Theodore Brun seemed to have everything. A high level, high earning job as a Paris based lawyer, a group of interesting friends and activities, a French fiancé, and yet he knew he wasn’t really happy. Something was missing. It took him several job changes and a long-distance cycle ride across Europe before he discovered his calling.
And a decade of hard work later, he’s published a four-book series of Dark Age historicals, The Wanderer Chronicles, and he’s found where he belongs.
Hi there, I’m your host Jenny Wheeler, and on Binge Reading Today, Theodore talks about the books that critics describe as “thrilling, epic adventure at its very best” and about finding his place as an author in that remarkable ride that opened up his life to new energy and joy.
Fantastic Fiction Giveaway
For our Giveaway this week, I’ve teamed up with 50 other fantastic authors to give away a huge collection of Women’s Fiction and Book Club books in a BookSweeps Lucky Draw. There’s two prize winners, but the Grand Prize winner gets a brand new E reader as well as a library of new books.
You can win my book Sadie’s Vow, #1 in the Home At Last series, plus books from authors like Stephanie Dray, Madeline Martin, and Michelle Cox, all of whom have been on Binge Reading in the past.
And remember, if you enjoyed the show, leave us a review so others will find us too. Word of mouth is still the best way for others to discover the show and great books they will love to read.
Details of things mentioned in this episode:
The Second Siege of Constantinople: https://www.worldhistory.org/image/11635/umayyad-siege-of-constantinople-717-ce/
The Anglo Saxon poem The Wanderer:
Wynfrid of Nursling also known as St Boniface: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Boniface
German god Thor: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Thor-Germanic-deity
Joe Abercrombie: https://joeabercrombie.com/
Hungry Ghosts: Kevin Jared Hosein, https://www.amazon.com/Hungry-Ghosts-Kevin-Jared-Hosein-ebook/dp/B0B31N67Z7/
River Spirit: Leila Aboulela, https://leila-aboulela.com/books/river-spirit/
The Great Reclamation: Rachel Heng, https://www.rachelhengqp.com/
Where to find Theodore Brun online
Twitter, @Theodore Brun
Introducing author Theodore Brun
But now here’s Theodore. Hello, Theodore, and welcome to the show. It’s great to have you with us.
Theodore Brun: Hello, Jenny. It’s lovely to be here, from the other side of the world, literally. And the other side of the clock. You’re 12 hours ahead. Let’s get into it.
Jenny Wheeler: Yes. Thank you so much. Now we’re going to be talking about the four-book series of The Wanderer Chronicles, set in the dark ages of Europe in the seventh and eighth centuries, and I know that these sorts of sagas often have quite a strong element of archetypal fantasy in them as well.
So I’m wondering. There’s an obvious character in the book who identifies as a wanderer, but there’s probably a more overarching archetype as well at play here. Talk to us a bit about how the Wanderer works in these kinds of Viking sagas.
Theodore Brun: The Wanderer, it’s interesting the name, the Wanderer, for a start, because I came up with that when I was about halfway through drafting the first book. and in searching around to see whether anything else had been made under that name, I discovered that there is actually a very old Anglo Saxon poem called The Wanderer.
And as I read this thing, it was the first time I’d read it, I was astonished because it was very similar in terms of archetype to my own protagonist. And it’s really about a man, a warrior in this warrior culture, who is forced into exile because his lord and his comrades are all wiped out in a battle.
A Coming Of Age story
And so he goes into exile, but it’s not just a physical journey. It’s a journey of let’s say the soul, of the mind, of life’s experience, in which he goes from – it’s a kind of enlightenment that he’s discovering.
Similar to my main protagonist, he’s a boy/young man who has this physical disability caused by his father. So he carried the archetype of the father wound. That’s very strong in this book. And it’s this Coming of Age story is the first novel really ( A Mighty Dawn) where he has to leave his homeland and go out and find his way in the world.
But in the course of obviously becoming a great warrior, which is the surface level, there’s a lot going on underneath in terms of what is life all about and how is he to live as a man in this dark and brutal world of the eighth century. So hopefully over the span of what I plan to be five books he’ll come to his own enlightenment, if you like, on that score, his own form of wisdom.
