Interview with Richard Abbott

Richard Abbott

Interview Date: 11/27/2012


I live in London, England and work in IT on professional technical contract quality assurance. I also develop mobile/tablet apps with a focus on the ancient world.
When not writing words or computer code, I enjoy spending time with family, walking, and wildlife, ideally combining all three pursuits in the English Lake District.
First novel: 'In a Milk and Honeyed Land', published June 2012, set in a small town in the hill country of Canaan around 1200BC, available in ebook and physical formats from online retailers and a few shops in north London.

When did you start writing, and was there a significant event that prompted you to do so?

I first started trying to write as a young teen, although nothing from that time has survived (which is probably just as well!). Then another spell at and just after university, which I perhaps could resurrect with effort. But somewhere between five and ten years ago was the point where I started applying myself to writing in a more systematic way. The fruit of that was ‘In a Milk and Honeyed Land’.
The initial impetus all those years ago was from being deeply moved by books I was reading - and still is, though the books that have this effect have changed. The first time I remember actually trying to construct a story was after finishing Andre Norton's "Star Rangers".

If you could have one superpower, what would it? (Assuming said power would be reasonably powerful.)

To see things from more than one point of view at the same time.

Do you have a favorite superhero from novels, comics, or movies?

Elastigirl from 'The Incredibles'. A wonderful mix of juggling adult responsibility with superhero fun - and being stretched in both directions.

Where do you get your inspiration for writing? What motivates you?

I have spent a fair time studying my chosen period - the very end of the Late Bronze age in the ancient near east, ie around 1200BC in what is now Israel, Palestine and Egypt. So the inspiration pretty much comes out of a mixture of textual and archaeological results from around that region. The archaeological input allows me to write with conviction about ordinary people in everyday life situations, rather than the rarefied lives of pharaohs and high priests which some people prefer. I also love the way writing of that age blends poetry and prose into a unified whole, and try to do the same in my own writing.

Do you pre-plan your stories, or are you a by-the-seat-of-the-pants style writer?

I pre-plan the overall structure - structure is very important to me and also one of the key defining features of ancient near eastern writing. But the details of episodes, conversations etc are not planned ahead of time until I start writing that part. I don’t write in sequential order front-to-back but jump around a bit – and then do lots of editing to make sure I have not tie myself in knots.

Do you write only when inspired, or do you have a set schedule where you sit down to write?

I write something most days, often using my android phone on the London Underground (hooray for the Northern Line!). But often this will be rough draft or proof reading/editorial work. Substantial creative rushes are less regular, and usually need a bit more of a special place and time.

Kev's response: I'm realizing that the recliner in the living room isn't the best place to be productive. I finally set up a dedicated writing desk to work at, but like you, have to fit it in where I can. I await the day I can do more by voice (or have my car drive itself so I can write...).

Do you have a favorite genre to write in? To read?

To read - a mixture of historical fiction and science fiction. I love the way both of these give authors a chance to explore crucial human issues in ways that often get under our defensive radar and show us different ways of looking at life.
To write in - definitely historical fiction. I have come up with a number of ideas for a science fiction book but can never get the details to seem credible when I pursue them. Working within the constraints of writing in a past period helps me a lot.

What do you enjoy the most about writing?

Seeing the overall structure I have chosen actually take shape.

Is there any part of writing that you don't enjoy?

Actually, the marketing part once it's over! I don't feel I'm very good at this, and don't want to lose friends through nagging them. Still trying to get a good balance here.

Kev's response: Same here. I really don't like promoting myself.

Can you tell me something odd about yourself?

I love learning how languages work - ancient language studies into Hebrew and Egyptian kick-started my fiction writing as well as academic work, and I have started several modern ones too. But I am too lazy to put my head down and learn a decent vocabulary so never get to sound fluent in any of them.

Do you write one story at a time, or do you have several novels in the works at one time?

I write one full-length novel at a time. But I do have at least one short story on the go alongside that, and odd plans drift around the back of my mind all the time.

For my evil plot to take over the world, do you think I should go for a grand, take-all-at-once type scheme, or spread my evil influence like mad, ravenous butterflies?

All at once, definitely. All these absurdly slow dipping mechanism plans get thwarted at the last minute. I'd say go for the grand sweep.

Where do you see the future as far as paper books versus digital e-books?

I think both will survive side by side. There are times and places where a paper copy is easier to manage. At the current level of technology, reference books are much more suited to hard copy as you need to refer to multiple places at once and flick to and fro.

Kev's response: Just a note about this - the GoodReader app on the iPad has a nice option to make bookmarks (in whichever book, not just one you have open at the moment), and you can hop back and forth quickly on it.

What are your current projects?

I am writing a sequel to 'In a Milk and Honeyed Land', set around twenty years later, starting in the Luxor area of Egypt and ending in the small town of Kephrath (which is the setting of the first book) and developing some themes that were left open in the first book.
I am also drafting a short story set in the same area but a few generations earlier.

Do you have any advice for others about self-publishing?

I think that to do it well takes quite a mixture of skills. It's easy to just focus on the ones that you are naturally good at or like, but if you're self-publishing then you have to be willing to tackle lots of jobs. Just to balance that, of course you also need to be willing to accept input and constructive feedback from others!

Do you have any online sites where readers can find out more about you (and your books)? is the most useful single one. I use Google+ ( and of course Twitter (@MilkHoneyedLand).
Thanks for the interview possibility and I look forward to hearing from you sometime,
Richard Abbott

Kev's response: Richard, thank you for joining me, and good fortune as you continue to build upon your world!

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