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Rory Clements is a British author of historical thrillers. He won the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Award in 2010 for his novel Revenger and the CWA Historical Dagger in 2018 for Nucleus.

His latest novel A Prince and a Spy was published on September 7th.

It’s his first novel to be published in America, but it’s the fifth book in his Tom Wilde series.

I had a great chat with Rory about the amount of research he puts into his historical thrillers. How he balances incorporating real historical characters like FDR, Winston Churchill and Prince George into a work of fiction, and a lot more.

Connect with Rory Clements

Rory Clements Latest Book

Other Books by Rory Clements

Tom Wilde Series
John Shakespeare Series

Show Notes and Resources

Auhtor influences: Ian Fleming. WIlliam Goldman.

Transcript

Note: I use an automated transciption program, not a human with only a light edit. So some parts might read choppy.

Alan Petersen
You are listening to MEET THE THRILLER AUTHOR, the podcast where I interview writers of mysteries, thrillers and suspense books. I am your host, Alan Petersen, and this is episode number 171. In this episode of the podcast will be meeting Rory Clements, who is a British author of historical thrillers. He won the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Award in 2010 for his novel Revenge and the CWA Historical Dagger in 2018 for Nucleus. His latest novel, A Prince and a Spy, was published on September 7. It’s his first novel to be published here in America, but it’s the fifth book in his Tom Wilde series. He lives in Dover, England, and I had a great chat with Rory about the amount of research he puts into his historical thrillers, how he balances incorporating real historical characters like Winston Churchill and Prince George into a work fiction and a whole lot more.

Speaker 1
So check out that interview coming up here in just a moment. But before we get to it, I want to let you know about this episode sponsor, which is Master Class. If you’re not familiar. Master Class is a streaming platform that makes it possible for anyone to learn from the very best. It’s accessible on your phone, web, Apple TV, Roku Devices, Amazon Fire TV I like to watch the courses on my Samsung Smart TV in that crisp four KHD and also on my phone whenever I’m out and about and I have some downtime.

Speaker 1
They’re really fantastic. And for fans of thrillers readers, and especially for you aspiring thriller writers out there and the experienced ones, too. Check out the classes from Dan Brown, James Patterson, David Baldacci and Walter. Mostly they’re fantastic, so you can check it out at THRILLINGREADS.COM/MASTERCLASS All right. Here is my interview with Rory Clemente.

Welcome to the podcast, Rory.

Rory Clements
Thank you very much.

Alan Petersen
Can you tell us a little bit about your background, please?

Rory Clements
My background. I was in newspapers for quite a while, national newspapers in Great Britain, in London. But I was always writing in my spare time, not getting anywhere with it. But then, you know, we left London. We came up to the Wilds of Norfolk, not Norfolk, Virginia, Norfolk in England, and we had two young kids and we wanted them to school outside the city. I had to earn a living and I got down to the writing seriously. And it’s a very different thing when you write full time to when you write in your spare time while do another full time job.

Speaker 2
And I was very lucky. I took off immediately. I managed to get an agent very quickly. I got a publisher very quickly, and the last 1214 years made a decent enough living writing thrillers, the first series of two to three, setting later his bath in Times. More recently, I turn my hand to the 1930s and 1940s within a hero called Tom Wild, who’s a history professor at Cambridge University in England. And he happens to be American.

Alan Petersen
And were you interested in historical thrillers that way, when you’re trying to figure out what to write? Is that why you chose to write these historical type thrillers?

Rory Clements
I’ve always been interested in thrillers, particularly. I mean, not just historical thrillers, all thriller. I just love thrillers. I just go back to Inflaming and William Goldman on all the great thriller writers. I just think that’s the way to go. I guess you feel much the same as you run this podcast.

Alan Petersen
Yeah. Absolutely. Since I was a little kid. I always love thrillers.

Rory Clements
Yeah. Me too.

Alan Petersen
Despite being the fifth book in the Tom Wilde series, but it’s the first book that’s been published here in the States. In America, right?