Jenny Wheeler: Sure. I imagine you’re immersed in the fifth book or starting the fifth book now, and that will round out the series.
Theodore Brun: That will round out the series. I haven’t actually started it yet, because various other things have come in the way, but hopefully I will, It’s all going on in my head at least, and I know where the whole thing lands
Jenny Wheeler: Now, the one we’re talking about particularly today is book four, which has just been published. It’s called A Savage Moon and it opens in 718AD at the point where there’s been a very significant battle in Europe and Byzantium. And you would expect peace to reign on that continent, but it’s far from a peaceful world.
Tell us a bit about in 718AD and the state of Europe at that time.
The unsettled peace of the eighth century
Theodore Brun: You’re right. You would expect peace to come, but peace doesn’t seem to last very long in that period. I think that the significant thing going on in Europe at that time is it’s a crossover point, if you like, from the more powerful period of the Byzantine Empire, which was really the continuation, not even the successor of the Roman Empire, but based around this big city of Constantinople, which really put every other city and urban environment in its shade.
It was of a different order. But what was happening was that Islam was on the ascendant. You had probably less than a hundred years before Muhammad burst onto the scene, just after the Byzantines had settled the Persians, their great rival once and for all.
And they had about 10 years of breathing space and then suddenly they’ve got this new enemy appears on the horizon sweeping all before it.
And I think it took them about a hundred years to really push the Byzantines back and back out of their provinces around what’s now Palestine and what’s now Turkey till they were really banging on the walls of Constantinople.
I call it Byzantium in my books. And it was a very iconic siege in the sense that everything was thrown at it.
The Arab Muslim armies that came against the city were vast in number. But the one advantage that the Byzantines had was they had built these enormous walls, which still stand, and you can go and walk on top of them and they are incredibly impressive still as fortifications on the landward side of what’s now in Istanbul.
Powerful Byzantium in decline
They just couldn’t get through them. And so while the moment of crisis passed when various things went wrong for the Arab armies encamped around the city, and also the Byzantines had this secret weapon, which was a flamethrower, a medieval flamethrower, which they used at sea.
So they were invincible at sea as well. The crisis passes, but even within the Byzantine Empire, the intrigues did not cease and I think the very next year the emperor who’d succeeded in driving away this threat was having to deal with various conspiracies of people trying to reinstall previous emperors.
It was very unsettled time within that empire because it was in a very weakened condition and the wars didn’t end with the Muslim armies, they were still various campaigns running in what’s now Turkey.
The Arabs remained the enemy for hundreds of years, so that was what was going on in the eastern Eastern Mediterranean, as it were, and then around Rome, Rome was still part of the empire, but the bonds that were tying Rome to that empire were loosening as well.
There was a sea change in this period of history where Rome and what would be the Papal States would start looking to the Frankish kingdom in France, and look west for their protection because the east was so beleaguered by this new threat of the Muslims.
Jenny Wheeler: The Savage Moon focuses on Erlan, who is the Shining Wanderer, the wanderer referred to as a boy in the first book, and the Swedish Queen, Lilla. They’ve got the major roles. There are a number of other side stories as well, but tell us about those two. I feel you have a particular affection for Erlan, the wanderer. What inspires you about him in particular?
Hard medicine for a five-year-old boy
Theodore Brun: I think the fact that he is encumbered with this disability. His backstory was that his father was trying to teach him as a five-year-old, that you can’t really trust anyone in the world.
He invites him to jump off this big rock on the beach and he says he’ll catch him. At the last minute he steps aside and lets him fall into the sand, but he doesn’t realize that there’s a stone concealed under the sand.
The child Erlan does himself a chronic lasting injury, and it’s a pretty brutal lesson from his father. That reflects an actual story I heard. They didn’t cripple themselves, but at the same time, the father stepped away. I stole that as an example.
I think the fact that he’s having to deal with this injury means that he can’t run away like other men. He’s not mobile like other men. What he has to learn is to stand and fight better than anyone else.
I think that’s what he has learned to do. He’s learned that he needs to have more resourcefulness, more skills with his mind as well as his body and his strength.
But there are various wounds in his past that I think he’s trying to process whilst going through these adventures and these experiences.
