Kenya born, Irish by blood and UK resident, Ben Kane’s passion for history has seen him change career from veterinary medicine to writing, and taken him to more than 60 countries, and all 7 continents. During his travels and subsequent research, including walking hundreds of miles in complete Roman military gear, he has learned much about the Romans and the way they lived. Nine of his eleven novels have been Sunday Times top ten bestsellers, and his books are published in twelve languages; a million copies have sold worldwide. His latest book, Clash of Empires, is the first in a new series and is published this week.
What is your earliest memory?
I’m not sure – perhaps camping in the bush in Kenya, where I lived until I was six.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Being somewhere where there are very few other people, in the sunshine, either hiking or on my bike.
What keeps you awake at night?
Books, generally. What’s going to happen next, whether I need to rewrite a scene, how fast I can write the current one and move on to the next.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
The nameless Roman legionary of the Roman Republic – forgotten to history, but more influential than many people who have ever existed.
Which living person do you most admire?
No one person. Probably the staff of an organisation like Medecins Sans Frontieres.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A veterinary surgeon, like my dad. Although I was an absolutely voracious reader, I had no thoughts of being an author.
What’s the worst job you’ve done?
Busboy (clearing tables) in a 24-hour diner in Philadelphia, America.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Breaking away from veterinary medicine to become a fulltime writer.
Where is your favourite historical place?
Rome – that city has everything.
Which book changed your life?
Lord of the Rings. I first read it when I was nine – way too young really to appreciate it, but it sparked something in my mind, and I never looked back with reading.
What is your favourite word?
What an author I am – I don’t know!
What is your guiltiest pleasure?
An almond croissant with a cup of coffee. I could eat one several times a day, if I let myself.
What is your greatest regret?
Now that would be telling. Affairs of the heart are private.
What would your superpower be?
Not to be too Dalai Lama about it, but it would be to enlighten humanity to the level where people weren’t so obsessed by selfishness and the desire to make money.
Who would play you in a film of your life?
I have genuinely no idea – I have never wondered about that.
If you could go back in time, where would you go?
The Roman period – but only if I had a time machine to come back. I like my comfortable life too much to want to stay there!
What is your most embarrassing moment?
I can’t think of any I want to commit to print!
What is your most treasured possession?
A replica Roman bracelet made of bronze, made by the late, great Nodge Nolan.
Which musicians are currently on your playlist?
P!nk, Midnight Oil, Feist, Lorde, Dire Straits, Beethoven, Dvorak, Wardruna, SPQR Project.
Where would you most like to live?
Ahh, that’s so difficult, because of family ties – wife, children, friends. Somewhere in rural Italy, maybe. That’s where I intend to go and live from January to March once my kids have left home.
Sebastian Faulks, Christian Cameron, Susan Cooper, Joe Abercrombie, J.R.R. Tolkien.
Who is your favourite fictional character?
Aristemnos of Plataea, the main character of Christian Cameron’s outstanding Long War series, set in ancient Greece.
What is top of your bucket list?
To travel the Northwest Passage before all the ice is gone, or to climb a 7000+ metre mountain in Pakistan.
Tell us something not many people know about you.
I was in El Salvador and Honduras in 1998 when Hurricane Mitch struck, killing more than 10,000 people.
Author Photo © Colin Thomas