... Mark Chadbourn on Underground, World's End, the Hereward-Saga and his future projects

Mark Chadbourn... Mark Chadbourn ...
...on »Underground«, »World's End«, the »Hereward-Saga« and his future projects

zur deutschen VersionThrough the historical adventure novel "Hereward the Hunted" I came across the website of the british author Mark Chadbourn. To find out more about Mark Chadbourn and his novels, I contacted the author, who got in touch with me surprisingly quickly and agreed to answer a few questions.These questions gave rise to the following interview, which I would not like to withhold from the readers of the Zauberspiegel...

Mark ChadbournZauberspiegel: Mark, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself for those that are unfamiliar with the author Mark Chadbourn?
Mark Chadbourn: I began my writing life as a journalist, reporting from some of the world’s hotspots, and writing fiction in my spare time. At the time I was writing in the horror genre and my first novel was plucked off the slush pile and published.
Since then I’ve written urban fantasy - the Age of Misrule sequence has been published around the world - and historical thrillers under my pseudonym James Wilde. I’m also screenwriter and have had a lot of work on the BBC in the UK.

Zauberspiegel: In 1990 your short story "Six Dead Boys in a Very Dark World" won Fear magazine's Best New Author award. What was it like to receive these award?
Mark Chadbourn: It was a huge shock because that was my first piece of published work! On the back of that I immediately picked up an agent so it’s fair to say it set my career in motion.

Zauberspiegel: What is this story about?
Mark Chadbourn: It’s about a teenager who breaks into an abandoned house only to discover the perfectly-preserved bodies of six teenage boys. The central theme is despair transmitting like a virus.

Zauberspiegel: Was the publication of this short story the start of your writing career?
Mark Chadbourn: Very much so. I’d been writing in my spare time, but this platform in a national UK magazine brought a lot of attention from people in the publishing industry.

Zauberspiegel: How did the publication of your debut novel "Underground" come about in 1992?
Mark Chadbourn: I’d been working on the novel in the evenings after I’d finished my day job as a journalist. When I won the award, I submitted the manuscript - unagented at the time - to the UK publisher Piatkus. They picked it up within six weeks.
I started to think this publishing business was an easy ride because everything had gone smoothly for me. It was later that I heard all the struggles most people go through. Just goes to show there’s usually a degree of good fortune involved - right time, right place.

Zauberspiegel: Can you tell the readers of the Zauberspiegel something about the content of the book?
Mark Chadbourn: It was written at the time when the UK government was closing coal mines and the communities that depended on them were suffering. The book is set in and around an abandoned coal mine where a supernatural force has taken root deep underground.

Zauberspiegel: How did you come up with the idea for this book?
Mark Chadbourn: I grew up in a coal mining community and had many ancestors who’d worked down in the dark. My grandfather used to tell me stories of the Tommyknockers - the ghosts of miners who’d died underground. Many miners used to swear they’d heard them knocking on the tunnel walls or had seen them down there. That seemed like fertile territory for a story.

Zauberspiegel: How long did you write your debut novel?
Mark Chadbourn: About a year. Mostly after work and on weekends.

Mark ChadbournZauberspiegel: After the single novels "Nocturne" (1994), "The Eternal" (1996), "Scissorman" (1997) followed with "World's End" the first novel of your trilogy "The Age of Misrule". What is this trilogy about?
Mark Chadbourn: What if the gods of myth returned to the modern day? How would we cope? The story details the collision between science and the supernatural, between ancient belief and contemporary thinking. It takes a traditional fantasy quest story and transposes it to a current setting with dragons over motorways and shapeshifters in supermarkets.

Zauberspiegel: The protgagonist of the first novel in the trilogy is the archaeologist Jack Churchill. How would you describe Churchill? And how did you come up with the idea for this character?
Mark Chadbourn: Church has one foot in the past and one in the present. He’s trapped in a psychological limbo after the death of his girlfriend and the trilogy details his own personal quest to find some meaning in a world that’s grown very dark. I spent some time designing the character to fit the deeper themes of the story.

Zauberspiegel: Does Jack Churchill also appear in the other two novels in the trilogy? Or do other characters play the main roles in it?
Mark Chadbourn: Church appears in all three books of the first trilogy and in certain volumes of the subsequent two trilogies - the whole story comprises a trilogy of trilogies. There are other significant characters appearing alongside him.