There’s one other layer that I think is important as far as his character is concerned and that comes from his mother, who, although she passes away when he’s rather young, she leaves him with this question, which is,’ are you going to be a man or a monster?’
Are you a man, or a monster?
‘Are you a man or a monster?’ And I think in this world of – it’s incredibly brutal world. It’s not like the world’s got less brutal, from news going around today, even today.
That question still pertains for all of us really – are you going to be a man or a monster in this world, particularly on the masculine side?
Of course, there’s the excitement, the ‘thrills and spills of swords and splatter’ as a friend describes this kind of book. But there’s also this underlying question, what kind of a man is Erlan becoming, and I think that’s relevant. I feel like it’s connected to me as an author.
It’s taken me, I don’t know, seven, eight years to get to this point in terms of my writing career. (Correction from the audio – Editor note) So that’s quite a development. I’m 46 now, over my late 30s and early 40s.
Still a question for me is, what kind of a man am I becoming? And maybe some of the outworking of that comes out on the page.
So that’s Erlan. I don’t know, do you want me to say what I think about Lilla as well?
Jenny Wheeler: Yes. I didn’t warm to her as much. I felt in some ways ahe wasn’t quite deserving of him.
Theodore Brun: That’s interesting, isn’t it? Because I had another friend who read them and thought the exact opposite, thought that she was the admirable one and he needed to up his game to be deserving of her.
But I’m a man, so I’m trying to write a female character. I think again, it’s a similar question of what does it mean to grow into becoming a 17, 18 year old young woman, who thinks she’s wise, but part of the journey of her, because she knows more in terms of magic and various kind of supernatural stuff, I would say in the context of their culture. I think over the course of her story, she. becomes disillusioned and realizes maybe she doesn’t know half of what she thought she knew about the world.
Queen Lilla has a similar challenge
She’s on a learning process as well. But also, it’s the same thing of, is she hardened as a woman? Is her heart hard?
In the course of this current book, A Savage Moon, it was quite deliberate, I noticed it about halfway through writing it.
She’s become incredibly hard hearted about halfway through the book, almost to the point where she’s masculinized, if that’s a word.
I can’t think of the word for it, but she’s become more masculine in terms of her approach to things, which may be a reflection of my own thoughts, but in the second half of the book, she recovers something of her softness and femininity and vulnerability, as well as having that power of the woman of experience.
They are somewhat broken people figuring out how to be better as well as how to figure out how to meet all their goals in the course of these adventures as well.
The fact that you see this ‘push me pull you’ effect of her rising to him or him rising to her, I think is part of the narrative and in some ways deliberate.
Jenny Wheeler: Yes. And you do make it clear that because of the position she holds as a woman, that she has a sense of having to appear even more strong and dangerous to get men to take her seriously.
There’s a certain part of the act where she has to almost overplay things to get taken seriously.
Theodore Brun: Yes, I think that’s right. And where she’s come from, is a place when she’s in her homeland and doesn’t really have for the responsibility that she comes to when she becomes queen through a course of events.
Beforehand, she’s quite disparaging of all this politicking and the bravado of great lords and war leaders and warriors and what have you posturing.
Telling story of European power blocs
But she gets drawn into it and has to find her way of standing her ground and taking hold of some position.
Standing in equal balance with some of the powerful and forceful characters that she comes up against.
There is an element of like iron sharpens iron, if you like, she’s having to get sharper in order to meet the challenge of the forces that come against her or the characters that come against her.
Jenny Wheeler: You’re working with an extremely broad canvas here, because a lot of these books, as far as I understand it, like with M. J. Porter, they focus on one particular country, whether it’s England or the Viking area, the Norse lands, but you cover the whole range.
That must have been quite a challenge, and obviously one that you deliberately chose to take that global view.
Theodore Brun: I think part of it connects with the inspiration behind these books, which was very much a dive into the history of this period where you saw these greater moving pieces of Christendom, the Roman Empire, the emerging Muslim Empire and the Pagan North, the early days of what would become the big Viking culture.
I wanted to explore that whole world, which already meant that you couldn’t just stay up in Scandinavia. And this was more than a story all about Norse culture and rival kingdoms up there.
