A Q & A with Rory Clements

Rory Clements is the author of Nucleus, published by Zaffre, hardback, £12.99. To celebrate the upcoming release of the second novel in the Tom Wilde series he has kindly agreed to stop by and do a Q & A. I have read the first book in the series  Corpus and you can find my thoughts on it here. To make it easier for you to follow, all my questions will be in blue and Rory Clements responses will be in bold. I’d just like to thank Rory for agreeing to doing this Q & A, and I’d also like to thank Emily for organising it. I hope you enjoy the Q & A.


Hi Rory, thank you for agreeing to do this Q & A with me.

I’ll jump straight into the questions:

NUCLEUS is your ninth novel, the second book in your Tom Wilde series, how do you feel with the publication date so close? Are you doing anything to celebrate?

I think I’ll have a glass or two of red wine.

This is probably quite a difficult question for me to ask but, how would you describe NUCLEUS in ten words?

Tom Wilde must save a child to protect the world.

Both of your series are historical novels, what drew you to writing a series set in Elizabethan England and the late 1930s?

They are set at times of extreme peril, when enemies send agents in to England and threaten invasion. They both feature the world’s oldest secret service, founded by Sir Francis Walsingham in Elizabeth’s reign and continued by MI5 and MI6 in more recent days. The perfect canvas for a series of thrillers.

Who or what was your inspiration for Professor Thomas Wilde?

I wanted an outsider – someone not impressed by the rather effete university types found in Brideshead Revisited. So Tom Wilde is half American, half Irish. He is inspired by two specific Americans: Conyers Read, an American historian who studied at Oxford and wrote the definitive biography of Sir Francis Walsingham and was later involved in setting up the Office of Strategic Services, the wartime forerunner of the CIA, and James Jesus Angleton, also American but a survivor of an English public school and later chief of CIA counter-intelligence. He was a friend of Kim Philby and, like everyone else, was betrayed by him. But Tom Wilde is neither of these two men, nor an amalgam of them. He is very much his own man.

Was there a particular reason that you chose Cambridge as the main setting for this series?

Cambridge in the 1930s was a political cauldron – and the breeding ground of the spies Burgess, Maclean, Philby and Blunt. It also produced the men who split the atom, developed radar, broke the Enigma code and started the computer age. And it just happens to be a gorgeous place within easy reach of my Norfolk home.

You worked for several newspapers; do you think that background has helped you with your writing?

Undoubtedly. In newspapers you quickly learn what makes a good story, because if you don’t you won’t last long. And then, of course, you have to tell that story well or face the editor’s wrath. It’s a shame so many modern ‘literary’ authors have lost the plot and forgotten their poor readers.

If you could give your younger self any writing tips what would they be?

Write, write, write…read, read, read. Expecting your debut novel to be brilliant is like someone picking up a tennis racket for the first time and going out to face Federer on Centre Court. Tennis isn’t easy, nor is writing. You need thousands of hours of practice. Stick with it and never stop trying to improve yourself.

Typically how much research do you do before you start writing?

Half a year of reading, travelling, experimenting and talking to the experts.

And to end on a lighter note what, if anything, are you currently reading?

I’m reading a mass of history books to help me with No.3 in the Tom Wilde series. The most recent novel I enjoyed was The Binding Song by Elodie Harper. It’s a very atmospheric thriller set in Norfolk. Highly recommended.

Nucleus by Rory Clements is out in hardback on the 25th January 2018. If you want to you can pre-order a copy on Waterstones, Foyles, Amazon UK, and The Book Depository.

Nucleus by Rory Clements

From the award-winning Sunday Times bestselling author of CORPUS

The eve of war: a secret so deadly, nothing and no one is safe

June 1939. England is partying like there is no tomorrow, gas masks at the ready. In Cambridge the May Balls are played out with a frantic intensity – but the good times won’t last… In Europe, the Nazis have invaded Czechoslovakia, and in Germany he persecution of the Jews is now so widespread that desperate Jewish parents send their children to safety in Britain aboard the Kindertransport. Closer to home, the IRA’s S-Plan bombing campaign has resulted in more than 100 terrorist outrages around England.

But perhaps the most far-reaching event of all goes largely unreported: in Germany, Otto Hahn has produced the first man-made fission and an atomic device is now a very real possibility. The Nazis set up the Uranverein group of physicists: its task is to build a superbomb. The German High Command is aware that British and US scientists are working on similar line. Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory is where the atom was split in 1932. Might the Cambridge men now win the race for a nuclear bomb? Hitler’s generals need to be sure they know all the Cavendish’s secrets. Only then will it be safe for Germany to wage war.

When one of the Cavendish’s finest brains is murdered, Professor Tom Wilde is once more drawn into an intrigue from which there seems no escape. In a conspiracy that stretches from Cambridge to Berlin and from Washington DC to the west coast of Ireland, he faces deadly forces that threaten the fate of the world.

