Daniel Pugsley - Exciting Historical Adventure Set in Babylon
Daniel is a history nerd with a passion for all things historical fiction. As an English and ESOL teacher, he spent a decade living in Italy, Japan, Poland and the UAE. He is now back in his native Yorkshire with his young family. Daniel loves writing about lesser-known places and times, which is why his debut series is focused on ancient Babylon. Away from writing, Daniel also proofreads, edits and beta reads novels. He is a trustee for a local charity and the chairman of a large union branch. He is a huge rugby fan too! As our Author of the Day, he tells us more about his book, Son of Babylon.
Please give us a short introduction to what Son of Babylon is about.
When his father Hammurabi leaves to defend the kingdom from invasion, Bani and his mother are left without their protector. Babylon is a dangerous place, and the queen in particular is out for revenge. Bani must learn quickly if he wants to survive into adulthood.
What inspired you to write this book, was there anything in particular that made you want to tackle this?
A few things were going on at the time when I set out to write Son of Babylon. Bernard Cornwell is my writing hero, and I was re-reading the first few books of his Saxon chronicles. I love when historical fiction reveals stories, places and cultures I didn’t know much about before, and I hadn’t known much about the formation of England. Around the same time, I had been watching some YouTube videos about Hammurabi and the ancient Mesopotamians. I couldn’t find much historical fiction about that era, and I had always wanted to write a novel. So, I started my writing journey.
Tell us more about Bani. What makes him tick?
Bani feels abandoned by his father, and wants to prove him wrong. It drives him to want approval from others. He finds the great love of his life in Alittum, and most of his later decisions are motivated by trying to be with her. He is also desperate for revenge against those who caused him to be sent away.
Where does your fascination with history come from?
I was always interested in other places and cultures, even as a little boy. I find escape in a good book, and I love when they fire my imagination. Even in junior school, I wanted to walk with dinosaurs, meet Neanderthals and visit ancient cities.
Why did you pick Babylon as the backdrop for your story?
Mesopotamians wrote on clay, in languages we can read, and as a result there is an enormous amount of written material available to study. It means we know more about this amazing culture than, for example, the early middle ages. As a historical fiction author I have access to lots of fascinating details to weave into the story, and the big picture to place them into real historical events. It is such a shame more writers haven’t chosen this as the setting for their own work.
How much research did this book require from you to make the history feel authentic?
I started out researching the basics through YouTube videos. The channel History with Cy provided a great starting point, but it quickly became apparent I needed more depth. I read dozens and dozens of scholarly articles while writing the first draft of Son of Babylon. JSTOR is an absolute goldmine for finding academic research, and I also bought several books on the subject, which I devoured cover to cover. Two fairly recent biographies on Hammurabi were particularly invaluable. After all that, I was able to get the small details right which mean that the world can be truly immersive.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I can drink a pint of beer in about two and a half seconds!
What do you have the most fun with when writing Son of Babylon?
I really enjoyed crafting the fight scenes. I used to do Muay Thai myself, I like watching MMA and I researched both sword fighting and ancient warfare to make sure the movements were realistic. Imagining what it must have been like was a really immersive experience.
Readers say this was a real page-turner. How did you pull this off?
I am so happy that the book got such great reviews! I tried to write the book I would want to read. As a fan of great historical fiction, that hopefully means some of the techniques and writing habits have rubbed off a little!
You have lived all over the world. In which way have your experiences influenced your writing?
When I go somewhere new, I start to notice all the small little details and differences. For example, in Japan I found that people queue just as politely as they would in England, but then when the bus or train pulls up it turns into a free-for-all! I used that experience to help me write scenes such as when Bani arrives in Eshnunna.
When starting on a new book, what is the first thing you do?
I am a big believer in research. I look into the time period and pick out an interesting year or two, as well as cultural details that I might be able to work in. Then I piece together a timeline and a list of the important characters for the period. Finally, I start to imagine what they must have felt like and been through as they lived those events. This usually gives me a basic outline of the novel and a good idea of who should be the central players, and I can build chapter outlines from there.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I am a full time teacher, and I work with a local charity as well as chair a large union branch. In addition, I do some freelance editing, proofreading and beta reading work. With three kids, that doesn’t leave me enough time to write. Like most writers, I would love a 25th hour of the day!
An average writing day for me is to spend an hour working on my current project before watching a bit of TV with my wife and going to bed. I do get a little bit more time at the weekends. I like to make sure I start the next scene or chapter before I finish writing for the day, because it keeps me engaged and anticipating where I can take things next time.
What are you working on right now?
Just this week, I was really excited to see the cover design for the next book in the Babylon series, called Saviour of Babylon! I am putting the finishing touches to the manuscript now, and it should be released in April. You won’t have to wait long to find out what Bani gets up to next!
I am also working on a novel about the Crusades, and I am looking to pitch that to literary agents in the new year with the hope of getting it published in 2025. The third instalment of the Babylon series is half-finished, and I’m hoping to release that late next year, so I have a lot to keep me busy!
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I have a website, https://danielpugsleyauthor.co.uk, where you message me and see loads of articles, from character biographies to tips on writing. I am on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/danielpugsleyauthor/. Following me as an author on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/author/danielpugsley will make sure you get a notification whenever a new book comes out or one of my books is on offer. I also have a Goodreads page https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/43472767.Daniel_Pugsley.
When his father Hammurabi leaves Babylon to defend the kingdom from invasion, Bani and his mother lose their protector, and are plunged into a death struggle of their own...