Although basically the first two books do stay there. and certainly, it made my job a little bit harder in terms of thinking now I’ve got to go down to Constantinople.
What does that look like? What’s going on down there? It certainly extrapolated the amount of research that I had to do, but I’m very glad.
How Theodore Brun fell in love with Dark Ages
I think naturally I’m quite a roving person anyway. I’ve traveled widely and so I could use that to enrich these stories.
I think has been a deliberate choice and hopefully, it provides a expansiveness to the nature of the stories, the settings.
Jenny Wheeler: It does. It’s a good point to now ask you about your fascination with this period, because it stems from a number of personal interests and experiences that you had.
Tell us a little bit about that. You’ve got Viking ancestry there in the background, as well as a number of other interests.
Tell us how you got drawn into that period.
Theodore Brun: I think the Viking ancestry, as in my father is fully Danish, even though he was raised and born in England, just before the war.
My Danish grandfather lived till he was 101, and he was living in England. So we were getting you’re Danish, very much a sense of that side of our heritage.
But strangely, that was nothing really to do with Vikings as such. It was more just the country and culture itself. So that wasn’t really determinative.
I think it was more the fact that there was this lecture I went to back in 2009. And it was talking about three great evangelists of history,
The lecture was by a theologian. One of them, the middle one was on this guy called Wynfrid of Nursling, who was an Englishman in the early 8th century.
And the lecturer described this event, which actually is also very topical, where he cut down the sacred oak of Thor, the God of Thunder. in a province in Germany in big dark Germanic forest.
An unexpected hero – and an English saint
Obviously, he was trying to demonstrate the power of the Christian God over the pagan gods and also push back against what he saw as these abominations of human sacrifice and what have you. So that story affected me, as not a writer in any sense. No, I wasn’t writing. It was total flatline in terms of my writing career.
This was a spark in my imagination that did actually birth something. I suddenly saw this scene of this guy with his axe chopping down this local community’s favorite tree. That’s not going to go down very well, is it? And saw it as a spark of conflict.
But it was enough that actually drew me further into this guy’s story, got hold of a history book about it, started reading about the historical context, and realized he was actually quite an interesting figure connecting the Roman church with the Frankish leadership, the kings of France.
But also then the story of the Muslims invading from Spain up as far as just south of Paris to the city of, or near the town of Tours.
There was this battle of Tours in 732 AD, and I suddenly thought, that’s quite a good climax for some sort of story.
I don’t know what the story is yet, but that feels like a climactic event, which I think I’d heard about in the past, but I’d forgotten about. So that was the hook, if you like, the historical hook that linked me into early 8th century.
Now. In terms of the stories, we’re not actually ever going to unless it’s a different series, I don’t think we’re going to get to that particular battle.
In roaming around… that area of history, suddenly, some of the background of my university days I studied Scandinavian archaeology, which is basically Viking archaeology, but going back all the way to the year zero.
Wynfrid set Theodore’s imagination alight
And so suddenly the protagonist that appeared in my head was neither Christian nor Muslim. It was this pagan. guy. And I thought okay, so in exploring this world, there needs to be this slightly more neutral character between this big fault line between these big historical tectonic plates, as it were, of these two great faiths.
Who is this guy? Is he a warrior? Is he what? I think out of that seed bed, grew the origin story, if you like, of this wanderer character who was going to explore the rest of the world.
A Mighty Dawn in the first book is really his, where he comes from, why he leaves and where he’s off to next.
Jenny Wheeler: Sure. Wynfrid does make an appearance in this book, A Savage Moon, doesn’t he? He’s got quite a significant role. And I get the feeling he is going to be in the next book as well. Is that a reasonable expectation?
Theodore Brun: He is in this book, and I was very glad to finally get to him because it was such a significant moment for me.
I was a lawyer before, and it was only thanks to this story that I now I can basically attribute absolutely everything that I have in life to that moment of hearing his story.
I feel like I owe the guy or at least that story a lot. It was a pivot point in my life. It was that blinding vision, if you like, of this dark forest.
And maybe it didn’t happen exactly as I imagined it, but I think part of the purpose of this book was to bring this character in, to enact this moment, but it wasn’t historically the same moment, because there were a lot of these pagan trees where there was sacrifices and rituals connected with them.
