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tv   Meet the Author  BBC News  July 30, 2017 10:45pm-11:01pm BST

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before. don't think has come along before. it is bittersweet. it is the centenary as well. the commemorations are a lot bigger than usual. tony and i were discussing as well before we came on air that we are meant to learn the lessons of war, and here we are 100 years on still very much at war in various parts of the world. you know, you just think on the idea that the first world war was the war to end all wars. you know, the second world warcame along... all wars. you know, the second world war came along... actually, having said that, the amount of conflict in the world is at the lowest i think it's ever been. ironically, we live ina much it's ever been. ironically, we live in a much more peaceful world. but it obviously doesn't feel like that. the daily telegraph featuring one of the many pictures you will see tomorrow morning, the duke and duchess of cambridge attending those centenary commemorations. again, caroline, it's these young royals that are so might do attract more young people to take part or at least ta ke young people to take part or at least take notice of these, ratios. certainly. in this generation, with
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prince william and prince harry, you do have two members of forces, they followed in the family tradition. say what we will about the rules, whether they get too much tension, certainly these brothers have come forward talking about mental health recently. some say they have over egged that pudding, but you can't doubt there is inserted in turning up doubt there is inserted in turning up to these events and honouring the dead. this week will be interesting for them. whatever they do, they be overshadowed by the looming 20—year legacy of their late mother. caroline antoni, many thanks. we will do it again in about an hour's time. —— caroline and tony. there is more at 11:30pm. next, meet the author, and jim naughtie talks to novelist conn iggulden. you've decided to cast away
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historical setting and get rid of real characters that we might know and gone into fantasy — if it's a word you're happy with. why? i've always loved historicalfiction. i've always read it, and my entire career has been built around it, but i've also always read fantasy, and the big difference, to some extent, is the freedom. in historicalfiction, you have to check every single fact, otherwise somebody will e—mail you — a roman re—enactor, something along those lines. but with fantasy, it felt like i had a slightly... the reins were off. i didn't have too stop in the middle of a scene and think, "did they have sidesaddle in this particular...?" hang on, she's a woman on a horse, would she have
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been riding sidesaddle? which is my constant experience in historicalfiction. you make it up. well, exactly, you have that freedom. in historicalfiction, you do feel the constraints, because it has to be as accurate as possible, you have to find a story in the real history. of course, you've got an army of readers, and they've enjoyed ancient rome, the mongol empire, the wars of the roses, and so on. they've trusted me. they've trusted you. and they've felt at home, they've enjoyed the setting. it's risky, you know, taking them into a city that doesn't exist. it is, and it's almost like starting again. there is no way to sugar that pill. it is a completely different audience. some people won't touch it. i've always thought though that historical fiction and fantasy are the closest genres. there are certain elements — the thrill of a battle, for example, can be very similar. of course. and it depends how you do it. i don't have any dragons in mind, although george rr martin has done very well with them. well, there's a bit of magic in this book. it's not harry potter magic in the sense that lives aren't governed by it, but it's very much there. there's a kind of superstition that becomes real. yes.
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the point about it really is that i wanted to have as few constraints as possible. an awful lot of stories, at their heart, about characters making some discovery about themselves, and i wanted to use magic to bring those discoveries about. i wanted characters to be able to move on and through various devices, and then bring them all together at the end. but we are talking about a city whose great era is passed. i mean, it's a bit like venice with the empire gone. yes, they're worn out. it's all worn out. tired. and there is an unhappy figure on the throne. this is a very familiar setting, in a way, for an historical novelist. a miserable young man and various families all struggling for power. to some extent, there's always that basis in reality. you can't simply have, i don't know, walls disappearing in the middle of a scene. you have to have it as real as possible, and then add that extra element that i've always fantasised about myself, which is the ability to do something extraordinary. that's what makes a good story, iwould hope. there's an interesting comparison between this book, which i think is the beginning of a trilogy, is that right? the empire of salt.
