Thursday, June 23, 2011

Author Interview, J.R. Tomlin, Freedom's Sword

Today we have an interview with J.R. Tomlin, author of the Scottish historic novel “Freedom’s Sword”.
Rebecca: What steps did you take to ensure that your book is on the same level as those readers can acquire through mainstream publishers?
J.R.: I worked with an experienced story editor who made some important suggestions. We did two story edits. I do think I initially made an error. The editor I worked with was not a copyeditor. On my next novel, I did a specific copyedit because these are different skills and areas of expertise. I am very happy with the story edit she did, but because of this some typos slipped through, not a great many but more than I was comfortable with. Several reviews mentioned typos. Because of that, someone did a copyedit for me, and what is now for sale is the re-edited version. And that, of course, is one of the advantages of being an independent writer. I do have the ability to change or correct something, even after publication.
Rebecca: Are there any underlying life lessons you hope that your readers will gather from reading your novel?
J.R.: Probably, although I think different readers might have different ones. The main character has to make decisions, difficult ones, about his loyalty to his family and to his country, and at times his love of his family and of his nation conflicted. These are somewhat different ones that we may have to make today, but many people are faced with sacrifice for something they're loyal to whether their nation or something else. At what point is the sacrifice too much? How do we balance those conflicting loyalties? I'm not sure I would have had the courage to make the decision that Andrew de Moray made. The novel doesn't necessarily give answers to those questions, except how he answered them and what those answers cost him.
Rebecca:  A few of your reviews praise you for your descriptions of Scotland and a reviewer even quotes your devotion to researching in preparation for the novel. Can you tell us more about your research process? How long did it take and what was the experience like for you as an author?
J.R.: You know, that's a difficult question to answer because I didn't go into researching it without a lot of knowledge, so my process involved reading over a life-time. I also studied medieval history at university. One of the most important sources on the Scottish side of the Scottish War of Independence is the epic poem The Brus by John Barbour which was written in about 1370. It happens my grandmother read me that poem when I was ten years old, so you see this is a story that is part of my background. But I didn't want my novel to be based only on legend, and I read most of the important works on that war. I wrote with a stack of references by my computer, especially Barron's work, The Scottish War of Independence, which is one of the few that deals extensively with Andrew de Moray who was until recently something of a forgotten hero.
Rebecca:  Did you use any movies or youtube clips for inspiration or to aid in the creation of the battle scenes?
J.R.: No. Medieval warfare and fighting techniques are misrepresented in almost all movies. I think movies is where people get the mistaken belief that most medieval battles didn't involve many people while in fact they often involved massive armies. It was, until CGI techniques at least, too expensive to have the numbers of people who actually took part in battles such as the Battle of Stirling Bridge.
Rebecca: When you add to that the fact that the Scots used a technique called the schiltron that was unusual even in the middle ages, movies are not at all helpful. What was helpful was working with medieval reinactors. Although they can't reproduce the huge battles, they do have the weapons medieval armies used, and I have practiced with every medieval weapon used in the novel. I was also able to observe some Scottish reinactors who formed a schiltron, which helped in describing it. A schiltron is a formation of pikes which can be either a square or circle to form a sort of hedgehog effect, by the way. It was a deadly formation against knights but had obvious weakness against archers. I also used some texts on warfare such as the classic, Art of War.
Rebecca: Your cover art is beautiful, it looks like a painting of a battle scene. Who created it?
J.R.: The original art is a 19th century etching which my cover designer, J. T. Lindroos, used to make the cover. I must admit, I fell in love with the cover. He also designed the cover for A Kingdom Cost, and I hope he can do the cover of the novel I'm working on now.
Rebecca: What is one question you've never been asked but would like to be asked as a writer or about your book?
J.R.: Do you feel that the fact that your novel is priced at 99 cents undervalues your work?
I worry about that. I have had readers tell me they assume 99 cent novels aren't any good.
I price Freedom's Sword at price because I don't think you can expect readers to pay the same for an unknown indie writer what they do for well-established historical writers such as Sharon Kay Penman, yet in reviews my work has been compared favorably to hers. I am willing to take that risk to gain readers who I believe will be willing to pay slightly more for my other novels. However, I also like the idea of novels being affordable. As a reader, I love the fact that I can afford many more novels now than I could before we authors could take our work directly to readers.
Rebecca: Thank you so much for stopping by!
J.R.: Thanks so much for the opportunity to answer your questions.

Book description from James A. Anderson, author of Deadline, says: "...a stirring and highly readable novel..."

Before William Wallace... before Robert the Bruce... there was another Scottish hero...

In 1296, newly knighted by the King of the Scots, Andrew de Moray fights to defend his country against the forces of the ruthless invader, King Edward Longshanks of England. After a bloody defeat in battle, he is dragged in chains to an English dungeon.

Soon the young knight escapes. He returns to find Scotland under the heel of a conqueror and his betrothed sheltering in the hills of the Black Isle.

Seizing his own castle, he raises the banner of Scottish freedom. Now he must lead the north of Scotland to rebellion in hope of defeating the English army sent to crush them.
Freedom's Sword can be purchaesd at by following the link below.


  1. I really enjoyed doing this interview. Thanks so much for the opportunity, Rebecca.