It was more tying in his story of if something like this had happened, this would leave such an indelible imprint on his mind, the historical character, that of course he would have this antipathy to these places of pagan worship.
I think he has had his moment, I’m not sure he’s going to be there in the next book, knowing where the story’s going to.
The pitiless brutality of eighth century life
Jenny Wheeler: Is that so?
Theodore Brun: Because he goes off and has his own his own historical adventures, which doesn’t really tie in with where I’m taking Erlan and Lilla’s story.
But who knows, maybe in spin off series connected with this, you could possibly explore his story?
I think he’s an interesting character because he, together with Charles Martel, who was the power behind the throne in the Frankish kingdom, and also Pope Gregory II, he was almost like a diplomatic link between those two forces.
And, now when we think of medieval Christendom, you always think of church and state and this weird interrelationship between the two.
But at that stage, they weren’t necessarily that connected. He was a real forger, I think, of what came to be medieval Europe in the centuries that followed. I do think he’s a significant character in European history.
Jenny Wheeler: Yes. These Dark Age stories, they have an absolute pitiless brutality about them, the way that they treated one another.
I know that it’s just as bad today in many ways as you’ve alluded to, but how do you feel about the whole question of justice and seeing people in stories get their comeuppance when they’re absolutely vile?
Like that one character, Kateros in this book, who’s a horrible person and seems to get away with everything.
Celebrating the anti hero
Theodore Brun: He’s a bit of an anti hero. Kataros I call him.
I’m always playing around with names and meanings behind names. So Kataros, I made it up. It sounds Greek but the root word behind it is to do with being cursed.
And it’s the same word, his name changes at a certain point in this in this story to Skirpa, which also has that same sense of ill fate.
And the reason he’s there is because there’s a big reveal coming in book five about who this guy really is. But he is also a character who just wouldn’t go away from my head. He’s the main antagonist. He’s the baddie in A Burning Sea, which is the third book.
He’s a eunuch who’s scheming against the Empire because effectively the organs of the Empire have. made him a eunuch, which he’s never really accepted, the resentment is there.
His opportunity arises to organise the downfall of the Empire, and he’s going to take it. It doesn’t come off, but he still survives.
In A Savage Moon, he’s on the run from the long arm of imperial justice, let’s call it that.
And he becomes this kind of anti hero. And I think It’s interesting, you have the hero, who’s always having to reconcile and overcome the dark, the shadow, if you like, in his soul.
And then you’ve got the mirror image in this character, who, as you say, is pretty vile by any standards, but at the same time, he’s wrestling with the fact that there’s always that thread dangled in front of him of redemption and he doesn’t always have to choose the worst possible course of action.
I think that comes into the story as well. It’s the idea that I think it was it Solzhenitsyn who says the line between good and evil runs between every human heart.
A bicycle journey to life
It’s not like there’s baddies over here and goodies over there. We’re all of us dealing with that sense of both good and evil and the fault line runs inside of us.
So how are we going to push the line that, talk about justice and righteousness? How are we going to push that line, so we don’t become the monster?
We become a man, or we don’t become the hard hearted. I don’t know what in terms of describing Lilla, but she retains her womanhood in all its fullness. Skirpa is an interesting foil to have there. He is the third strand in the thread of the whole story.
Jenny Wheeler: Yes. you alluded to a lot of journeying that you’ve done yourself.
You did a remarkable bicycle journey. You mentioned about being a lawyer. You were a lawyer on an international scale in a number of different places ending up, I think in Hong Kong.
And then you rode by bicycle from Hong Kong through about 20 countries back home to England.
And that must have taken some time. I’m not quite sure how long it took, but it seems to me to be a bit of a personal odyssey because after that, you pretty well immediately started the writing.
And I just love to know a little bit about your meditations as you were making that bicycle journey and how pivotal it was for you?
It was a wonderful life, but it didn’t fit him
Theodore Brun: I think the backstory to it is ‘why did a man, a young man of, say, 33, do it?’
I had a pretty good life in Paris. I was engaged to a lovely journalist and I had a very high paying legal job. Why did I blow all that?
