother was a writer, and my mother too. We lived in the country and there often was nothing to do except read. It kept me company. And now I am never bored if I have a book or a pen or computer to write with.

Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?

Publishers are always keen for you to write your last novel again, for good marketing reasons, but sometimes you just want to get away and move on.

I have a prequel to The White Ship planned out and have started to write it. I have also a thriller with a historical twist to it that I have had on the cards for some time, and is two-thirds written. When you have written so many words, they are not inclined to let you go.  I am in the process of finishing it.

Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

The business of finding the plot is the hard bit. It is easy to forget that the act of writing inspires the imagination, and you sometimes despair at the start because you can’t see how it’s going to end.

Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?

Not as much as I should have. Had I had more time, I would have gone to Normandy and checked out some of the places I write about. However, my novel is set some 900 years ago. However much I could have checked out now, almost everything has changed. I wrote a historical novel called The Grimace about a real sculptor who lived in Vienna in Mozart’s and Dr Mesmer’s time. It was almost my favorite novel until The White Ship, and it was well reviewed and sold well. But I never went to Vienna for a proper recce, I just did a great deal .of reading

Fiona: Who designed the covers?

The brilliant lady who works with my publishers Accent Press.

Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Going over my editor’s proof corrections and comments on Track Changes! I was not brought up on computers. We did Latin and Greek.

Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

I learnt a great deal about castles, medieval training for war, medieval food, the passing of the ‘new knowledge’ between Arab-influenced Spain to northern France, and the evolution of the Viking longboat into something resembling the typical medieval sailing ship. I learnt that in writing a historical novel, research can become a monster. You have to know when to say Stop. I learnt that in 900 or maybe 9000 years people don’t change much.

Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead

I will come back to you on that! Maybe the tall girl who starred in The Night Manager –Elizabeth Debicki. She had pride, control, and presence.


Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?

‘Sir, a man may write at any time, so long as he sets himself doggedly to it.’ Dr Johnson

If you have a message, it must come through the story.

Don’t write for other writers, or for literary critics. Write for a friend you like but don’t know very well.

Also, if you must go and do a Course in Creative Writing, try and forget all about it when you write your novel, otherwise all novels are going to start looking the same. Some of the greatest novels are quite unorthodox and jagged. As William Blake said: ‘I must create a system or be enslaved by another man’s. I will not reason and compare. My business is to create.’

Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

‘Hello, here’s something interesting that I think you’re going to enjoy.’

Fiona: What book are you reading now?

Berlin Noir by Philip Kerr. The Short Stories of Algernon Blackwood.

Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?

Brown the Bear. It was on heavy paper, almost board, written by some Czech author. The bear prowled the neighborhood eating their food. So the villagers split a log in the forest and put some honey in it. The bear came and started to eat the honey and then the men pulled out the wedges and the bear’s nose was caught.  Ow! But he managed to escape…

Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?

Someone sliding on a banana skin/ me sliding on a banana skin

Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?

The person who wrote under the name of William Shakespeare!

Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?


It might make a passer-by laugh.

Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?

I play the piano and the harpsichord. I have a good nose for Malt Whisky. I can pretty well tell where a malt comes from in a taste test. I worked for many years on the advertising for The Macallan..

Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?

Television is a cushion into which one sinks the buttocks of the mind. I enjoyed The Night Manager. How could one not? But, normally, I am a lazy and easygoing viewer. I will not watch East Enders or shows with stand-up comedians. There I draw the line.

Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music

Shepherds (Cottage) Pie and Treacle Pudding/ Blue/ Mozart, Handel, Orlando Gibbons, The Beatles

Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?

I should like to have been a musician

Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?

I have a website for my commercial writing (ads etc) company called Salamanimal Ltd. It desperately needs updating. But then so do I.

The hippo pic is my daughter’s and is meant to represent the author and his  publisher.

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