Geoff Nelder escaped from his roots in the south of England and now lives in the north. He would do most things for a laugh but had to pay the mortgage so he taught I.T. and Geography in the local High school. After thirty years in the education business, he nearly become good at it. A post-war baby boomer, he has post-grad researched and written about climatic change, ran computer clubs and was editor of a Computer User Group magazine for 11 years. He read voraciously after his mother enrolled him in the children’s science fiction book club when he was four, and has written for fun since his fingers moved independently. His experiences on geographical expeditions have found themselves into amusing pieces in the Times Educational Supplement and taking his family on house-swap holidays years before they became popular added both authenticity and wild imagination to his creativity.
Geoff lives in Chester with his long-suffering wife and has two grown-up children whose sense and high intelligence persist in being a mystery to him.
Today, he’s talking about Xaghra’s Revenge. It was published on July 23, 2017. It’s 360 pages and was published by Solstice Publishing. And he’s lucky enough to have a YouTube trailer for the book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P76jl8qMdEg
Note: Most people pronounce Xaghra as zagra. The Maltese would say shaara.
When Reece and Zita become lovers, past and present collide as the spirits of their ancestors force them to relive one of the greatest battles of the 16th century.
Xaghra’s Revenge follows the fate of a sixteenth century abducted family, and of two contemporary lovers thrown together by the ancients. Reece and Zita are unaware that one descends from the pirates, the other from the abducted family. While ancient Gozo spirits seek revenge, so do the Ottoman Corsairs, who intend to roll back history, and this time win the siege of Malta.
The history is real. The places are authentic. The tension and excitement are palpable.
“A gripping tale, full of energy and mystery, keeping you wanting for more with every line you read.” John Bonello, First-Prize Winner of the Malta National Book Award
“I liked it. There’s a foreground of interesting characters combined with a skilfully fed-in hint of weirdness.” Jaine Fenn – Hidden Empire series.
Link to buy Xaghra’s Revenge: http://myBook.to/Xaghra
Why did you decide to write this book?
The Maltese islands, not far from Italy, is a popular tourist honeypot for Brits and more recently for Japanese and Americans. Everyone speaks English and it sports an ancient history. While on vacation there I visited a nearby tiny island, Gozo. To my horror I discovered that in 1551 pirates abducted its people, threw them onto a fleet of 148 galleys and after sailing them to Libya, sold them as slaves. Some to row, farm, or to be harem women. Those souls cried out for revenge. I gave it to them.
What genre is your book?
It’s a historical fiction with a strong element of fantasy. It’s also horror and some hot sex – what genre is that- romance?
Do you consider your book character-driven or plot-driven?
The characters drive the plot. Yep, the plot is crucial here: a revenge for a vile kidnap, rape, destruction of lives act, but the people are larger than life here too. Funny because in April 2018 the hotel in Malta at which I stayed to do the research invited me back to do a signing. A splendidly elegant Maltese lady handed me my euros and asked what historical fiction books I’d read before writing my own. I rattled off a few then added that all of them, like so much historical fiction, focused on the rich, the nobility, royalty and knights. (Fair enough because readers have heard of them and suppose more facts are known blah blah). However, while I reference those powerful players in history, I concentrate on the humble man and woman – ordinary folk to whom extraordinary things happen. “Ah,” she says. “It is good to feature the humble. My partner is a Knight of the Order of Saint John you know.”
I cringed. What if she wants her money back? I needn’t have worried. She works in the Advocate Chambers and often defends the poorer sections of society. In fact she gave me twice the price of the book saying it is worth it. I need a thousand more readers like her!
What makes your book unique?
As above it is the only fiction leading with the peasant victims of the abduction. It also takes point of view from the Turkish pirates—both galley sailor and admirals. It might be the only book featuring one of the oldest buildings in the world. The Ggantija Temples on Gozo in the town of Xaghra are older than the pyramids, older than Stonehenge. Nothing is known of their builders or whether the building is really a temple – common assumption of anything old! I get a buzz when I hug those rocks and they play their own part in the novel.
Do you plot ahead of time, or let the plot emerge as you write?
The plot summary: abduction; fate of the taken; a contemporary couple thrown together by ancient spirits—one descended from the pirates, one from the abducted; finale with the 1565 Siege of Malta—a cusp in time between the Ottoman and Christian empires. All this came while on the pushme-pullme Gozo to Malta ferry after learning of the 5000 abducted. Nuances emerged later as research unfolded new facts and as the characters took hold.
How do you develop the names for your characters?
It’s great naming characters. It’s like having children without the pain! Stjepan (the 1551 Gozo farmer) is Albanian / Croatian but I found it on a list of genuine Gozo dwellers of the time. Love its unusual sound. His wife was Lydia until a Maltese beta reader told me there is no letter y in Maltese.
Some of the names are of real historical characters of the time. Rais Dragut and Sinan Pasha were real leaders of the Ottoman / Turkish invading forces.
How do you decide on the setting?
I live in chilly, rainy Britain and often have the urge to write of a hot, dry setting. Hence while the story sets itself in historically accurate Mediterranean islands and a hot, arid Libyan desert, my heart encouraged that.
Do you have a writing mentor?
I have a group of writing mentors – one very large composed of the world’s greatest writers of all time and quite crucially, a small group of fellow writers in a critique group. It’s run by the British Science Fiction Association. We send each other our stories – fantasy, hard SF, time travel, historical fiction if it has a alt-history slant, and surreal stories.
What’s your writing schedule? Do you have a favorite place to write?
I used to have a schedule of getting home from my teaching job, marking and planning lessons in the evenings then write stories afterwards, often around midnight for a couple of hours. When I was told to retire early with a full pension (I was becoming deaf) I could write in the daytime too but I didn’t follow a schedule. I aim for 2,500 words a day but often fall short. I’ll write anywhere given half an hour peace. Have laptop, will travel. However, I really enjoy a writers’ retreat in Methana, Greece and go there for a couple of weeks every year.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’d like to add a thousand dollars to my royalty income. Thanks for asking!
People often ask me from where I get my story ideas. I think I must have inherited a creative gene from my father who helped produce one of the first science fiction magazines in the UK. He’d illustrate them including the cover art. I thought all dad’s did that! To trigger that quirky gene, I’d go for long walks or bicycle rides. Perhaps the enriched oxygenation of my brain helped the ideas to spawn. It did with my ARIA Trilogy when halfway up a steep Welsh hill I suddenly thought how lucky we are that amnesia wasn’t infectious. I stopped. Wrote down that thought and hence was born-as far as I know- the world’s only novel on infectious amnesia.
Where can readers find you?
Webpage and blog: http://geoffnelder.com