People looking at it on the outside would be like, ‘What was wrong with that?’ I kind of systematically dismantled it and I think I can understand now the motivation behind that was connected with the fact that as good as that life felt or looked, it felt like someone else’s life.
And I think part of the journey of breaking up that kind of status quo, and then embarking on another journey of discovery, if you like, was asking ‘Where was I supposed to end up in life?’
And this was from a place where I had no sense of creativity, no sense of imagination, no sense of ever writing fiction, even though I respected authors and literature a lot, and I read quite a lot, but I never connected that with me.
And so it built to a bit of a crisis point when I had some good jobs in the law and then tried to leave it and then went back into a very mediocre, I thought, job in Hong Kong. I was very disgruntled and dissatisfied and on my downers.
The idea of the books had started to grow, but then also this daydream of just setting out and walking off into mainland China started to become a reality to me.
And I think someone challenged me. And when I confessed this daydream and with three words, they said, ‘What’s stopping you?’
And for the first time in a long time, I felt this little kernel of joy.
So it was that signal of the joy, if you like, in connecting with that idea. And then I started to make it a reality and started to plan it.
Coming alive cycling through 20 countries
And then eventually I set out on this journey. Of course, there were obstructions and barriers to like, why you wouldn’t do this journey, but I did it.
And we’re talking about books where characters go from pole to pole, from good to bad or bad to good or rich to poor or the other way around. For me, this was literally from death to life. I don’t want to sound too melodramatic about it, but I did feel this sense of inertia and decay when I was stuck there in Hong Kong.
And over the course of this journey, by the time I ended up back in England, someone asked me the question “how would you sum up that journey in one word?”
And I just blurted out “alive.” It was what I needed to do at that stage in my life, to basically come back to life and discover within myself this aptitude for writing, the love of writing, the passion for writing.
S,o how do I do it? Commit to it as well, which is what happened when I got back to England.
Then there followed quite a few months and even years of just churning out two thousand words a day. I wrote this enormously vast tome which represents the first two novels now, which I then had to rework a lot and edit and chop and change.
I think doing that journey gave me the confidence of going, okay, take it one day at a time. one page at a time, one sentence at a time, and you will get there if you just don’t give up and keep going.
Anyway, I’m so glad that I persevered because it’s taken time to build up a livelihood connected with writing and only writing but I think I could say I’m here now.
All the rich things that have come out of my life, meeting, the right woman who I could actually stick with, having my children, being a father, but at the same time satisfying that wandering, roaming nerve inside me.
Theodore Brun – living in his imagination
That’s what writing gives to me. I don’t feel like I’m in the wrong life. I don’t need to go off and get on a bicycle and cross the world again.
I feel I can do all that in my imagination and still live a very stable, good, nourishing life here in London where I’m living with my wife, Natasha and my girls.
So that’s the journey.
Jenny Wheeler: That’s an amazing story. And that’s a book in itself, which I’d love to read. It’s really a personal journey, a memoir, isn’t it? That’s what it is,
Theodore Brun: I must write it one day for my, just for my girl’s sake, if no one else, just so they know. Because they just think I’m obsessed with books and I sit in my study and write. they don’t know that side of me really.
Jenny Wheeler: But it sparks another question. You also said you studied Dark Archaeology, but you said that it never gave you the sense of really understanding and feeling that you were there in those times with the people like being able to write about them did.
Tell us about that because it’s a rather similar sort of experience, isn’t it?
Did you start out your archaeology because you wanted to really understand what those people were like or what living in that time was like?
The journey from science to arts
Theodore Brun: I started Archaeology and Anthropology, which was the degree at Cambridge where I went to, in part because I could get in on it.
It was very hard to get into that university and this felt like a lower bar than some of the other ones I might have applied for.
But then in the course of that, it was a three year degree and after the second year you have to then specialise.
To give you some idea – all my equivalent of high school stuff was all very sciencey.
And this was a bridge towards something a bit more historical. Archaeology and then within that degree, continually choosing the options where there was more history involved. And then weirdly, just to jump forward, like then my career went into the law, which was all more words.
And now it’s a writer. It was always on this journey away from very sciencey mathematical things into the more imaginary part of my brain, as it were.
And the degree part was, archaeology, it was all like material culture, just a pot sitting there or a blade that’s all rusted to nothing sitting there or a schematic of some foundations of a building that once stood there.
