My love of history started in my childhood. As a child of the seventies, I was brought up on a diet of Warlord and Commando comics whilst watching films like A Bridge too Far, The Longest Day and Zulu. At that time it was natural to play soldiers, either running around with my friends using nothing more dangerous than an armed finger, or playing with hundreds of small plastic men who had been fixed into a thousand different martial poses, all to inspire me to recreate the battles that I watched on TV.
As I got older I discovered the novels by Bernard Cornwell and I still remember the delight of reading Sharpe’s Enemy for the very first time (it is still my favourite novel to this day). That Christmas my parents bought me the entire backlist of Sharpe novels and they still sit in pride of place on my bookshelves although their covers show the battering of being read and reread over the years.
At no time did I ever consider writing myself. At school my love of all things military led me to apply for an Army Sixth Form Scholarship, an award that would lead to a place at Sandhurst, and, with luck and a vast amount of hard work and determination, a commission as an officer in the British army.
But when I came to leave school my mind changed. I had met my future wife and suddenly the draw of being an officer paled against the attraction of making a life with the woman I loved. So I left my childhood dream behind and embarked on a career in the City of London, a choice of job, that back then, did not carry the same stigma that it has acquired over the last few years.
All went well and I still work in the City today. I have learnt much over the years and without a shred of doubt I have been lucky to survive so long. I have also been fortunate to work with the same wonderful team for the last fifteen years which has made the daily grind so much more enjoyable than it should be.
It was only as I turned thirty that I started to consider writing for the first time. By then I had been commuting into London for years and the long train journey had been spent reading everything from Flashman to legal thrillers from the likes of Mark Gimenez and John Grisham.
I never thought of training myself to write. I just did it, bashing out a book without a single iota of planning. Since then I have written pretty much every day, never once stopping to analyse what I am doing, or how I am doing it. I just go for it.
I write what I like, about a subject that I am passionate about and which still interests me no matter how much I read and research the period. It would be easy to read the brilliant stories already set in the period and be deterred from daring to tread on the same turf but at the end of the day I cannot be swayed from the period that interests me the most. I simply do the best I can.
Paul Fraser Collard – Sunday 11th November 2012