Sunday, September 16, 2012

Tim Vicary: The IAN Interview

My name’s Tim Vicary and I live near the historic city of York, in the north east of England. I’m a writer and also a teacher at the university of York. I’ve written four historical novels, three legal thrillers, a couple of textbooks and around twenty graded readers for foreign learners of English. I’m a grandfather and hope to retire next year, so that I can concentrate on writing more. I live in the English countryside with my beloved wife, two dogs, two cats and two horses.  







IAN. Hi Tim. Please tell us about your latest book.

TV. Nobody’s Slave is the story of two boys on a voyage which transforms both their lives. Madu, a young boy from West Africa, is captured by the Elizabethan slave-trader Sir John Hawkins. Tom Oakley is an English sailor in charge of the slaves. He is asked to train Madu to be a page-boy to serve Hawkins on board ship. At first the two boys hate each other. But as the voyage continues their positions are reversed. Tom becomes a prisoner of the Spanish colonists in Mexico, and is forced to take orders from Madu. Both boys long to escape, and come to depend on each other much more than they could ever have imagined.

This is an adventure story based on real historical events. History as you never learned it in school!

IAN. How long did it take to write Nobody’s Slave?

TV. Probably about six or eight months altogether. And a lot of editing and revising afterwards.

IAN. What inspired you to write Nobody’s Slave?

TV.  As a boy I loved to read stories about Elizabethan sailors like Sir Francis Drake and Sir John Hawkins. They were always presented as great English heroes and of course they were, they were very brave and talented men. But unfortunately there was another side to them. Hawkins in particular was a slave trader. He captured hundreds of African slaves and sold them to Spanish colonists in across the Atlantic. So I began to wonder what it was like for those Africans, and how their story could be included in a historical novel too. So I read as much as I could about the history of one particular voyage, in 1568 – a particularly exciting and dramatic voyage, as it turned out – and then I tried to write a novel which would show what it might have been like for two young boys on either side, one English and one African.

IAN. Talk about the writing process.

TV. I write in the morning whenever I can, because that is when I have most energy, but I have a teaching job at the university so I can’t always do that, obviously. I write in the evenings when I have the energy, and in the vacations.

IAN. Did you use an outline or do you just wing the first draft?

TV. I always try to have an outline, because it’s a terrible waste of time to write two or three chapters and then realize you can’t use them because you’ve gone in the wrong direction. But my plans are like all plans; they change as soon as they come into contact with reality!

IAN. How is Nobody’s Slave different from others in your genre?

TV. Well, I write two sorts of books: historical novels and legal thrillers. Nobody’s Slave is a historical novel, but it’s set in an earlier period to my other historical novels. One of them, The Monmouth Summer, is set in England in 1685, and the other two, The Blood Upon the Rose, and Cat and Mouse, are set in England and Ireland around the time of the first world war, in a world a bit like the TV drama Downton Abbey.

My legal thrillers, A Game of Proof, A Fatal Verdict, and Bold Counsel, are all set in modern times.

IAN. Is Nobody’s Slave published in print, e-book or both?

TV. It’s an ebook, at the moment.

IAN. What do you hope your readers come away with after reading Nobody’s Slave?

TV. Well, I hope they will have had an exciting, enjoyable read, will have laughed and cried a little with the characters, and at the same time will have learned a little history, in a painless, entertaining way. I’ve tried to write a fast-moving, entertaining story, but I’ve done my research pretty carefully, so the readers can trust me that all the historical events in the story really did happen, and everything that happens to the two boys really could have happened.

IAN. Where can we go to buy your book?

TV. Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, and Smashwords. I expect it will be on Kobo and Nook and other outlets soon.

IAN. Tell us about your next book or a work in progress. Is it a sequel or a stand alone?

TV. Nobody’s Slave is a stand-alone book at the moment, though it ends in a way that means a sequel might be possible one day. At the moment I’m trying to get started on a fourth book in my legal thriller series, The Trials of Sarah Newby. 

IAN. Any other links or info you'd like to share?

TV. You can read more about all my books on my website http://www.timvicary.com
    There is a blog post about Nobody’s Slave here http://historicalthrillers.wordpress.com/

You can buy the book on


Nobody’s Slave by Tim Vicary
255 pages
historical fiction
White Owl Publications Ltd


In this excerpt both boys are slaves of a rich Spanish lord in Mexico City. Madu, the African boy, has just ordered the English boy, Tom, to clean out the privy.

 ‘You - you really did this?’

‘Many times. What Antonio say, I do it. But today, he say you do it. So I tell you.’

Tom hesitated, and some of the light seemed to fade from his eyes as their difference in status sank in. But the anger of the burly steward Antonio was not to be trifled with; he knew what Madu said about whipping was true. He took a deep, bitter breath.

‘All right, then.’

‘Good. I show you the shovel.’

It was a small victory, but a vital one for Madu, and he knew he would have to win it many times again. But at least he had some slight claim to Tom's gratitude now, as well as his scorn. Three days ago, when the Viceroy had decreed that anyone who wished could take the recaptured English sailors into their houses as unpaid servants - slaves, in fact, if not in name - it had been Madu who had helped Don Carlo choose Tom, by saying, when asked, that he was reliable, a hard worker. Neither of these things had been especially true, but Madu felt he owed Tom something, for having unwittingly caused his recapture; and he knew Don Carlo was not a naturally cruel master, as others might have been. Tom owed him something for that, Madu thought; and now that Tom was actually in Don Carlo's household with him, he saw that it was vital to make him realise that things were not the same between them as they had been on the Jesus. Here Tom was even less important than he was himself.

But Tom did not seem to accept this.

‘You're not my master,’ he hissed angrily at Madu later that night, as Madu showed him where to sleep and told him what he would have to do the next day.

‘You not mine, either,’ answered Madu coolly. ‘I just tell you Antonio orders. We both slaves now.’

‘I'm nobody's slave! I'm a free Englishman tricked into captivity by these treacherous Spaniards! If it hadn't been for you I'd be free yet, waiting for John Hawkins by the sea!’

‘If…’ If they'd managed to walk that far, Madu had been going to say; but there was a bigger ‘if’ than that. ‘If not for you and John Hawkins, I'd be free, now, too.’

‘What are you talking about?’ Tom brushed his straggly hair out of his eyes, irritably. ‘That's different, Maddy, that's trade. And anyway ...’

‘Trade!' Madu's shout of indignation echoed in the little sleeping cell. ‘Oh, I see. When I am slave is trade, but when you are slave is talk of English freedom and Spanish tricks! This what you say?’

‘But - we caught you in war, Madu! That's fair enough ...’

‘Spanish caught you in war too. Is the same. And was not fair enough.’

‘The Spanish are not at war with us. We never attacked them.’

‘The English not at war with us. We never attacked them!’

‘But ...’
No answer immediately came to Tom's lips. Tired, irritable, angry, he stared at the earnest black face glaring into his own, and then shook his head to try and clear it of confusion.

‘But Maddy, I treated you fair, on the ship, didn't I? You can't have forgotten that?’

‘I treat you fair now, here, in Don Carlo's house. You listen, do like I say, and we can be friends, help each other. But you a slave now, same like me. You must do what you told.’

‘I am not a slave.’

‘You are.’

The two pairs of eyes, one alight with that cold, unearthly blue, the other with the deep, steady brown of the earth itself, glared at each other, refusing to agree. Yet later, as each boy lay on his hard wooden bed, both Tom and Madu were troubled by what the other had said, and the words of their quarrel echoed in their dreams like the whispers of ghosts.












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