Rory Clements
Yeah. Yeah. I’m delighted to that. I think it has a very strong American element. And one thing because the Prince involved was Duke of Kemp. In short, he was the King’s brother, and he died in a plane crash in 1942 in the middle of a war. Now he was really good friends with Roosevelt, and in fact, he just had a son, a couple of us before he died. And Roosevelt was godfather to the child. He’s still alive today.

Alan Petersen
I was curious about your impressions with the publishing business in the UK compared to America. Is it the same similar. Different.

Rory Clements
Well, I’ll be very pleased with the way my American publishers pages have been working. I must say, I think they’ve done a fantastic looking cover. It’s very different to the British cover. I mean, I like the British cover very much. I also very much like the very different tact that the paces have taken. Yeah. They seem very proactive. I think I’m very pleased. Yeah.

Alan Petersen
They sent me an advanced copy. So I’ve been enjoying reading this and yeah, the coverage is very nice. And I remember I did look at your website when I was preparing for this and notice that that your other books have different coverage in the UK. And I remember Michael Connelly always has different books. It’s kind of interesting that even though it’s the same book, but they use different coverage depending on the country. I didn’t realize that was something that the publishers did, but it’s fascinating to see that part of the business.

Rory Clements
I mean, I guess they know that market.

Alan Petersen
Yeah. The experts, right. So can you tell us a little bit then, about how did the Wilde series started? Can you tell us about that process?

Rory Clements
Well, as I said, I’ve written six, seven of my Tudor thrillers and, you know, you need a break sometimes, and I might go at those one day, but I really love doing that. And I was just chatting one day with my agent and my editor and they both saw it wouldn’t have been a bad idea for me to have a go at something else. And I always have the back of my mind that I really like to do for a serious set around the World War Two.

Speaker 2
And they went for it. And I was lucky it took off. And I won an award for it and been in the top ten in the Sunday Times.

Alan Petersen
It’s a fascinating time the whole World War Two. And your book has the OSS and Intelligent Service in the UK is so fascinating.

Rory Clements
But it is very important, of course, the OSS in the UK. And in 1942, it was just beginning. But by the end of the war and the whole place in Graves Street was absolutely packed out with great people, men, women. They did great work. They they infiltrated deep into the heart of Europe, and there’s some very, very impressive people among them. And some people say, why is my here in America? There is a very specific reason for that. He’s a history professor at Cambridge University. Now that he came to University at that time is a bit different to the way it is now.

Speaker 2
One thing is, there were no women. It was all boys. There were a couple of women’s colleges, but they were separate. They didn’t even get degrees, but they were also all from the upper middle classes, private schools. And they just sort of got there places there. Grayson Favor, I wanted somebody who is an outsider who look at that sort of Brideshead Revisited world with a sort of Ri. I somebody I just think some of this amusing, maybe as an American to be an outsider. And I had a couple of famous American intelligent people, terrorists, people in mind who had strong links with Britain in mind when I came up with my protagonist, Tom Wild.

Alan Petersen
Yeah, it’s so fascinating, too, because so much of the US, like the CIA, and they learned that the OSS was a predecessor, and they learned that from the British Intelligence and our Delta Force and embers from the SAS over there in the UK. So a lot of the stuff that we have here, we learned it from you guys.

Rory Clements
Well, I think they had to in the first place. I mean, the SS when it started up, were actually trained by the British secret services, but they very, very quickly came up and got their act together and made their own way in the world. They were remarkable people.

Alan Petersen
Yeah. I don’t want to give out any spoilers or anything here, but he discussed a little bit about because there’s a theory on this book on a theory that is, George was murdered in that plane crash. Was that something that came up from your story, or is that a conspiracy theory that’s been around for a while?

Rory Clements
There have been many conspiracy theories about the death of Prince George over the years, some of them a bit silly, one involving the idea that Rudolf Has Hitter’s deputy, was a passenger in the plane, and then he was replaced with a dummy to go to the Nuremberg trials later. I mean, that sounds preposterous to me, but at the same time, there was something very, very strange about the plane crash. I’ve been up there and it’s not a high mountain. It was cashed into a Hill about 600ft high, and it had plenty of time to gain heights.

