Our latest causality-defying Time Traveller is bestselling author Sean Thomas Russell. Following his previous bestsellers, his new novel A Ship of War is on sale from March 29th 2012. We caught up with him to find out about his favourite historic sites, his qualms about being a Roman and his fear of power-hungry women…
Q: What’s your favourite historic site in the world and why?
A: There are so many I haven’t been to. Of the sites I’ve seen so far Pompeii really made an impression. I had a real sense of the people living there – the ghosts were lurking. (Photo: Pompeii by archer10)
Q: What’s the most eye-opening ‘hidden historic site’ you’ve visited?
A: I don’t know if it counts as “hidden” but the Temple of Literature in Hanoi is amazing. Built sometime around 1100 it functioned as a university and promoted Confucian thought and literature. It is a very peaceful place and you can imagine the scholars meeting there and reading their poetry. It also celebrates famous poets and scholars. Every country should have one.
Q: If you could go anywhere on the planet tomorrow where would it be?
A: Angkor Wat.
Q: What’s the most interesting city break you’ve been on?
A: Before our son was born my wife and I did a three week trip to London, Paris and Amsterdam that was wonderful. We also really liked Hanoi. New York is hard to beat in some ways.
Q: If you could meet one person from history who would it be?
A: Shakespeare. Let’s clear up this business of who wrote the plays once and for all.
Q: What tips would you give for someone seeking sites on a budget?
A: My family does not understand the word “budget”. I would be the worst person to ask.
Q: What’s your favourite period of history?
A: T’ang dynasty China was fascinating. I write about nineteenth century Europe so I would have to include it. Age of exploration… How could I pick just one?
Q: Have you ever dressed up as a Roman?
A: Once, in a school Christmas play when I was about seven. Unfortunately I was among a group of Romans who taunted Christ carrying the cross or something like that. Christopher Hitchens would have approved.
Q: And finally…Margaret of Anjou / Lady Emma Hamilton / Agrippina the Younger: Kiss, Marry, Kill?
A: Margaret of Anjou was conniving but beautiful – kiss. Agrippina the Younger was vicious, conniving, and ruthless. I’d be afraid to go near her. Lady Emma Hamilton left her husband for another man so could not be described as a constant heart but at least she wouldn’t have had you murdered so of these three she’s the best bet for marriage.
In this handsome but action packed tale, Sean Thomas Russell announces himself as a graceful but commanding voice in historical maritime adventures, alongside such distinguished fiction authors as Bernard Cornwell and Patrick O’Brian.
1794, the height of the French Revolution. Charles Hayden sets off aboard the ill-fated HMS Themis with orders to destroy a French frigate sailing from Le Havre and to gather intelligence from a royalist spy. On discovering French plans for an imminent invasion of England, Hayden must return to Portsmouth to give warning before it's too late.
But the enemy have been lying in wait for him, and so begins a dangerous chase out into the Atlantic and into the clutches of a powerful French squadron. After a failed attempt to masquerade as French sailors, Hayden and his officers are taken prisoner. A shipwreck following a storm and a case of mistaken identity befall Hayden and his men as they try in desperation to escape in order to warn the Lords of the Admiralty. Failure will mean the invasion of England - and the guillotine for Hayden.
Sean Thomas Russell is a lifelong sailor whose passion for the sea - and his love of nautical history - inspired the adventures of Charles Hayden. A Ship of War follows bestsellers A Battle Won and Under Enemy Colours. Sean lives on Vancouver Island.
The views and opinions expressed in Time Travellers are those of the interviewee concerned and do not necessarily reflect those held by Historvius.