I could see these things on the page. but I felt like there was a big gap between what I wanted to feel in terms of examining the past and what I was experiencing.
And if to give you an analogy, it’s as different as if you go to the Coliseum and you walk around the Coliseum you go, okay, you’re trying to imagine it and then you go off and you watch Gladiator in an IMAX, it’s that difference.
Theodore Brun – Activating his creativity
And I think that’s the experience I’ve had now activating my imagination as it were and then discovering this idea of writing fiction and living out these scenes and hopefully sharing that with readers as well.
You get to experience everything in your head. There is an element of time travel magic to being an author, a historical novelist which obviously as a reader, I enjoy they as well when someone does it well.
So that’s the point of connection. It is the mystery, if you like, of our minds that can really help us be there and live these different lives, experience these different things, and yet get on with the life that we’re actually. in. And I love that about historical fiction.
I love it when I read it. I love it when I write it as well.
Jenny Wheeler: That’s great because we are starting to come to the end of our time together and I always like to ask people about what they’re reading at the moment.
We have a lot of passionate readers who listen to this show and they’re often looking for their next great read, the next series that they want to get into.
What do you like to read and is there anything that you’d recommend to people at the moment?
Theodore Brun: It’s not what I’m reading right now, but I would definitely recommend, if they love a series and a binge read as it were, since we’re on the joy of binge reading, Joe Abercrombie, who is not a historical novelist, but he might as well be.
He’s a fantasy novelist and his first trilogy was The Blade Itself But he’s done his most recent one I think you have to read those in order to give the context for the ones I’m going to recommend which is this trilogy called The Age Of Madness and it’s almost like the Industrial Revolution leads into the French Revolution, but in fantasy land.
What Theodore Brun is reading now
And the reason I recommend it is because I think he’s got a fantastic, he’s probably the best voice in terms of fiction that I’ve been reading recently. That’s what I would recommend. The Age of Madness by Joe Abercrombie, which is three novels, and they follow on from one another and end rather nicely in a great climax, say.
It’s good stuff.
Jenny Wheeler: So that’s fantasy. Do you read a lot of fantasy?
Theodore Brun: I don’t, no, not much. But I think, because I was recommended him, I just think he’s a fantastic writer in terms of voice and there are a few people who I think match him.
Having said that, I am a judge for what’s called the Historical Writers Association Gold Crown Award, which is coming to its conclusion, it funnels down into the last 12 or 10 books, and they are, I’m really struggling to, to choose between them.
So just to throw a couple that are on my desk. There’s one called Hungry Ghosts by Kevin Jared Hussain. There’s another one called River Spirit by Leila Aboulela, and The Great Reclamation by Rachel Heng.
I’m having to try and decide which I like more out of these and they all just great, it’s high quality historical fiction, great writing and great stories.
Jenny Wheeler: Oh, that’s wonderful. Looking back down the tunnel of time, if there is one thing about your creative career you’d change, what would it be?
Theodore Brun: In a very mercenary sense I would accept the pre-emptive offer that my publisher offered to me, and then we went away and tried to see whether anyone else was interested, and when no one else was, we came back and the offer was quite a lot smaller.
It would have made my life a little bit easier if, had I accepted that pre-emptive offer.
That would be one change.
Regrets? He’s had a few…
Creatively, there’s a character in the second book. A Sacred Storm, who was my favorite character.
I think he was everyone’s favorite character. And maybe I would have found a different fate for him, had I realized the importance of having the light relief as well as this main protagonist kind of big epic, emotional journey. You need some right light relief as well.
And that’s what this other character was so good for, both for my own sanity writing these things, but also I think for the readers. In future series, I think I’ll definitely held that thought in mind when it comes to deciding what happens to my characters.
Jenny Wheeler: There’s that phrase, you have to kill your babies. You think that was one baby you shouldn’t have killed?
Theodore Brun: It was. In my head, it’s still one of the most powerful moments of the whole, all the four books.
I don’t regret that, and we couldn’t have had that if I made a different choice, I think I’m happy. I’m happy. It is let the chips lie where they are and I’ll just take that lesson away for the future.
