The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Mark Ellis

From TheBookbag
Jump to navigationJump to search
The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Mark Ellis


Summary: When Sue read Princes Gate she was impressed enough to want to listen to it as an audiobook - and then to go on and listen to the sequel. When Mark Ellis, the author of the books popped into Bookbag Towers she wanted to know all about the background to the books.
Date: 5 November 2015
Interviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee

Share on: Delicious Digg Facebook Reddit Stumbleupon Follow us on Twitter

When Sue read Princes Gate she was impressed enough to want to listen to it as an audiobook - and then to go on and listen to the sequel. When Mark Ellis, the author of the books popped into Bookbag Towers she wanted to know all about the background to the books.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

Mark Ellis: I probably see myself as I write the kind of books I love. Having said that, from direct reader contact, from book reviews generally and on social media I am aware that my readership is very diverse in background and age. I have male and female readers in all age brackets and in a very wide range of countries.

  • BB: Who, or what was the inspiration for Frank Merlin? I'm particularly intrigued by his Anglo-Spanish background.

ME: I suppose the inspiration for Frank Merlin comes from all the detective heroes I have read over the years. Originally my protagonist was going to be a straightforward Cockney Londoner but I decided I wanted to give him a more exotic back story. I spend quite a bit of time in Spain and one day when I was there reading a Spanish history book I suddenly thought of making him the son of a Spanish father. I enjoyed working out the details of his family background and my Spanish research led me in turn to the development of plot lines eg Stalin's Gold.

  • BB: Will we see more of Frank Merlin?

ME: Of course. I plan to take him all the way through the war. I am currently finishing Frank Merlin 3 (untitled as yet) which is set in June 1941 just after the Battle of Crete and Rudolf Hess's strange flight to Scotland and just before Hitler's invasion of Russia. In a strange parallel with the present the Allied Forces were fighting for control of Syria during this period.

  • BB: With both Princes Gate and Stalin's Gold I was impressed by the way in which you seamlessly blended the real with the fictional - both people and events. I'm in awe of the research that you must have done and the way in which your plot dovetailed with real events. How did you do this?

ME: Thank you very much. With each book the first thing I do is to pick the exact period. For Princes Gate it was January 1940, for Stalin's Gold it was September 1940 and, as previously mentioned, the third Merlin book is set in June 1941. Once I have chosen the period I spend a couple of months immersing myself in that period. There are several wonderful diaries written during the war such as those by John Colville, Harold Nicolson, Duff Cooper and Alan Brooke. I read these and then of course there are numerous superb history books dealing with the war, social conditions in the war, London in the war, Churchill, Hitler and so on. When I have completed this process I start to write and the real events of the time in many instances influence the development of the plot. In these circumstances it is not so difficult to dovetail the history and the plot.

  • BB: Given your background as a barrister, were you ever tempted to write a court-room drama?

ME: An idea of a courtroom drama has not come to me yet but I would certainly not rule it out.

  • BB: Why did you choose to set your stories in World War II? And why London rather than Swansea, which you must know so well?

ME: I have always been fascinated by World War 2. The idea of normal life carrying on, as it did, in the extraordinary circumstances of wartime, the Blitz and so on inspired my imagination. My mother told me tales of travelling up by train to London on her free pass (she was a secretary for the Great Western Railway) to enjoy tea dances while doodlebugs were landing all over the city. My father served in the navy and died a young man in consequence of his service. So the war loomed heavily in my early years. Why London and not Swansea? Much as I love my home town London obviously provides much more scope for exciting plots in the criminal, political and social worlds of the capital. That does not mean I can't envisage Frank Merlin one day having a case to deal with which involves Swansea! ( In a small way he already has-the chauffeur and his villainous uncle in Princes Gate come from the Swansea area.)

  • BB: Your development of character and plot in both Princes Gate and Stalin's Gold is excellent. Have you had any training as a writer?

ME: Thank you. No I have had no special training as a writer. I did however have some very good English teachers who provided great encouragement. One of them was convinced I would be an author one day. When I was in my twenties I wrote half a novel about student life in Cambridge but I lost the manuscript and my next attempt, thirty odd years later, was Princes Gate.

  • BB: I think that you're at the start of a growing trend - that of having your novels turned into audiobooks. What decided you to do this?

ME: The audio market seems to be booming so when Audible said they would like to publish audio versions of my two books it wasn't difficult to say yes. Also the development of Amazon's Whispersync technology, where people own both the ebook version and the audio version of a book and can switch seamlessly between the two, provides encouragement to make both formats available. I have to say I was very pleased with the Audible outcome and that I had a wonderful reader in Matt Addis.

  • BB: You've got one wish. What's it to be?

ME: To see Merlin on screen. There has been interest.

  • BB: What's next for Mark Ellis?

ME: Frank Merlin 3 coming out next summer.

  • BB: Thanks for taking the time to chat to us Mark and good to see that there's more of Frank Merlin for us to look forward to.

You can read more about Mark Ellis here.

Bookfeatures.jpg Check out Bookbag's exciting features section, with interviews, top tens and editorials.


Like to comment on this feature?

Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.