It would have been around 1972 when I was six or seven that, whilst visiting my auntie’s house I first spotted a book that intrigued me. It was called “Watership Down and had a picture of a rabbit on the cover. I “borrowed” it and spent the ensuing years reading and re-reading it so much the cover fell off. Then, about three years later my father, fed up with seeing this book constantly in my hand bought me a much larger book to replace it. Inevitably it was called “The Lord of the Rings” and I ended up reading and re-reading it until its cover too finally fell off. They were probably the two most formative books of my childhood so that when my sister, back in July 2011 challenged me to write something for her their influence was never far away. I tend to believe that, as individuals, we are influenced by everything we see or hear, consciously or otherwise but I would have to acknowledge other debts to the films “Dragonslayer” and the 1971 version of “Macbeth”.
Both are rather flawed films but the former has the best pre (and maybe post) CGI dragon I have seen an cinema whilst the latter has bags of brooding atmosphere and castle courtyards full of mud and farm animals, all images I had in mind as I was writing. Finally I have to acknowledge a debt to the PC game “Dragon Age; Origins”, a great game in itself it gave the player the opportunity to start with one of several different types of backgrounds before entering the main quest line. It was this that gave me the idea of how to start my own attempt at a novel. What if, I thought, instead of having a single protagonist I had about three or four? If I were to create a world from scratch it would afford great opportunities to create something a little more multi layered than the conventional fantasy world.
As for the over-arching concept I remembered watching sometime in the eighties a news report on the civil war in Mozambique. It was a war sponsored by apartheid South Africa, a war waged to destabilise a neighbour, one not driven by ideology or revolution, just a nasty little war barely regarded by most of the western world. So that gave me the title at least. Initially it was written as three separate stories with a fourth added later because there was one scene I wanted to include that would not have fitted in elsewhere. It was not until the book was actually finished that I went back and combined these stories and split them into chapters, it was not until about chapter 15 in the final book that I started writing it as one continuous novel. I tried to write at least a thousand words a day it taking me 3-4 weeks to complete a section of 30-40,000 words that I then emailed off to my sister. When I was stuck, I would leave it for a day or too, eventually the way forward would come to me, usually at 2 or 3 in the morning after a typically restless night.
My record for a day was 10,000 words, a key chapter and one I wrote without letting up pretty much from dawn till dusk. And now it is finally in print. I have no great ambitions as a writer and genuinely would be happier if just 20 people read the book and enjoyed it rather than 20,000 read it with 19,990 hating it. It was fun to do and very fulfilling, which is probably the most important thing of all.
Published by Book Guild Publishing to order your copy here: link http://www.bookguild.co.uk/the-forgotten-war-pr-1422.html
Also find him on Twitter: @howardjsargent