TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery.
Clifford: Hello and thanks for inviting me to talk with you.
TQ: When and why did you start writing?
Clifford: I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I used to write short stories from about the time I was 13 after first reading Edgar Allen Poe. The desire to create with words just came naturally to me and I enjoyed sharing my stories with my family. Wrote some short stories while in university but then there was a long hiatus from creative writing. I suppose it was unsurprising that I eventually became a journalist.
TQ: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Clifford: I’d probably have to say one of them is that I use film score music to unleash my imagination as I write. I wrote my first novel manuscript listening to John Williams scores and Gideon’s Angel was fuelled by Howard Shore’s incredible Lord of the Rings soundtracks.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Clifford: I definitely straddle the fence on that one. Mostly I’m a pantser but when I find certain plotlines getting intricate it’s a great help to get those random ideas and sequences down on paper and start fleshing them out before tackling the prose. This always got me through when I was starting to feel stuck.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Clifford: Apart from finding the time to begin with, it’s finding the right balance between putting in the long hours on the keyboard and not alienating family and friends. There’s no way around it: writing books is a solitary pastime. When I’m particularly engaged in writing and deep into a scene, I sometimes don’t even hear someone calling for me!
TQ: Describe Gideon's Angel in 140 characters or less.
Clifford: 1653: a bitter Royalist exile returns in secret to kill Oliver Cromwell but finds Puritans have a plot of their own led by a demon in guise of an angel. It’s now save Cromwell or see England fall to Lucifer.
TQ: What inspired you to write Gideon's Angel?
Clifford: I’d already been writing about the central character, Colonel Richard Treadwell, but in a straight historical fiction format. I’d also been toying around with crafting a fantasy novel as well but couldn’t seem to get anything to gel. So I decided I could spice things up by adding a fantasy supernatural element to what was essentially a swashbuckling thriller.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Gideon's Angel?
Clifford: It’s important to readers to get the history right—no matter what the period. Although I had a good knowledge of the 17th century to begin with, I had to do some deep dives into London of the 1650s as well as the political turmoil. I also had to make sure I understood the real life people who I was turning into fictional characters.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Clifford: I think that the lead protagonist was the easiest. Because he is the focal point (and in this book the narrator) you invest a lot of yourself in him as he develops. He’s a middle-aged, world-weary cavalier on the losing side of history. Being over 50 myself gives me some understanding of the mid-life crisis! The most difficult character was probably the gypsy seeress Anya. Apart from the challenge of writing a female character from a man’s perspective, it was more difficult uncovering her motives and what makes her tick. She’s still an enigma to me in some ways.
TQ: Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in Gideon's Angel?
Clifford: I’ve got a few favorites. Early on, there is a scene where Treadwell meets his wife in Devon, she believing him long dead. But it’s no joyful reunion. Another is the climactic battle against the minions of Hell—in the corridors of Whitehall palace itself.
TQ: What's next?
Clifford: There is a prequel written. It’s set mainly in Germany more than 20 years before the action of Gideon’s and gives some answers as to why Treadwell has become the man he is. I suppose you could sum it up as The Wicker Man meets Platoon. Think desperate battles fought and lost, witches in the Harz Mountains, and some unlikely star-crossed lovers. If there’s demand, there could be a third Treadwell adventure set in the New World in the 1650s.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Clifford: Much obliged for the opportunity.
About Gideon's Angel
Solaris Books, February 26, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 352 pages
He came back to kill a tyrant. He found the Devil instead. An amazing historical novel with a supernatural twist set after the English Civil War. This is the stunning debut from Clifford Beal.
He came back to kill a tyrant. He found the Devil instead.
1653: The long and bloody English Civil War is at an end. King Charles is dead and Oliver Cromwell rules the land as king in all but name. Richard Treadwell, an exiled royalist officer and soldier-for-hire to the King of France and his all-powerful advisor, the wily Cardinal Mazarin, burns with revenge for those who deprived him of his family and fortune. He decides upon a self-appointed mission to return to England in secret and assassinate the new Lord Protector. Once back on English soil however, he learns that his is not the only plot in motion.
A secret army run by a deluded Puritan is bent on the same quest, guided by the Devil’s hand. When demonic entities are summoned, Treadwell finds himself in a desperate turnaround: he must save Cromwell to save England from a literal descent into Hell. But first he has to contend with a wife he left in Devon who believes she’s a widow, and a furious Paris mistress who has trailed him to England, jeopardising everything. Treadwell needs allies fast. Can he convince the man sent to forcibly drag him back to Cardinal Mazarin? A young king’s musketeer named d’Artagnan.
Black dogs and demons; religion and magic; Freemasons and Ranters. It’s a dangerous new Republic for an old cavalier coming home again.
The very different UK Cover (out February 28th)
For recreation, Clifford used to don plate armour and bash the tar out of people in the Society for Creative Anachronism before moving to more civilised pursuits such as 17th century rapier and dagger fighting and motorcycling (though not simultaneously). Today, he is more likely to be found at the seaside or the Savile Club in London, sharing good wine and conversation in a place where the sparring is usually only verbal.
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