Global Ebook Award Winner 2013 Best Historical Novel (Set Before 500 A.D.)
About the Author
What genre(s) do you write? Why do you write the stories that you write?
The Maya Papyrus is a historical novel. It’s my first book, set in ancient Egypt around the time of Tutankhamun. I wrote it because I thought the story was amazing, and I thought other people might think so too. Unfortunately I can’t claim the credit for that, though. It’s based on what some Egyptologists believe may actually have happened.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I remember when I was about 7 years old hammering out stories on an old manual typewriter onto pages ripped out of a reporter’s notebook. I don’t remember much about them. One was about vampires and the other was about astronauts. My grandmother wasn’t happy because one of the astronauts said ‘blimey!’ and she thought that was a bit strong. We lived in a different world in those days.
Who or what was your inspiration for writing?
The initial spark was a documentary by an Egyptologist called Bob Brier. I didn’t have any prior interest in ancient Egypt and I stumbled across the programme while I was channel hopping one night. I was immediately hooked. I turned to my wife as the credits were rolling and said: “That would make a great book!” Of course, I didn’t know at the time that those words were the start of a 13 year undertaking…
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
As little as humanly possible. But don’t tell my wife I said that. I still haven’t put that shelf up.
Where do you hang out online? Website URL, author groups, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc?
You can follow me on Twitter and find my website at www.richardcoady.com. I find that Goodreads.com is an excellent way of spending any time that I should be using more constructively, so feel free to look me up there as well.
What books are currently on your nightstand?
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
The Sekhmet Bed by Lavender Ironside
1,227 QI Facts To Blow Your Socks Off by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson (Did you know that kangaroos have three vaginas?)
Do you remember the first novel you read?
Shoot on Sight by Michael Hardcastle. I think. There was another one around the same time about an Eskimo (who wasn’t Nanook).
Who are your favorite authors and why?
This is the sort of question that’s going to bother me for days. Robert Graves, Joseph Heller, Louis de Bernieres, Andrew Crumey. Oh, and Thomas Hardy. Nobody could write like Thomas Hardy. Recently I’ve been reading a lot of David Mitchell. For me he’s the best writer in Britain at the moment.
Your Writing Process
Why do you write?
Because everybody should do something each day that they love.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Finish that the thing that you’re writing. And then worry about every word in every sentence.
Is there any other genre you have considered writing in?
Although The Maya Papyrus is a historical novel set in ancient Egypt, I don’t consider myself an ‘Egyptian’ writer. It’s looking likely that my next book will be set in World War II Poland. If a great science fiction story occurred to me, I’d write that.
Do you listen to music or have another form of inspiration when you are writing?
I tend to write in silence. If I put music on I find myself staring into space and listening to the music instead of actually getting anything done.
How long does it take you to finish a book from start to submission?
The Maya Papyrus took 13 years.
13 years? Why so long?
I know, I know. I have no excuse. For the first two years I didn’t write a word. I just spent the time researching the story and the era as deeply as I could and planning the story. And then, for the next 11 years I wrote when I could whilst holding down a job and being a father and husband. In my defence, it’s a big book (nearly 700 pages) and the first draft was another 400 pages on top of that. I spent a lot of time editing. My next book is going to be a pamphlet.
Do you prefer writing series books over non series or does it matter?
I can’t ever imagine myself writing a series. I have nothing against them – I’ll read them – but I think I’d get bored writing one. Once I’ve done something I like to move on to something completely different.
Do you have a system for writing?
I’m not a writer who can make it up as I go along. I have to have every aspect of the story planned from beginning to end, often chapter by chapter. Of course, a lot of the time something will occur to me as I’m writing and the story will take a sharp turn in a direction I wasn’t expecting, but that’s all part of the fun.
Do you track word count or write a certain number of hours per day?
I’m strangely obsessive about word counts. I keep all the details in a little spreadsheet, with subtotals tracking my progress. I really need to get out a bit more.
What was the most uplifting moment you’ve experienced during your writing career?
Probably reading the reviews on Amazon. Even though I thought I’d written a good book there was always a nagging voice in the back of my mind telling me that I was no judge and that I only thought it was good because I was biased and that nobody was ever going to buy it or enjoy it. And then I look on Amazon and see that a complete stranger has written that she ranks me alongside the ‘truly great’ authors of the genre and that my book was a ‘masterwork’ that left her ‘breathless’… well, it can’t get any more uplifting than that.
Your book is now in the reader world, what is one word that describes how you feel?
What story haven’t you written yet but would like to? Is there anything holding you back from writing it?
I have about half a dozen books in my head. At the moment, the only thing stopping me making a start is deciding which one to do. It’s like half a dozen people all trying to get through a doorway at the same time. There’s lots of noise and bother but nobody’s actually going anywhere. Odds on favourite at the moment is the Polish one, though.
What kind of research do you do for your books? Do you enjoy the research process?
I loved researching The Maya Papyrus. I worked for a long time with an Egyptologist on getting the little details right – the sort of thing not readily available in books. I discovered a whole world I knew virtually nothing about.
What was your first published work and when was it published?
It was a short story in a horror magazine about 25 years ago. I forget the name of the magazine or the story. But it was awful.
Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
All but the most minor characters in The Maya Papyrus are real people. How close the book’s characters are to the historical people is another matter. I’ve taken what information there is and built the characters around it. For example, just like in the book, the real King Amenhotep really did write a letter asking for women to be sent to him to be his wives, and he really did add a postscript to the letter saying, “Send none with harsh voices.” And that made me think – there must have been a reason for him to add that. So from that little snippet of information I was able to picture a king slightly browbeaten by a wife who wasn’t afraid to tell him what she thought. I tried to populate the world of The Maya Papyrus with real people from scant information like this. Unfortunately, this far back into history, scant information is the best we’re going to get.
Is there a character from one of your books that resonates deeply with you?
I have to admit to being very fond of Maya. I think he’d rather have his teeth pulled than be in the middle of so many momentous events. But despite that I think he’s a hero (although he would deny that). I don’t think you can be a hero if you’re not scared first, and Maya spends a significant portion of the book overcoming his fear to do the right thing.
Where do you get your daily dose of news?
You can’t go far wrong with the BBC. I don’t read newspapers much because, as an ex-journalist, I know that pretty much everything in them is made up.