What is your earliest memory?
I think my earliest memory is playing with some toy soldiers and cannon that fired ball bearings. They were Christmas presents and I must have been about four or five.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
So many things make me happy! I think contentment can be found in many small things. Good company, good food, a cool beer, an engrossing book. Knowing that my family are healthy and safe makes me happy!
What keeps you awake at night?
Very little keeps me awake at night. I can fall asleep in an instant and very rarely wake up during the night. I think the only thing to keep me awake at night is excitement when waiting to go on holiday, for example, or anticipating the launch of my next book!
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
I don’t really feel identified with any historical figures. My life feels so much more comfortable and, well, trivial than the figures from history that I read, and write, about.
Which living person do you most admire?
I admire many people, living and dead. Writers, artists, politicians, scientists, but this question made me think a lot and, rather than name a famous person, I realised that the person I admire most is my wife. She moved with me and our first daughter from Spain to the UK in 2001. At the time her English language knowledge was rudimentary but she took on the challenge of living in a new country, adopting it as her home and has gone on to not only study a degree in Librarianship at a British university, but now works as a librarian in a local college. On top of all of that, she is a wonderful wife and mother. Much to admire I think.
It really does sadden me to think of the hundreds of thousands, millions, of EU citizens who are in a similar position to my wife, uncertain of the future due to Brexit and suddenly feeling unwelcome in a country that for decades has been their home.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I wanted to be an actor. Or failing that, a singer.
What’s the worst job you’ve done?
Stocking shelves in a supermarket. I found it mind-numbingly boring.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My two lovely daughters.
Where is your favourite historical place?
Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland. There is something about the remote location of the ruins, perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the slate-grey North Sea, that speaks to my soul. It was also the inspiration for several of the scenes in the Bernicia Chronicles.
Which book changed your life?
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. It is a tour de force of epic historical fiction with fabulous characters, a saga of action-filled encounters and events in the American West. It kindled a love of westerns in me.
What is your favourite word?
Persiflage. With slumgullion a close second.
What is your guiltiest pleasure?
I don’t really have guilty pleasures. I don’t feel the need to hide anything that gives me pleasure!
What is your greatest regret?
I tend not to regret things, but I do sometimes wish that I’d finished The Serpent Sword sooner. I started writing it in 2001, and set it aside when Bernard Cornwell released his novel, The Last Kingdom. I didn’t pick it up and continue writing again until 2012.
What would your superpower be?
I’m a writer. I create things from nothing. How many more superpowers do I need?
Who would play you in a film of your life?
When I was young and slim (yes, there really was a time when I was young and slim!) people used to say I looked like Tom Cruise! Now, whenever Hot Fuzz or Shaun of the Dead is on television people say I look like Nick Frost! So I’d probably get played by Nick Frost in a movie!
If you could go back in time, where would you go?
What a difficult question. Perhaps I could change the course of history, killing Hitler before the Holocaust and the Second World War. Or maybe I could just be selfish and go back to see bands in concert that are no longer around. Imagine seeing the Beatles in the cavern club, or The Doors in the late sixties! Or how about seeing a performance by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart live in the 18th century?
What is your most embarrassing moment?
The most embarrassing moment of my life involved a friend from school who I was in a band with and his lovely girlfriend who, as it happened, turned out to be deaf. The less said about the incident, the better!
What is your most treasured possession?
I don’t really care that much about possessions, but perhaps the most unique thing I own is a pattern-welded seax forged by Paul Binns. It is a beautiful example of the craft of blade smithing.
Which musicians are currently on your playlist?
There are so many musicians on my playlist that I would be here for weeks if I named them all. The ones that I’ve been listening to lately are The Beatles, Queen, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Kinks, Foxy Shazam, Marillion, Deep Purple, Whitesnake, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, John Williams, Wardruna… The list goes on, and on.
Where would you most like to live?
On the coast of Northumberland.
Bernard Cornwell, Lee Child, David Gemmell, Robert Holdstock, Conn Iggulden, JRR Tolkien, are the first ones I can think of.
Who is your favourite fictional character?
Druss the Legend from David Gemmell’s Drenai books.
What is top of your bucket list?
Riding a horse the length of America! It’s pretty unlikely that I’ll ever do it though.
Tell us something not many people know about you.
I failed history and English literature ‘O’ levels.