This week I'm delighted to welcome to Tom Williams to my Travel Thursday blog.Tom lives in London and has done quite a bit of travelling.
Hi Tom. Can you tell us what countries have you visited or lived in?
I’ve been to Borneo, Singapore, China, Thailand, USA and a few other places. Nowadays I generally stick to Europe. There are still a lot of countries quite close to home that I haven’t visited. We made our first trip to Turkey last year, which was fabulous, though the bombing campaign was just starting, which must be having quite an effect by now.
That must have been a bit scary for you!
What's your favourite means of travel?
I travel a lot less nowadays than I did when I was younger. My favourite means of travel is a horse for shorter distances (like climbing to the top of the Andes) and a train for further. Planes are convenient but deeply unpleasant.
Tom on horseback
What country/place has made the most impact on you? Why?
I like to get to Buenos Aires when I can. It’s my absolute favourite place in the world outside the UK, so it's probably fair to say that it has made an impact on me. Argentina is a beautiful country full of friendly people and, of course, it is the home of tango and I spend a lot of my time dancing.
Modern Buenos Aries
Have you featured any of the countries/places you’ve visited in your novels?
Most of the action of Burke in the Land of Silver takes place in South America and Buenos Aires features a lot. I was looking for an interesting historical character to write about and a friend I had met in Buenos Aires recommended that I look at some of the Europeans who had been there during the early settlement. I stumbled across James Burke, who was a spy for the British when they invaded Buenos Aires. Most people don't know about the British invasions (there were two), but it's an interesting story and gave me a lot of scope for a tale of derring-do and skulduggery.
The clock tower in the Cabildo, part of the city's historical heritage
I did do some real research for the book when I was in Argentina. I explored the oldest parts of Buenos Aires, which must look much as they did in 1806. I spent a lot of time in museums and I went out to a ranch to ride with the cattlemen, as my hero does in the story. In the book Burke crosses the Andes, a trip which should only be undertaken in the summer, but he does it in the autumn and is nearly caught in the snows. Although it's only a couple of pages, it bothered me that I had absolutely no idea what it would have been like, so we organised ourselves to the Andes when there was too much snow to make the crossing safe and set out on horseback to find out how far we could go. We got surprisingly close to the pass at well over 3000 meters. We spent two nights on the mountain in a stone shed with no water or electricity or gas trying to keep warm round a fire made of thorn bush. I have never been so cold in my life. We would wake up and find the stream running past the hut was frozen. But the Andes were stunningly beautiful and the feeling of being so close to the elements (even if they were doing their best to kill you) was something I will always remember. It was a totally amazing experience.
Tom's guide taking them up the Andes in inauspicious weather conditions.
Has any country/place you’ve visited ever given you inspiration for a story?
Many years ago I visited Sarawak in Borneo, where I came across the story of the White Rajahs. I was fascinated by the life of the first White Rajah, James Brooke. I really wanted to write about him and when I got back to England I spent a lot of time researching him and did produce a novel. I found an agent who got me an editor but I really struggled with the edits and he suggested that I rest the book and come back to it later. In the end I rested it for about 20 years and then came up with a completely different story, still featuring James Brooke. This became The White Rajah.
Is there any country/place you would love to write about but haven’t visited yet?
Burke at Waterloo is set mainly in Paris and Brussels, two cities I have often visited. I have never been to the battlefield, though. Perhaps I should.
Tom used to write books for business. Now he writes about love and adventure in the 19th century, which is much more fun. It also allows him to pretend that travelling in the Far East and South America is research. Tom lives in London. His main interest is avoiding doing any honest work and this leaves him with time to ski, skate and dance tango, all of which he does quite well.
Burke in the Land of Silver
James Burke, was a real person who lied and spied for Britain during the Napoleonic Wars. There's skulduggery and battles and beautiful women. Swashes are buckled and bodices ripped as Burke fights and intrigues his way from the jungles of Haiti, through the court of the Spanish king, to a bloody climax in Buenos Aires. James Bond meets Richard Sharpe in a tale that is rooted surprisingly firmly in historical fact.
You can find out more about Tom and his books on his blog at http://thewhiterajah.blogspot.co.uk/
Thanks for dropping by to tell us about your travels and your books, Tom.