I am happy to have Mike Weatherley as my guest today. Thank you, Mike, for joining me on my website.
Author Mike Weatherley
Mike, can you tell us about yourself and your background? What do you currently
do outside of writing?
I was born in 1964 and grew up in the county of Kent (whose Latin name was Cantium),
which was the earliest part of Roman Britain to be conquered by invading Anglo-Saxons in the late 5th c. AD. Born in the Chinese
year of the dragon, I always felt an affinity with those mythical creatures, as well as being fascinated with the legends
of the mysterious ‘Arthur’, the British hero who fought those first Anglo-Saxon colonists. I’ve always lived
in the north-eastern part of Kent, which is the county known as the ‘gateway’ to the Continent. It was here that
the Roman landings of both Julius Caesar and Claudius took place, and later the first of the Anglo-Saxon landings.
Since graduating in Chemistry, I worked for 25 years in the drugs industry, helping to manufacture – among other
things – Viagra (which was discovered at the Pfizer research laboratories here in Kent). Despite a career as a scientist
(as that was the best way to pay the bills), I always harboured the dream of being a writer, and had a flair for creative
writing. That took the form of poetry and song-lyrics printed in biology magazines at university, and later in palaeontology
magazines on the subject of fossils (another hobby). Like most people growing up, I was fascinated by dinosaurs, and have
found the odd dinosaur bones here in the UK, though we have nothing like the remains that can be seen in the USA. I did visit
the Museum of the Rockies, while on holiday in America years ago, and was very envious of some of the specimens on display.
Indeed, it’s very likely that the dinosaur fossils of the Gobi Desert in Mongolia were the origin of the Chinese legends
of dragons, as they have their own species of Tyrannosaur, called Tarbosaurus. And it seems that the trade route of the Silk
Road brought those Chinese stories about dragons to Europe – ultimately combining them with the legends of the historical
Arthur, as I explain in my book: ‘Pendragon’.
Away from writing, I’m passionate about preserving our
modern native mammals here in the UK. I’m campaigning to see the garden pesticides that are implicated in poisoning
our wild hedgehogs banned, as the species has crashed from ~50 million to ~1 million during my lifetime. I’d hate to
live in a land where our native hedgehogs had become extinct due to Human activity and ignorance. My other hobbies include
classical music, gardening and tennis.
What books have you written, and what are their genres? What audience are they aimed at?
Pendragon: The Arthur Chronicles: 1
My current book, Pendragon: The Arthur Chronicles: 1, is the first of a trilogy
of historical novels explaining the documentary, linguistic & archaeological evidence for the historical Arthur who was
the 5th c. British hero that has always been behind the much later 12th-16th c. fictionalised version. The authors of those
later centuries were not historians – as we are, today – and were only capable of depicting an Arthur suitable
for their own times, as anachronistic as he turned out to be in their hands. My book contains a mini text-book at the end
of the novel (including a list of scholarly references) to explain to the reader where the story evolved from. I incorporated
this because my version of Arthur’s story is so different to the one most people are familiar with that I knew they
would not believe it unless I presented them with the evidence. It’s very important to read both the short Historical
Note at the start of the book and the much longer Author’s Note (the mini text-book) at the end of the story, if you
want to understand where my version of Arthur’s story comes from.
The story is aimed at anybody of
any age, so long as they have an enquiring mind, and are (like me) not satisfied with the traditional (but heavily fictionalised)
medieval version of Arthur’s story. Indeed, it seems a pity to me that it is the fantasy medieval version that we are
all brought up with, and that’s the only version most people are aware of. The fact is, the original version (which
can be deduced by going back to the earliest evidence about Arthur) is far more interesting and true-to-life.
What prompted you to
write what you did? [or Where do you get your writing inspiration?] What message(s) do you want readers to take away?
As well as a fascination for Roman Britain, I’ve always had a love of the historical Arthur, and the evidence
shows us that the two seem to be inextricably linked. Although I love the movie musical Camelot, with its courtly romance,
that story (and most other versions of Arthur’s story that we are familiar with) was largely invented from the 12th
c. onwards, and bears little relation to reality. It’s a medieval fiction, portraying Arthur as a pseudo-Norman/Plantagenet
king and does not represent the origins of Arthur in Roman/post-Roman Britain, where he was only ever described as a soldier.
We have to go right back to the earliest sources that mention Arthur’s name (and even further back than that), to the
real-life armoured cavalry on whom the much later ‘Knights of the Round Table’ were based.
as I realised that there was a more true-to-life version of Arthur than the fictional version most of us have been brought
up with, I knew that I (along with the scholars who have worked so hard to reveal him) had to try to promote him. More than
anything else I’ve written, I always harboured the dream of writing a definitive version of Arthur’s story. How
appropriate, then, that 15 years of research on the subject revealed just how closely intertwined the worlds of the historical
Arthur and the legends about dragons (ultimately originating from China) actually were. But the historical sources and the
archaeology combine to show that there was not just one Arthur. We know of at least two men of that name, living 300 years
apart (with perhaps other, unrecorded versions in between). There was the famous 5th c. British soldier who defeated the invading
Anglo-Saxons, of course. But there was also an even earlier 2nd c. Roman soldier, recorded with the family name of Artorius
on his grave-stone as having led a cavalry unit in Britain.
