The Writing Desk, Dec 2020
Day 4 of the Coffee Pot Blog Tour
Interview with Thomas Berry
Five men and women in Ancient Greece are set on a dangerous journey of self-discovery during the bitter conflict of the Peloponnesian War.
I'm pleased to welcome author Thomas J. Berry to The Writing Desk
Tell us about your latest book.
Fire and Ash is the third and last volume in the Gifts of the Gods trilogy about Ancient Greece. The series follows an assortment of men and women from all walks of life during the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta in the 5th century BC. Although it's a trilogy, each book can easily be read as a stand-alone. When Fire and Ash opens, we are plunged into a world beset by conflict and strife but there is hope on the horizon...and disaster for the vanquished. Lissy is a mother of two little girls whose husband was among the fallen in a failed campaign overseas.
Now living outside Athens, she struggles with her past as a Spartan slave and must find a way to forge a future for her family. Aleki is a military commander in the twilight of his years and must learn to adapt in a young man's army. Timanda, an exotic dancer in a Persian court, becomes infatuated with a handsome foreigner but is it love? She will soon discover how far she is willing to go to find the answer. As the war rages to a bitter end, five men and women will emerge from the fire and ash to stand together in their new world.
What is your preferred writing routine?
I have found a good writing method is to devote an hour or two each and every day to the craft. My books are heavily researched, so I spend a year or more reading and note-taking before I put pen to paper. Then I create outlines, spreadsheets, and charts to help form the book's structure. The key is to do a little each day and don't procrastinate! I spent a total of seven years researching Gifts of the Gods and three years writing.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Find a project you are passionate about and stick to it. Don't let naysayers stop you from doing what you love. Tell your story the way you envision it. Then formulate a writing style that challenges you and makes you better. I chose to weave five stories into a single volume and allow them to build upon one another slowly.
The other two volumes were written in the same style and there is some nice crossover between them all. I had a lot of fun with it, but the process taught me a great deal as well. Learn from each project you do. Keep moving forward! Finish it and move on. The next story is waiting just around the corner!
What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?
Writing books and marketing them are very different challenges but each one needs to be handled with care. This is my sixth publication in ten years, and I have learned different strategies each time. Social media has become an essential tool for all writers and it's important to use it wisely. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are just a few of the ways to connect with readers. Goodreads is another. They offer book giveaways and some promotional features. Amazon has an author program as well. I've run ad campaigns to reach a wider audience and some can be targeted for a specific demographic. I'm excited about this blog tour! It's the first one I've done and I'm happy to introduce myself and my book to your readers!
Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research.
I love to research historical fiction and have learned a lot in the process. I spent years reading about the Ancient Greeks, largely manuscripts written by historians living during that time but also modern interpretations as well. I was surprised by the close comparisons the Greeks had to our own world, specifically the events in the 20th century. Each city-state forged alliances with their friends for protection, much like the countries in Europe did in the early 1900's.
When small conflicts escalated, their larger and more powerful allies were inevitably drawn in, creating a cascading effect that soon enveloped their world. Even as peace was declared, new superpowers emerged from the ashes. The warhawks were still bent on dominating the globe and soon took their ships to a far-off location...Sicily. America and Russia battled for years in Vietnam, but they were simply mirroring the Ancient Greeks. Fire and Ash ultimately shows the folly of both democracy and socialism in their extreme form. I hope people will learn something from the series.
What was the hardest scene you remember writing?
The battle scenes are always hard because there is so much going on, but I think, looking at the book and really the series as a whole, I found the ending the hardest to write. I have known for years how the last chapter would play out and getting to that point was a long, difficult journey. When it came time to write the concluding chapters, it was as if a part of me were right there on the pages with the characters.
I loved the series and I was happy with the ending, but it was a bittersweet moment to finally put down on paper. Alcibiades was a real historical person and has been a part of Gifts of the Gods from the very beginning. We first see him at age 18 at the Olympic festival in Iron and Bronze and watch him grow into a strong leader in Silver and Gold. It was only fitting to conclude the series with this important figure in Fire and Ash.
What are you planning to write next?
My next project hits a little closer to home and centers on the American Civil War! I'm still in the research phase but the book is expected to hit shelves in the fall of 2022. Although the Civil War has been written about for years, I like to find small, focused plotlines that will take readers by surprise and teach them things about their own history in imaginative ways. Whenever possible, I will visit the places I write about and there are numerous battlefields on the East Coast I plan to study first-hand. I'm excited about this new project and I hope my readers are too!