Mark ChadbournZauberspiegel: "The Age of Misrule" was followed by the trilogy "The Dark Age". How did you come up with the idea of connecting the Knights Templar with Celtic mythology and the Arthurian legend?
Mark Chadbourn: I’ve had a long-standing interest in folklore and mythology. I could see connections running among many different and seemingly disparate stories, so I thought it would be an interesting idea to draw those threads together.

Zauberspiegel: Who are the protagonists of "The Dark Age"? And how would you describe these fictional characters? Are they down-to-earth characters?
Mark Chadbourn: Each of the connected trilogies deals with the notion that there is a force linking everything in the universe - the ‘Blue Fire’ that is most prevalent at ancient sites like stone circles. That force manifests itself in different ways. One way is that it empowers five ‘champions’ to defend it.
The Age of Misrule had the first five Brothers and Sisters of Dragons and The Dark Age has another five. They’re all down-to-earth characters, the kind of people you would find around you, so not heroes in the traditional senses. One of the themes of the books is what exactly is a hero. Using normal people was an interesting way to examine that.

Zauberspiegel: After "The Dark Age" the two trilogies "Kingdom of the Serpent" and "Swords of Albion" followed. What are these trilogies about. And what makes it different from the previous trilogies?
Mark Chadbourn: The Age of Misrule was a quest around the mystical sites of the UK, in essence. The Dark Age was an examination of a world where science had failed and the supernatural now rules.
Kingdom of the Serpent wrapped up this immense tale. The final three books had a quest through time, a quest across the world’s mythologies in different countries, and the final book had a quest across dimensions - our world, the land of the dead and the Otherworld of Celtic mythology.
Swords of Albion took some of the elements and set them in Tudor England, with Elizabeth I’s spies battling the supernatural.

Mark ChadbournZauberspiegel: In 2011, "Hereward" was the first novel in the Hereward saga, which consists of six novels. What is the book about?
Mark Chadbourn: The book is about the real-life freedom fighter Hereward who led the resistance against the invasion of England by William the Conqueror in 1066. History, not fantasy.

Zauberspiegel: Why did you write your Hereward novels under the pseudonym James Wilde?
Mark Chadbourn: As there was no fantasy in these books, I wanted to make sure they were seen as separate from my past novels. It wouldn’t be fair on readers if they bought a book on name recognition and ended up with something they weren’t interested in.

Zauberspiegel: How did you come up with the idea of writing a historical adventure saga about the fighting of the Anglo-Saxon against the Normans?
Mark Chadbourn: I’ve always been interested in history - it was part of my degree at university - and I’d been intrigued by the life of Hereward for a long time. In fact, I first came across his story in a comic I read as a kid.

Zauberspiegel: Hereward is not a fictional character invented by you, but a historical person who actually existed. What is historically known or certain about this Anglo-Saxon freedom fighter?
Mark Chadbourn: Like most of the history from that era, only fragments remain. We know he existed and he led a rebellion against William the Conqueror which almost succeeded and could have changed the course of history. We know about his father and his early life, and that he served as a mercenary in Europe. But we have no idea when or how he died.

Zauberspiegel: How much historical truth is there in your Hereward novels?
Mark Chadbourn: I’ve stuck to all the historical facts and then tried to fill in some of the gaps in a logical but compelling manner. The last three books are set in Constantinople. We know a lot of people who fought in the failed rebellion against William fled there to work as mercenaries.
I included Hereward in that group, although we have no record of his life after the uprising.

Zauberspiegel: How did the research and the preparatory work for your "Hereward" novels and the Hereward saga look like?
Mark Chadbourn: I did vast amounts of research. Digging into records like the Anglo Saxon Chronicle and studying the weapons and fighting styles of the time. I spent a lot of time in the English Fenlands where Hereward hid away. It was important to get a feel for the land, smell the air, immerse myself in that part of the world.

Zauberspiegel: Unfortunately, only the first two novels of your Hereward saga have been published in Germany so far. Please tell your German readers and fans how the historical adventure saga will continue with the third novel.
Mark Chadbourn: I hope my German publisher continues with the series, especially as readers have been left on a cliffhanger. The third book details the final confrontation between Hereward and William the Conqueror and brings all the running subplots to a close.

