Sunday, February 2, 2020

On Writing: In Converstaion with Daniel Kelly

Today I am in conversation with Daniel Kelly,  who writes books in the historical genre. He grew up with a love of history and stories in the village of Creeslough along the north coast of Donegal before qualifying as a chef from Tourism College, Killybegs, and moving to Dublin.
The author talks about his writing journey, about his latest book 'The Fall of the Phoenix' which is the first book in the Heroes of Troy series. 

Welcome to ‘On Writing’, Daniel Kelly.

Follow Daniel Kelly on FACEBOOK Twitter, Instagram, Youtube @Heroesoftroy 

Was becoming an author always your dream or was it a particular event or incident that
gave birth to the author in you? 

Growing up, I had always been into reading. I did a lot of sports and had 3 brothers. I was outside playing with them and neighbours a lot but I had always enjoyed taking time alone to read, disappearing with a book to my room. But I don’t think I ever really thought about writing. Never believed I would have been able to. When I trained as a chef, that sort of consumed my life and reading took a back seat, as anyone who has worked as a chef will tell you, the life doesn’t leave a lot of room for anything else, you arrive at work at around ten in the morning and it could be twelve the following night before you see the sky again, it doesn’t leave time for a lot else but when I took a job working in a hospital kitchen I suddenly found myself with the time to read again.

I remember reading David Gammell's troy series, which I won't ruin for anyone who has never
read it, but it was eye-opening, I remember thinking that it was an amazingly different
interpretation of a story we had all read a hundred times and it showed me that just
because a story has been told before that it has to be “That” way, that it can be interpreted
differently. Then I started questioning why, when they won the war and wrote their history
themselves, the Greeks always seemed to come out of the Troy story looking like the bad
Writing was an accident I think, as I was just trying to work out these questions in my
own head by writing it. And since then I have pursued the same strategy. I try to answer
questions to myself as I am writing, I start a book with a question I personally want to
answer and see how the characters themselves react to different situations. And people
seem to like the results.

How important are the names of the characters in your books to you? Do you spend
agonizing hours deciding on their names? 

I must admit, I have been lucky so far, in that a lot of my work has been on historical fiction and historical fantasy, and as history, a lot of the names of characters are already there. 
Sometimes I need to add characters to the story, and for this, I like to add people I know personally and change the name to suit the timeframe.

This method works for me because, when I am describing a character, I find it helps to be
able to picture the character so later in the book you don’t forget a detail and have a person
blind in the left eye when they were blind in the right eye originally. For The Fall of The
Phoenix I did use a lot of detail from the 2004 troy film, for example, Brad Pitt is my Achilles
because in my own mind that is how I have always pictured him. Probably because that was
the big Troy film I grew up with. However, I used mental pictures from other films for certain
other characters, or people from my real world. It helps me with continuity.

What is your writing process like? Do you write every day? Is there a favourite place to write?

I try to write every day, but sometimes I could be sitting in front of the computer for hours

with very little happening, the words just won't come. This is mostly because I do most of my
thinking during the time when I am working. The job I currently have as a chef, as opposed to
restaurant work, allows me to do the job without thinking about it, so consciously while I am
working in the kitchen, I am more often than not, working out some storyline in my book.

And just to make life more complicated, I have found that I also work better with multiple
stories in my head at once. I will have one story which is my main focus but during the time I
am writing it, quite often during research, I will find by accident other things which I think
will make an interesting story and start those while I think about the main story.

For example, while working on the sequel for “The Fall of The Phoenix” which is almost ready
and which I have called “A Hero’s Welcome: Heroes of troy part:2”, I also found myself
working quite heavily on another fantasy novel based in 15th century Europe during the
crusades and the ottoman incursions into Europe which is currently nearly a quarter done.
This also makes things easier when I do finish a book that I don’t need to start a whole new
world from scratch as I have already got the basis of a story scratched out.
As for a favourite place to write, its usually on my armchair.

What is different about ‘The Fall of the Phoenix’?

“The Fall of The Phoenix” is… because it’s the final days of troy, I have skipped over the

beginning of the war, also, I always hated how Homer used filler, like seven pages of just
boat names. Sure, at the time those may have been important to the various city-states
those ships belonged to but I had always just found it boring.

I took a narrower view of the characters and gave them life, I questioned the loyalty of
soldiers forced to follow Agamemnon, or would childhood friendships have been more
important to them. I took an assumption, that children at the time, would have been taken
from home at a young age, to be trained for war, and as such, the children of great kings
such as Hector and Achilles, whose parents could both easily afford the best education for
their children would likely have sent them to the same places, so they would likely have
trained together, lived together and been friends from childhood. How would that affect
their decisions on the battlefield?

