As an aspiring author I’m fascinated by the writing process, so I’m delighted to be welcoming collaborative writers uncle, Paul, and niece, Tors (Victoria) to Linda’s Book Bag today to tell us a little about their unusual partnership and how they came to write Highlanders’ Revenge.
Highlanders’ Revenge was published by Matador on 27th July 2016 and is available for purchase in paperback here.
Highlanders’ Revenge tells the story of Mash, the nickname Highland soldiers give to an Englishman in their ranks.
Scarred both from the retreat before the Blitzkrieg advance across France and from the murder of his first love, Mash has to integrate himself into a new section that is wary of the sullen and secretive ‘Mash Man’ – an outsider in their midst. Together they journey to Egypt where they encounter a way of life that tests them to their limits. Scorched by day, frozen by night and plagued by insects, they have to learn how to live and fight in the desert as they prepare for one of the greatest battles of the Second World War. They are then cast into the thick of the fighting at El Alamein and the Allies’ tumultuous battle to break through the Axis defenses…
Highlanders’ Revenge combines the fast-paced action and intrigue of a military novel with the real-life exploits of the 5th Camerons, an extraordinary unit that saw action in most of the major battles in North Africa and Western Europe. As a result, the book is both a riotous story of battle and life, and also an insight into the world of this little-known, but fierce, fighting unit. It will appeal to fans of military fiction who also appreciate historical accuracy.
A Guest Post by Paul Tors
Paul: I had this idea for a book about World War II, but, though I have a passion for military history, I had no idea how to write a book? Fast forward to a family wedding; my niece, Victoria (Tors), tells me she’s working as a journalist but sees her future as an author. Perfect! An agreement is reached to start work quickly and I need to provide a storyline and an outline for the book.
I start by looking at the major battles in World War Two. A name keeps coming up, the 5th Camerons, who seem to have been in every major engagement in Europe and North Africa and who have a history that is better than fiction.
The storyline and research is sent over to Tors and she likes it. We hold a brainstorming session where we come up with lots of good ideas. The next stage is for me to flesh out the military side and research various ideas. Tors is going to work on the characters and write a draft chapter.
Tors (Victoria): Paul’s suggestion to write a book came out of the blue, but I jumped at the chance. However, I wasn’t entirely sure how some aspects would work. We live a few hours away from each other, so couldn’t meet regularly. But, after one weekend of planning together, we then communicated by email and phone, which worked perfectly.
I was a bit worried about writing from a male perspective, and about a subject which is generally thought of as male interest. My favourite genres to read are crime and historical fiction, and, although military fiction is an area I’m not as familiar with, putting a character in a difficult and tense situation was something I could do. Also, I don’t believe in splitting books into male and female interests; if this were real then I’d only read Chick Lit (my least favourite genre) and the occasional celebrity biography.
Paul suggested that I base the main characters on people I knew. I drew on a group of my male friends and how they interacted; once I had them in my mind I was away.
Paul: We divided chapters into three groups: I’d write history or battles while Tors would take on characters and relationships. For those that had both elements, I’d have first go to give the structure and then Tors would cast some of her magic touch.
There were no arguments; if we had different ideas we’d agree to try it one way and if that didn’t work then we’d try it the other.
Tors: After writing a section it would be sent to the other to read and edit, and vice versa. This broke the writing process into more manageable pieces. We each played to our strengths; I tended to check for spelling mistakes and Paul checked the historical accuracy, but we both found that we could read through and see where parts weren’t working or needed more editing.
Paul: Then came the editing process; reading and re-reading drafts, endless editing and checking. Whilst Tors took on the bulk of it, the process took months and was undoubtedly the low part for me.
Tors: Poor Paul, I don’t think he realised how big a job editing would be! This was my area of expertise so Paul had to wait while I went through chapter after chapter and then sent him my changes. It can be time consuming and disconcerting, especially when you’re also trying to plan a wedding which I was at the time (I would take writing a novel over planning a wedding any day!), but working with the system we’d set up, we finally completed Highlanders’ Revenge.
Tors: Completing a whole book is an amazing feeling. When the project felt too huge or difficult, I persevered as I knew Paul was relying on me and it was something that we had undertaken together. All our work was rewarded when we received our books from the printer.
Paul: Our story started with a wedding and, for now, it ends with a wedding; Tors’ wedding. I stood in the sun, champagne in hand, talking to a relative who had read the book. Even though she didn’t think it would be her sort of thing she really loved Highlanders’ Revenge. When I first thought of the book I imagined it would be for a mainly male audience; but this kind lady was repeating a message that I’ve been hearing a lot – the book appeals to a wide range of people – male and female, young and old.
About Paul Tors
Paul Tors is the pen name of uncle and niece team Paul and Victoria Richman, who combined their skills and expertise to create Highlanders’ Revenge. Paul is a retired successful businessman whose passion is military history. Victoria is a Creative Writing graduate who works as a freelance journalist.