Interview with David McColl

When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
As funny as it sounds, I'm actually an avid reader whenever I'm not writing. Most of the time, I can be found indulging in other historical fiction, particularly the works of Bernard Cornwell and Julian Stockwin. I'm also a huge fan of Simon Scarrow and Paul Francis Collard, as well as Conn Iggulden and, of course, Alexander Kent. But I also like mystery, and for that I turn to fellow Scotsman Ian Rankin. I love tartan-noir.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The first story I ever wrote was a terrible short story set in St. John's, Newfoundland. I say it was terrible because back then I was a horrendous writer. I pray I never see it again!
What is your writing process?
I follow the advice of Bernard Cornwell when I write. There's a big story, and a little story. The big story is usually the battle and the little story is that of the poor sod in the trenches. I take those stories and I flip them, and so the story about the guy slogging it out in the rat-infested mud becomes my big story and the overwhelming battle becomes a backdrop. I then research as much as I can about the battle so I can remain true to history, then I figure out how to incorporate the two stories together.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
The first story I ever remember reading was called 'I am David' by Anne Holm. It was the first time I'd ever been exposed to what I considered a "real" story. At this point, I would have been about maybe ten or eleven? Its a story about a twelve year old boy who escapes from a communist concentration camp, I think in Bulgaria, and makes his way across Europe in an effort to escape and find some sort of freedom. Along the way, he meets with people who help him and gradually begins to understand that there's a world out there he knew nothing about. It remains a very powerful story to me, and I always recommend it to parents who are trying to encourage their children to read more.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
The number one spot belongs to James Clavell. I think I read Shogun once a year, and its a marvellous piece of literary work. Spots two, three and four belong to Bernard Cornwell and The Warlord Chronicles (The Winter King, Enemy of God and Excalibur). That's Cornwell at his creative best, with very little in the way of historical restriction. He's free to create his own history in a way, and I also try and read those once a year. Spot number five has to go to Ian Rankin's Fleshmarket Close, if for no other reason than it makes me homesick, which is rather macabre given the subject matter! But I also like it because its Siobhan Clarke coming out from John Rebus' shadow and into her own light.
When did you first start writing?
I started writing seriously two years ago after I returned from a seagoing deployment to the Mediterranean with the Royal Canadian Navy. I'd taken the opportunity to visit the Belgian town of Ypres during a stretch of leave and visited the Canadian battlefields at Kitcheners' Wood, St. Julienn and Passchendaele, which inspired me to write the Kirby series. I had a lot of false starts, unfortunately! My first novel was supposed to be set during the 2nd Battle of Ypres, and published in 2015, but that was pushed back and so I tried again with the Somme, intending to publish in 2016! Unfortunately, that didn't work out either, so I had to pick it up with Vimy Ridge and made sure I had it published WELL before 2017!
What's the story behind your latest book?
The book I'm writing right now is a sequel to Shadow of Vimy, entitled Shadow of Amiens. It is 1918, and Thomas Kirby is a Major assigned to 3rd Canadian Division headquarters in France. The German army has launched a desperate, final gambit to break the allied lines and push forward to Paris, but they overextend themselves and Field Marshal Haig sees the perfect opportunity to break them once and for all. In the midst of all this is a New Zealand Army officer, Rupert St. John Solomon, a maverick daredevil whose exploits make him mythical to the British and Dominion troops. However, Solomon is captured by Kirby's arch-nemesis, Alfonse Kessler, and Kirby must lead a mission to rescue him before the Battle of Amiens begins!
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I think its the opportunity to bring to life a time we have begun to forget. The end of the Great War was almost a century ago, and its slowly starting to fade in our memories, not entirely, but enough that the details are being lost. With the Kirby series, I'm hoping to bring it slowly back and let people know that these men fought for something important.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Usually the alarm clock.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I'd say Kindle, without a doubt, followed closely by Kobo. I have both on my Apple iPad, so its very handy. I can take my book collection everywhere I go.
Who are your favorite authors?
Bernard Cornwell, Simon Scarrow, Conn Iggulden, Paul Francis Collard, Julian Stockwin, Alexander Kent, Ian Rankin, Colin Dexter, R.D. Wingfield, C.S. Lewis, C.S. Forester, Patrick O'Brien and Christie Golden!
Published 2016-11-28.
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Books by This Author

Shadow of Vimy
Price: $2.25 USD. Words: 89,380. Language: English. Published: November 28, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Historical » Canada
Thomas Kirby is an officer in the Canadian Army serving in the trenches of World War I. When a dangerous German prisoner escapes with information on the upcoming Canadian offensive at Vimy Ridge, Kirby must hunt him down before he escapes, knowing that if he does so, the fate of the entire battle will hang in the balance.