 Who is your favorite character in the book and why?

Always a difficult question. It's like asking who your favourite child is haha. I loved writing

Eurodos, Achilles's second in command. And of course, Achilles himself, the greatest hero of
the Greek nation, but I really enjoyed creating characters trapped inside troy itself,
Heraclitus who was semi-psychotic and enjoyed the killing, Arimnestos leading men, Achenia,
who lead and lost a son he could never admit to, to battle and eventual death. And the
strange feeling of loss when you are writing these characters for month, changing details
about them, but the actions of the characters themselves sometimes surprise you even as
the writer. People you had intended to live, to survive, through one action or another, the
only logical end is that they die, giving their lives honorably to save someone else.

 Which do you prefer as a reader? EBook or Paperback?

As a reader, I prefer paperback, for the feel, the smell of fresh book, its amazing. For

convenience, because I do read a lot, (although I am a very slow reader) I very often use
ebook just so I don’t need to bring multiple books with me. Otherwise going on holiday half
my luggage would be books with one t-shirt… haha…

 How long did it take to finish writing ‘The Fall of the Phoenix’?

Because I didn’t intend it, “The Fall of The Phoenix” took me almost eight years. I started, as

I said, just for myself to answer personal questions, after a while I stopped, scrapped that
version, started again. I think there are four versions of it on my laptop from different
periods in that time.

 How important do you think is marketing in today’s world for any book?

Marketing is hugely important, but from the perspective of a writer, it's also the most

difficult part. By our very nature, authors must spend a lot of their time behind either a book
or a computer screen otherwise we would never get any writing done. Also, we very often
don’t know where to go to advertise. All we really want to do is read and write, and we don’t
really think about that part until we realise that we need to promote it or we will never find
the readers we need, and if we don’t find readers, we wont get published. We do start
writing for ourselves, but we publish for the world to enjoy. However, and I can't stress this
highly enough, personal recommendations are like gold. Please always write a review on
Amazon, or wherever you get your books, so your followers can see which books you loved.

 Please share a passage or quote from ‘The Fall of the Phoenix’ for our readers.

Seconds passed, which felt like hours, before the priests tossed a sword through the flames to

each of them, landing a few feet away in the sand and sending up a small cloud of dust as they fell.
Hector knelt and lifted a handful of sand, rubbing it between his hands to dry the sweat and give him
some grip on the hilt of the sword before he picked up both sword and shield, keeping his eyes on
Achilles. Stabbing his sword into the ground, he forced his legs forward towards Achilles, unarmed;
just a few paces across the sand, but a great distance.

“Achilles,” he pleaded, I didn’t know who he was. He was in your armour, he moved like you; I

thought it was you.”

Achilles, who had been taking a few practice swings to stretch his muscles, suddenly swung a

huge underarm sweep which hit the dead centre of Hector’s shield, sending shivers up his arm.
“And you thought the great Hector could beat Achilles?” he roared.

“No, I expected to die.” Hector dodged another overhead swing as he danced back to pick up his

own sword. And even then, I fought in defence; it was a freak accident when he moved forward into
my sword. Achilles, we trained together, grew to men as brothers, fought together: even if it had been
you, I didn’t want your blood on my sword, said Hector, bringing up his weapon to block another
overhead blow from Achilles, “nor did I want mine on yours. I was fighting for my life too.”
“He was my brother! He came to train with me, under my protection, and you killed him.”

 What are the three tips you have for readers of this interview who are aspiring writers?

1) Start everything you are writing with a question “You” want to answer

2) Be honest in your writing, write what you believe would happen. If your favorite character
dies in the process, so be it.
3) READ. Anyone who thinks they can write, when they don’t read, are deluding themselves.
Reading provides you with the tools you need to write. Read everything.

Thank you, Daniel! This was a delightful conversation. Wishing you the very best for your books.


The long siege of Troy, the battles fought over it, and the city's eventual capitulation and incineration are events which have often been retold since their first recitation by Homer. Seldom, however, will they have been narrated with such close attention to the minute particulars of battle, to its reek and terror and pain, as in this startling account by Daniel Kelly. Kelly looks minutely at every detail of archaic combat, as well as at the lives and feelings shaped by it. His Troy is not only a scene of shining glory, but also a grimy struggle for survival and mastery. And he introduces surprising questions: what if not everything in the Trojan war came to pass just as Homer tells us? What if the future of the Roman empire were hidden in the burning ashes of Troy's - and not in the way we might expect?

Buy the book from: AMAZON   BOOK DEPOSITORY

Watch this video where Manu Bennett, who played Crixus in the Spartacus series, Allanon in Chronicles of Shannara, Azoz in Lord of the rings talks about The Fall of the Phoenix

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