Speaker 2
This plane it had left in the Invergordon Air Base, supposedly on route to Iceland, been in play in her about half an hour, had plenty of time to gain 10,000ft, probably. And there was actually nothing wrong with the plane. The engines were perfectly working order. There were top pilots on board for Instore himself was a pilot. Why did it crash into this whole side? Very little was made of the whole events at the time. That was said to be because the British or family didn’t want anyone in Britain to think that their loss was any greater than anyone else’s.

Speaker 2
Of course, this is at a time when Britain was being bombed and fighting and people being killed in the war. And I can understand that. But at the same time, I couldn’t understand why the plane crashed and why with these important people just on this supposedly innocuous trip to Iceland to visit the troops. There are things that don’t add up. And I came up with a theory which I thought was feasible, what they were really doing, and I wouldn’t give it away. But I think it works with what really happened.

Alan Petersen
Is that how it works when you’re coming up with the idea for your books, you take something that really happened and then you go from there. I’m kind of curious about your system. Do you outline these? Do you spend a lot of time researching this before you start writing them?

Rory Clements
I do a lot of research, but it’s a very good question about real events. Yes, I do. Look at real events, and I look at them. I look at with my newspaper man’s eye. After many years in newspapers, I have a good eye for a story, and I also have a good what might really have happened. I’m always thinking what’s really going on there behind the scenes, because they often things aren’t what they seem to be on the surface. And that’s what I do. They’re very much.

Speaker 2
What if books, secret histories. I’m not doing a complete counterfactual story. If the story where the Nazis won the war and to like the man in the tower, I’m not doing that good thing. I’m saying this thing could have happened and be part of history, but we just haven’t discovered it yet. Do you understand the difference?

Alan Petersen
Yep. Absolutely. Yeah. We call it the speculative versus. This is more granted on the actual history of the actual history.

Rory Clements
I’m not changing it. I’m saying, what if this happened?

Alan Petersen
Yeah, and I enjoy that more as a reader then even like the movies like that High Tower One or that Quinten Tarantino and Inglourious Basterds, but they’re fun to watch, but it’s just so weird. It’s like, well, that didn’t really happen.

Rory Clements
What did you think about one up at a time in Hollywood? Have you seen that here?

Alan Petersen
Yeah, I did. I was surprised when that happened. I shouldn’t have been, but I didn’t see it going that way. And then it was just like, what is going on?

Rory Clements
I have to say, I always enjoy his films.

Alan Petersen
Oh, I do, too. Yeah, he’s one of my favorites, but, yeah, that was kind of crazy. I’m like, oh, he’s doing a Inglourious Basterds here. Yeah, well, I guess it’s fun to get your revenge to mow down Hitler in the movie theater like he did in that movie.

Rory Clements
Exactly.

Alan Petersen
For the Listers are unfamiliar with your books. Can you just tell us what can they expect from the reading one of your novels?

Rory Clements
That is a really difficult question. Hopefully they are an easy read. Well, research read. I hope you won’t find many errors of history in there. You will meet people who are real people and you’ll meet people who are fictional, and hopefully they all work together. And hopefully I always try and get a really good ending to my books. I’m not one of those. I get so annoyed if I’m watching a TV series, like an eight part TV series and I get the end of it. And it’s a disappointing ending in did I really wait 8 hours of my life on that story?

Speaker 2
So I want to make sure that any readers of my book, they will really be thrilled by the end of it because I’ve worked it out beforehand. I know where I’m going. I’m not just leaving it to the last minute to see what happens. Yeah, that’s for other people to decide whether I make it work or not. That’s what I’m trying to do.

Alan Petersen
Yeah. And then I was also wanting to because like you mentioned, you have historical figures in there, like FDR and fictional. That How’s that balancing that when you’re writing that is that you don’t worry about that or do you worry that you don’t worry about that.