Jenny Wheeler: Yes, that’s great. What’s next for Theodore as an author? For example, what have you got on your desk for the next 12 months?
Theodore Brun: My very next project is an interesting one because I also, as well as writing under my own name, I do ghost writing as well.
But it’s the first time I’ve got a project as a ghost writer coming up, which is to do with fiction.
I’ll be writing a kids fantasy novel which is going to be shorter, a different world, set in the real world, but with strange magical powers going on a little bit Harry Potter.
What Theodore Brun is working on next…
I’m doing that in conjunction with the author, who has ideas, but is not going to be writing the book, so that’s going to be the next actual book I’m going to write.
But within 12 month period, I hope to move on to the next historical fiction book, which is going to be set in 19th century Cairo as a murder mystery.
And potentially a contemporary thriller as well, which is a sort of conspiracy thriller, which seems to be a natural outlet for all the crazy stuff going on in the world right now.
But I need to put all those thoughts down somewhere. So maybe best in a work of fiction.
Jenny Wheeler: Oh wow, so you’re going to move right away from Dark Ages.
Theodore Brun: Currently that’s the plan, but not forever. It really depends contractually what happens with this fifth book, whether I can find a way of writing it, either getting a publisher interested, or by buying myself the time through getting income from other sources.
Hoping sales for the fourth book go very nicely and then the publisher will be interested in continuing on the series, because I think it’s hard to keep a series going and probably, as again to your earlier point, another change I might have made is writing slightly shorter books.
Then the turnover was a bit quicker, and then you keep the readers hot as it were on the boil.
That said, I’ve got to finish the story by hook or by crook some way, somehow, because I can see the cycle of the story comes into land in a specific way. And I can see that. So I need to do that.
Jenny Wheeler: I’m just interested, the children’s novel that you’re going to be writing, is it relevant to the ages of your daughters? Is it something where you’re going to be able to perhaps read bits to them and they’re going to be able to give you their feedback?
Theodore Brun: The older one, probably, yes. In, at least, by the time I’ve finished it, I think she’ll be old enough. She’s just turned seven, so she’s still a little bit young, because I think it’s more for 11 to 12 year olds. But hey, I’ll give it a go and see what she says.
Where to find Theodore Brun online
Jenny Wheeler: Fantastic. That’s lovely. Do you enjoy interacting with your readers and where can they find you online?
Theodore Brun: I do. My readers can find me I’m on Twitter, @Theodore Brun. I’m on Instagram, @Theobrun which is probably my most active platform.
I have an author’s page on Facebook as well, which I don’t use quite so much, or you can sign up to my mailing list on my website, which is www.theodorebrun. com as you might’ve guessed.
Jenny Wheeler: That’s great, Theodore. And I’m so glad to hear that you are making a success of this full-time writing career. That in itself is a super achievement.
Theodore Brun: It’s keeping your head above water. I think that is possibly the most that you can hope for is like, where’s the next contract coming from? And where can you deploy your imagination next? And I think that’s all I really ask of it at the moment. So that’s keeping me happy and busy.
Jenny Wheeler: Thank you so much for your time. It’s been great talking.
Theodore Brun: Wonderful. Thank you so much, Jenny. It’s a privilege to be on here.
If you enjoyed Theodore you might also enjoy…
M.J. Porter’s ninth century Saxon chronicles… More Dark Age adventure….
M.J. Porter has developed an enthusiastic readership for her ninth century Saxon Chronicles set in the depths of a divided Britain. She writes action-packed and completely addictive Dark Ages historicals that have readers howling for more.
Next week on The Joys of Binge Reading..
USA Today best selling Regency mystery author Andrea Penrose… And Murder At Merton Library – #7 in the best selling Wrexford & Sloane mysteries…
Jenny Wheeler: Next week on The Joys Of Binge Reading – USA Today best selling Regency mystery author Andrea Penrose…
She’s published internationally in 10 languages. She’s a three time Rita Award finalist and winner of numerous awards, including the Daphne du Maurier Mysteries Award.
Critics say of Andrea Penrose: “She mixes well-thought-out mysteries, early forensic science, great details of the era and a slow burning attraction to make a compulsive read.”
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See you next time and happy reading!