Zauberspiegel: After the end of the Hereward saga, another trilogy of yours followed with "Dark Age", which was also published under the pseudonym James Wilde. Please tell the readers of the Zauberspiegel something about the content.
Mark Chadbourn: Dark Age deals with the legend of King Arthur and how it might have arisen from history. It’s set at the end of the Roman occupation and looks at the Great Conspiracy - how all the barbarian tribes across Europe united for the first time to attack the Roman Empire along the frontier at Hadrian’s Wall in England.

Zauberspiegel: Who are the protagonists of "Dark Age" and how would you describe these characters in the novels?
Mark Chadbourn: The central characters in Dark Age are members of the arcani who were the spies of the Roman army operating beyond the frontier. The main protagonist is Lucanus who leads one of these bands, but is betrayed by his Roman masters.

Zauberspiegel: Is your "Dark Age" trilogy a kind of prelude to the Arthurian saga?
Mark Chadbourn: The story tells how the Arthurian myths could have arisen out of real history. It’s set during a real event - the barbarian invasion of Britannia - and it looks at how many myths might be echoes of what truly happened.

Zauberspiegel: Where did the inspirations for your books come from?
Mark Chadbourn: Every novel has lots of inspirations - there’s never one core idea. I think of it like making a big ball of chewing gum - sticking individual bits together until you’ve got something substantial, with each piece of gum an idea.

Zauberspiegel: Are the multitude of your interests also reflected in the topics of your novels?
Mark Chadbourn: Absolutely. I have very wide interests - myth and folklore and the supernatural, history, psychology, politics, philosophy, music, film… All of it finds a way in to the stories.

Zauberspiegel: Do you have literary role models who have influenced you in your novels?
Mark Chadbourn: I read quite widely, but I wouldn’t see any one writer as an influence. As a child I loved Alan Garner, Ray Bradbury, Tolkien. Then I moved on to King, Pynchon, Eco. I read a lot of non-fiction which is a great source of ideas.

Zauberspiegel: In your opinion, what distinguishes your fantastic and historical adventure novels from other books in this genres?
Mark Chadbourn: Novels are really a reflection of the author, the author’s interests and worldview, and that by definition makes each one unique. That’s what people unconsciously buy whenever they follow an author. It’s rarely just about the stories. Mark Chadbourn

Zauberspiegel: In addition to your many novels, you have also written 47 scripts for "Doctors". How did you come to work on this TV series?
Mark Chadbourn: Producers at the BBC had read some of my novels and asked me if I wanted to pitch ideas. Since writing Doctors I’ve been developing new series for many broadcasters, including the big streamers.

Zauberspiegel: What projects are you currently working on? Can you tell the readers of the Zauberspiegel a little bit about it?
Mark Chadbourn: I have many projects on the go. Most I’m not allowed to discuss because the contracts keep them locked down until the powers that be decide it’s time to publicise them.
One thing I am allowed to mention is my collaboration with the best-selling adventure writer Wilbur Smith. Wilbur read my novel Pendragon and liked what he saw enough to get in touch and see if I wanted to collaborate with him. We’ve got a book called The New Kingdom coming out in September which is set in ancient Egypt.

Zauberspiegel: Mark, thank you very much for answering my questions.
Mark Chadbourn: Thank you.


The Works of Mark Chadbourn

Underground (1992)
Nocturne (1994)
The Eternal (1996)
Scissorman (1997)
The New Kingdom (2020) with Wilbur Smith

The Age of Misrule
World's End (1999)
Darkest Hour (2000)
Always Forever (2001)

The Dark Age
The Devil in Green (2002)
The Queen of Sinister (2004)
The Hounds Of Avalon (2005)

Kingdom of the Serpent
Jack of Ravens (2006)
The Burning Man (2008)
Destroyer of Worlds (2009)

The Ghost Warrior
Lord of Silence (2009)

Swords of Albion
The Silver Skull/The Sword of Albion (2009)
The Scar-Crow Men (20111)
The Devil's Looking Glass (2012)

Hereward (as James Wilde)
Hereward (2011
The Devil's Army (2012)
End of Days (2013)
Wolves of New Rome (2014)
The Immortals (2015)
The Bloody Crown (2016)

Dark Age (as James Wilde)
Pendragon (2017)
Dark Age (2018)
The Bear King (2020)


The website of Mark Chadbourn

The Website of James Wilde (Mark Chadbourn)



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