Deposed by David Barbaree Q&A

Welcome to a post with a bit of a difference. Normally I just post reviews of books that I have read, so it has been a while since I posted a Q&A on my blog. I’d just like to say thank you to David Barbaree for agreeing to do this Q&A and to Emily of Bonnier Zaffre for arranging it. None of the questions or answers in this Q&A have spoilers. I hope you enjoy it.

Deposed by David Barbaree

More gripping than Game of Thrones and more ruthless than House of Cards – this a stunning new thriller of power, treachery and revenge

In a darkened cell, a brutally deposed dictator lies crippled – deprived of his power, his freedom – and his eyes.

On the edge of utter despair, his only companion is the young boy who brings him his meagre rations, a mere child who fears his own shadow. But to one who has held and lost the highest power, one thing alone is crystal clear: even emperors were mere children once.

Ten years later, the new ruler’s son watches uneasily over his father’s empire. Wherever he looks rebellion is festering, and those closest to him have turned traitor once before.

To this city in crisis comes a hugely wealthy senator from the very edge of the empire, a young and angry ward at his heels. He is witty but inscrutable, generous with his time and money to a leader in desperate need of a friend – and he wears a bandage over his blinded eyes.

The fallen emperor’s name is Nero.

But this isn’t his story.


Q&A

The Flutterby Room (TFR): Hey David, thanks for agreeing to stop by The Flutterby Room for a Q&A. DEPOSED is out on the 4 th May. It’s both your debut novel, and the first book in a trilogy. So my first question is, are you going to be doing anything to celebrate on publication day – or have you already celebrated?

David Barbaree (DB): Hi Becki. Thanks for having me.

It was exciting to land an agent and a publishing deal. But I think the biggest thrill was when I held the hardcopy in my hands. It finally felt real. After I’d admired it from every angle, my wife and I opened a bottle of wine to celebrate.

TFR: How would you describe DEPOSED in ten words?

DB: Fallen emperor, blinded and left for dead, seeks his revenge.

TFR: From the blurb we know that DEPOSED is set in Ancient Rome, was there anything in particular that drew you to that empire rather than Greece or Sparta?

DB: I’ve always been fascinated by ancient and medieval history. My love of Roman history in particular was cemented about ten years ago when I read John Julius Norwich’s series on the Byzantine Empire, which covers the later period of the Roman Empire. I worked backwards from there, to the earlier Imperial period and then the Republic. I’m not sure what it is about Rome that’s captured my attention. I’ve heard it said that it’s the combination of Rome’s similarities to our own time and the stark differences; how it’s both familiar and very foreign. I think that’s true. And everything is grander in Ancient Rome, the battles, the politics, the personalities. Also, the eight-year old in me will always love a good sword fight.

TFR: Nero is perhaps one of the more famous Roman Emperors, and although the blurb says DEPOSED isn’t his story, he was obviously a starting point for you. What drew you to him?

DB: I wanted to tell the story of a tyrant who, after he was deposed, blinded and left for dead, seeks his revenge. I’ve always loved the brutal protagonist the audience will reluctantly cheer for, like Walter White. Nero fit the bill. But he also had an artistic sensibility that didn’t really match the stories of the bloodthirsty hedonist. I think this made Nero more complicated and interesting than the commonly held view allows, and a compelling protagonist.

TFR: As this is an alternate history, was there a lot of research involved writing DEPOSED?

DB: You could call DEPOSED an alternative history. But I went to great lengths to exploit gaps in the historical record so that the story could be true. Obviously, it didn’t happen the way the book depicts, but the gaps were useful to me as a novelist. For example, the historical record from Vespasian’s reign (the emperor who eventually succeeded Nero) is sparse at best. I wanted the story to be not necessarily true but possible. So I spent a lot of time researching the period, and I did my best to make it an accurate, compelling recreation of Ancient Rome.

TFR: How long did it take you to write DEPOSED – was it something you just sat down and churned out, or did the idea come to you gradually?

DB: It took about 6 years in total. But at first I didn’t work on it fulltime. It began as a hobby. I’d re-write the opening chapters again and again, teaching myself to write. At the same time, I would research the period. Eventually it grew into an obsession. I wrote the last half of the book over about a three month span.

TFR: You’re a lawyer, a busy job by all accounts; did you find it difficult to find them time to write?

DB: Yes. But I found I could carve time out in the mornings before work. I didn’t mind getting up early because I enjoyed writing.

TFR: And my final question is what are you reading right now?

DB: I’m just finishing up Conclave by Robert Harris, which I’d highly recommend. It’s both a thriller and a fascinating procedural on how Pope’s are elected. Harris is exceptional at pacing a novel.


David Barbaree is a lawyer and a graduate of the Curtis Brown Creative Writing School. He lives in Toronto with his wife and daughter. His  debut novel DEPOSED is out on May 4th 2017. You can pre-order it on Amazon UK, Foyles or The Book Depository. Or add it to your Goodreads shelf.