If readers take anything away, I hope it is that truth –
as is often the case – is even stranger than fiction. And they shouldn’t be too surprised that armoured lancers
existed in the Roman cavalry (and among the other peoples they encountered) for a thousand years before the Normans under
William the Conqueror (who are usually – wrongly – assumed to have invented lancing/jousting on horseback). There
are even bigger surprises than that in the story, but I wouldn’t want to spoil it for the reader. Suffice to say that
I hope I‘ve given back to the British people their greatest cultural icon, who was previously stolen from history by
writers of medieval fiction and Norman/Plantagenet propaganda.
In addition to the true origins about Arthur,
I hope that my story also educates the reader about Roman Britain. The truth is – as many historians and archaeologists
know – that Roman Britain did not end in 410 AD. That date only comes from a scribal error in a work that wasn’t
even describing Britain at all, but a province in southern Italy. We also have no contemporary written sources that describe
any Roman troops being removed from Britain in the 5th c. And the latest archaeology confirms how many Roman towns and forts
were still occupied through the 5th c. But all of this (and much more) is explained in the Author’s Note at the end
of the book. So I hope the story is of as much interest to those who like Roman Britain in general as those who have a particular
fascination with the historical Arthur.
Do you write short stories, articles, or have a blog? Where can we find them?
I do have a website: http://www.pendragonbooks.net/
I don’t write a regular blog, but here is an example of something similar. As it’s nearly Christmas,
to be seasonal, I’ve included one of the kind of parodies I used to compose - based on famous poems and song lyrics
- for my fellow Arthurian scholars on Arthurnet.
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when, all through the fort, Not a creature was stirring (or, so it was thought).
The lances were stacked in the arsenal in rows, While the watch-tower fires dimmed to pale orange
The cavalry troopers lay snug in their beds, While visions of battlefields danced
in their heads. With each in their tunic or thick woolen vest,
They’d all settled down for a long winter’s rest. When, out of the shadows,
a figure passed by,
And his long purple cloak, from my bed, I did spy.
Peeping out from my blankets, the better
to see, I wondered just who this intruder might be. The moon, through the window, gave just enough
to my eyes such a wondrous sight. For, pulling his hood down, appeared our warlord:
Aurelianus... with his sword! Then, drawing Excalibur silently out, out,
He held it before him – a Christian devout. And with this, at first, quite perplexing
He transformed the hilt to the sign of our saviour.
Thus, clutching the sword out in front of his face, He
was the embodiment of holy grace.
Then through the whole barrack-room he made his way, And whispering under his breath he did pray:
“Sleep Galahad, Gawain, sleep Dagonet, Bors, Sleep Bedivere, Tristan, and dream not of wars.
You’ve fulfilled your duties and conquered them all, From the wild Saxon Shore to the Picts o’er the Wall.”
“As dry leaves, before the wild hurricane, fly, Our enemies, scattered, in graves now do lie.
In many a charge have I, all of you, led, With the howl of the dragon high over our head.”
Then with his free hand, in his tunic he felt, For the pouch that was hanging just under his belt.
And drawing a handful of coins of the realm, He dropped one gold solidus into each
He re-sheathed Excalibur, quiet as he could, And withdrew is features back under his hood.
Though I just heard him whisper, ‘ere out of my sight: “Merry
Christmas to all, and to all a: ‘Good Knight’!”
What do you find the hardest about writing?
The easiest thing about writing is deciding on the beginning
& the ending of the story, as they are the fixed reference points. For me, the ending comes first, as that’s
the most important part of any story. Then I decide on where the story should begin, in order to justify the ending. Lastly,
comes the hard work of joining those two dots. That’s where the 99% perspiration gets added to the 1% inspiration.
What’s next for
you after [Your Book]?
Waiting to see how well this first book sells, before trying to get the next
two books in the trilogy (which are already written) published as well. In the meantime, I’ve written a children’s
book about hedgehogs which I’m also trying to find a publisher for. I’m also running a petition to have the
most toxic garden pesticides banned here in the UK, to prevent our wild hedgehogs from going extinct. It’s currently
up to 12,000 signatures, but we need a lot more to get government action. A link to the petition is here:
Save our Hedgehogs
What special thing about yourself would you like to share with readers?
for one minute, imagine that the Arthur in my story is in any way based on me. I only wish I could be as brave, resourceful
& well-organised as he is.
can we follow or contact you?
You can email me at my website: firstname.lastname@example.org
My Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Mike-Weatherley-140451796685908/
I also have an author’s page on Amazon at ‘Amazon: Mike Weatherley’
Where can readers buy your books?
In the UK from: Amazon UK/Pendragon Arthur Chronicles
In the US from: Amazon US Pendragon Arthur Chronicles
Also, directly from my publisher: http://www.pendragonbooks.net/
I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas/Happy New Year/Happy Holidays and to my Roman History friends, Io
Until next time, Salve Atque Vale! Hail and Farewell!
-Jess Steven Hughes