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well, we'll see if you can control yourself and keep it as a trilogy. it will be the first trilogy i've ever done. it might end up being four. you are very prolific. dunstan came out only two, three months ago, and that's an interesting book, because it's set, as it has been your wont up to now, in a particular historical period, in the england of what people misleadingly called the dark ages. it's told in the first person, which you've never done before. no. to some extent i do like to challenge myself, but i came across dunstan when i was reading dickens's a child's history of britain to my children, as i'm sure you do. he described dunstan, who was a saint and archbishop of canterbury, as a complete rogue and involved in the selling into slavery of a queen. so... you thought, "hang on." i thought this is a good character here. i thought if he's both a monster and a saint at the same time, then i've got another genghis khan, if you like, which is too strong. but i liked genghis because he was hated by his enemies and loved by his own family. and i look for that sort of humanising quality. i want them to be rich and varied
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and interesting, as he is. and, of course, it's a very interesting period in english history. it is, is fascinating, because its book ended by athelstan, the first king of england, who also was king of scotland. yes. yes, constantine came down. he had coins made with "rex totius britanniae", and a fair claim to being an actual king of britain. but, of course, that only lasted as long as his short reign, which is 1a years. it's 910—988, something like that. 400 years after the romans had been there for half a millennium. and, of course, you've written about caesar and augustus and the rest of them, and this is the beginning, really, after a gap, of what happened after the romans had gone. yes, to some extent this is the run—up, of course, to 1066. these are the kings that people probably don't know, but they are the only ones with great stories. and the nice thing about dunstan was his life crossed seven kings, so he went from athelstan at the beginning to ethelred the unready, and, through those seven kings, we have the beginning
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of the modern world. and you've told the story through dunstan's voice. yes. a wonderful opening line, i hope i've got it right — what is an opening line but a door being opened by an unseen hand? something like that, sorry if i've got... but opening lines are important. that's a good one. it is, but that's the beginning of the prologue. the beginning of the first chapter is "i think i could have hung there all day if they hadn't broken my hands." which i... you see, for me, i do like that a little more. the whimsical quality of writing in the first person meant that i had this old man's voice. and as i was saying earlier, i had to cut some of that out, because you couldn't be too rambling. what's the difficulty of writing in an old man's voice? you're not an old man. no, but i've known a few. my father was 90 when he died and i'm familiar with the way they tell stories, as i heard them so many times. the trouble with that is an old man will tell the same story more than once. i was playing with the fact could i actually do that in a text? and the answer is no, honestly, you can't. if you're writing about a young man, described by the old man, you have to do the young man's voice, you have to to cut out some
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of the querulousness of the old man. yes. just to keep it tight and fast moving, because i do like the reader to turn the pages. because books aren't a representation of reality, how an old man would speak. no, there's always a simplification. books are telling you a story about what an old man might do. yes, i think someone once said that the simplest real human being was 1,000 times more complex than the most complex shakespearean character. that is true. real people are very, very complex, indeed, and all you can ever do with a novel is to try and focus a single facet and try and make them as real as possible. talking about storytelling, i'm interested in something about your mother, who, i think, was of irish descent and came from a tradition of the telling of tales, which is a very powerful bit of the culture. her grandfather was a seanchai, an irish storyteller, who used to go from fireside to fireside and be rewarded with a meal and a glass of ale if he tells a story. it was a community purpose, this business of storytelling.
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oh, yes, it kept history alive. before it was written down... when i went to mongolia, they talked about the fact that they knew they were the distant ancestors of the north american native american, because they had been there 15,000 years ago, and they had an oral tradition which went back much, much further than anything written down and that's where these stories come from. you were a teacher. if you were trying to explain to children who are a bit leery about history, or indeed novels, but particularly history, why it is that it's fascinating by saying, you know, how do we explain this, what happened, how do we know? my mother always said that, for her, history was a series of stories about people, with dates. to me, that's the absolute heart of it. people are interested in people. we are fascinated by extraordinary moments of courage and betrayal and love and despair, and history is absolutely chock full of those, because it's the story of millions of different people. it is an absolute treasure trove and always has been. and in this case, whether it's
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darien, a fantasy, or whether it's dunstan, based on, you know, a real man and a real historical period, the point about storytelling and where it takes us is the same. yes, i've been at the end of the day, its characters. i think kurt vonnegut says there's this guy, right, and he's a pretty decent kind of guy and then something awful happens to him. that's the absolute essence of all fiction, whether its history or heroic fantasy. conn iggulden, now cf iggulden with darien, thank you very much. thank you. it's been all or nothing today — some big showers and big downpours, northern ireland catching quite a few thundery downpours, and reports of minor flooding in the country. whereas towards the south—east, there has not been many showers, and a lovely end to the day. we keep the showers for a while
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through the evening, but overnight the heavy showers, thunderstorms, will ease off. we keep the showers going more towards northern ireland and western scotland and other western hills and coasts, but they should be lighter overnight and further east clearer skies mean temperatures drop away in towns and cities to 11 or 12. over the next two days we keep this mixture of sunshine and showers because we still have an area of low pressure sitting to the north—west of the uk, the closer you are to the low pressure, the more likely to get showers. monday morning, showers, pushing eastwards across scotland and across the eastern side of northern ireland. north—west england catches a few showers into cumbria and lancashire, and the other side of the pennines probably a dry start and quite sunny. sunshine to the midlands and east anglia and much of southern england, but showers running into the south—west and into west wales. the showers across england should be fairly few and far between, a stronger breeze, the showers
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will not last long, and the heavier ones in the far north of england more likely across scotland and northern ireland, and they could be slow—moving and thundery. temperatures 18 degrees or so, towards the south—east with sunshine 23, like today. on tuesday, we see a mixture of sunshine and showers, fewer showers, even across northern areas, light showers, so it starts to dry off a little bit. the jet stream is a good way south across the uk, not where it should be this time of year, normally between scotland and iceland, thatjet stream will pick up another area of low pressure across north america right now, moving across the atlantic and heading towards uk for the middle part of the week. we will find rain and strong wind coming in from the south—west, many eastern areas still dry through the day with sunshine
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but these areas will see the range of thing the evening and overnight. —— will see the rain it during the evening. this is bbc news. i am chris rogers. the headlines at 11pm: remembering the fallen — the duke and duchess of cambridge attend a service in belgium to mark one hundred years since the battle of passchendaele. 100 years on, we still stand together, gathering, as so many do every night, in remembrance of that sacrifice. president trump says china isn't doing enough to halt the weapons programme of its ally, north korea. police in australia believe an alleged plot to blow up a plane was inspired by islamist extremism. four arrests have been made.
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