Monday, 10 February 2014

A Glimpse at What I'm Working On ...

My thanks to Alison Morton for inviting me to be part of the "My Writing Process" blog tour. Like me, Alison has published two novels, Inceptio and Perfiditas, and will soon publish a third, Successio.

So, I have to answer three questions:

What am I working on?

The final edits of my third novel, Omphalos. It is a multi-period historical novel with six inter-related stories, set in different time periods. Although the characters don't travel in time, my aim is that the reader should come away with a sense of having done so. The individual stories are arranged one inside the other, like a Russian doll:

  • Touching Souls - A couple from New York travel to Europe in search of a lost, and surprising, chapter in their family history
  • The Spirit of the Times - As the Second World War moves towards its end, a young German officer gradually comes to terms with the realities of what he has been fighting for
  • The Infinite Labyrinth - A young woman escapes from the turmoil of Revolutionary France, and is drawn into a network of espionage and intrigue
  • Jerusalem - An eccentric Catholic priest and his secretary make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1517, but the priest's world, and everything he believes in, are about to fall apart
  • The Path of Stars - A 12th Century knight makes his way to Santiago de Compostela, accompanied by his confessor, but his mind is haunted by a dark secret in his own past
  • The Song of Strangers - In 4000 BC, a sorceress is cast out from her community. She finds comfort in the arms of an adventurer from a distant land, but does not know whether she can trust him, or where their relationship will take her.
The stories are connected by a physical place, by suggested genealogical links, and by objects from one period which turn up in another.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Each book is different, but I'm not afraid to work within a tradition. My first novel, Undreamed Shores, was inspired by Homer's Odyssey, and by William Golding's The Inheritors; my second, An Accidental King, by the biographical novels of Robert Graves, Marguerite Yourcenar and Hilary Mantel. Omphalos is inspired by multiple-narrative novels such as Italo Calvino's If, on a Winter's Night, a Traveller ... ; David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas; and Sebastian Faulks's A Possible Life. All draw on my own fascination with history, and explore aspects of the relationship between the present and the past. I aim to give readers a thoroughly immersive experience of the past, leading them through worlds that are, at the same time, strikingly familiar and disturbingly alien. There are subtle threads that connect all of my published work, non-fiction as well as fiction.

Why do I write what I do?

I write what I'm passionate about. I think it's the only way. I make no attempt to "write for a market." The market is fickle and, even if I were to identify a trend, and try to write something on the basis of it, the trend would have dissipated long before the book ever came to print. The idea for a book or story can come from anywhere: a film; a photograph; a place I've visited; a throw-away comment in a historical source; but, once I have an idea, I will run with it, and won't stop until the book is published.

Le Boulevard du Temple, by Louis Daguerre, one of the first ever photographs, which inspired one of my short stories. Photo: The Louvre (image is in the Public Domain).

How does my writing process work?

It starts, of course, with an idea, and that, as I say, may come from anywhere. The idea generally comes with one or two characters (historical or fictional) already attached. Then there is the research, and research really matters to me. A sense of place is important, too, so I try to visit the places I'm writing about, coming back with reams of notes. I spend a great deal of time in archives, at the British Library, for example, or the London Metropolitan Archives. My research for Omphalos had me trawling through the records of British camps for German prisoners in the aftermath of World War II; secret intelligence reports of the 18th Century; and the 12th Century Latin manuscript of the Liber Sancti Jacobi. I do most of my research up-front, but almost always find myself returning to my sources to check details. When it comes to the writing itself, I generally take the text through 12-15 drafts. One piece of advice I'd give to writers starting out is to join a critique group; I greatly value the feedback I receive from other writers.

German prisoners of war in an English Camp. Photo: Imperial War Museum (IWM non-commercial license).

A page from the Liber Sancti Jacobi. Photo: Anouris (image is in the Public Domain).

Now I'll pass the pen on to two other writers who'll be answering these questions on their own blogs on 17th February.

Nancy Jardine is a former primary school teacher, who lives in the fabulous castle country of Aberdeenshire, Scotland. A lover of history, it sneaks into most of her writing, along with many of the fantastic world locations she has been fortunate to visit. Her published work to date has been two non-fiction, history-related projects, and five novels. Three of the novels are contemporary mysteries; two are Celtic/Roman Britain historical romantic adventures - the third in the Celtic Fervour series is due in spring 2014.

Maggie Secara loves to explore the heroic ideal, to find the mythic in the everyday, and discover the places where the realms of faerie intersect the mundane in time and space. A writer from a very early age, Maggie's poetry has appeared in a variety of magazines on- and off-line. Her first novel, Molly September, is a rollicking pirate adventure. In April this year, The Mermaid Stair (Crooked Cat Publications) continues the Harper Errant fantasy series that started with The Dragon Ring and The King's Raven. Maggie and her very understanding husband live with their cats, hats and remote control cars in Los Angeles, California, while they try to figure out a way of moving to England.

Mark Patton's novels, Undreamed Shores and An Accidental King, are published by Crooked Cat Publications, and can be purchased from Amazon UK and Amazon USA


  1. Good to read about your most recent writing, Mark. The stories sound very intriguing.

  2. Thanks, Nancy, they were certainly fascinating to research.

  3. The new book sounds wonderful, Mark. I can't wait!

  4. This sounds like an intriguing and very original work. Looking forward to reading it.