Rory Clements
Historical fiction goes back to Shakespeare probably goes on before that probably goes back to the Odyssey and the Eliot. You know, Shakespeare when he had his Henrie fit. There are real people in there and there invented people and he invented all the language. People didn’t say all those things in Shakespeare’s as she posed. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not comparing myself to Shakespeare. I’m just talking about what historical fiction does. It takes real events and it gives often historical events are a skeletal skeletons and you’re adding flesh to them.

Speaker 2
You’re trying to say this is what could have happened. You’re not pretending to be a historian saying this did happen. You’re saying this is what could have happened and making sense of sometimes very sketchy historical events.

Alan Petersen
So this is the fifth book in the series. How’s that going? You are going to be any more books in the series coming out.

Rory Clements
I’ve got one finished it’s at the editing stage now it should hope to be coming out in England in January. I hope Vegas is pick it up and bring it out. We’ll have to see that’s up to them. But I’m very pleased with the next one, and I’m very pleased with this one. Actually, I think this is certainly the best I’ve done. I’m really thrilled with it. When I finished it, I thought it was. I thought it’s quite a if you know, that if you read it.

Speaker 2
Alan, you’ll see, there is also the early indications of the Holocaust in there, which was inspired by the attempts by a couple of real life characters who don’t appear in the book. But, you know, in 1942, we’re trying to get out word of the Holocaust. They saw it happening, the death camps in Poland long before the rest of the world knew about it. I said to me, that’s an important element of the story.

Alan Petersen
Yeah, I find that fascinating. When I was reading it, too. I actually Googled them because they’re really a real person. And sure enough, the Mueller, I believe that was his name. Yeah, it’s just fascinating how you tie everything in like that together into a story. It’s pretty big topics. Of course, I’m pretty dark subject matters, but it was an entertaining read. I’ve always been Fantas spy thriller, so I think even if someone just enjoys a good spy thriller, they’re going to enjoy this book. I was also curious with your writing process because I always ask this because I have spring writers that are listening to this podcast. What are you, the tools of your trade? Do you use just word or some other type of software program?

Rory Clements
I work on Apple, so I use pages. I work very unsociable house. I work very late at night. I work from about midnight at three or four in the morning. I set myself a thousand words a day, and that’s why I work so late because it comes to midnight and I haven’t done my work. So I just stay there and I stay there and I stay there until it’s finished. And I sort of now got into this bad habit of staying up really, really late into the night. And then I get up about 10, 30, 11:00 in the morning.

Speaker 2
I go through what I’ve done, have some breakfast and coffee, and then hopefully in the afternoon I play tennis. I try and do that two or three, maybe four times a week. In fact, after I talk to you now tending to go out the evening free game. A bit of an addict for tennis. And I also watch it a lot as well, which can interfere with my work late at night, especially when something like the North American events are on soon snappy at the moment. A Flushing Meadows coming up soon.

Alan Petersen
Yeah. Yeah. The time difference. So, yeah, it’s going to be messing with your work. What time is it over there now? Like 06:00 or so the six of thought.

Yeah. So your rally day hasn’t even started yet.

Rory Clements
It hasn’t started yet. Well, but my editing day started. I go to what I’ve done, and I do a lot of reading because there’s a massive amount of research in the books I write and there will be people to pick me up. I when I get things wrong once or twice, I’ve got had problems with weaponry because I don’t have guns. And once I think I had a Smith and Western ejecting a cartridge. And I was told later that particular model did not reject a cartridge. Or I’m sorry about that. I fixed it for the paperback that was in half that.

Alan Petersen
Well. Yeah. Especially not only dealing with, like, you’re dealing with older weaponry, too, which makes it even harder to if you could get a hold of it, it’d be kind of hard to get a hold of, I think of 1940 or 30 revolver or pistol.

Speaker 2
Yeah.

Alan Petersen
And so as a night, I really like to hearing that about your hours, I will say, because everybody interview there obvious saying like, oh, I wake up at five in the morning. You’re just going to better five in the morning. I like that.

Rory Clements
Yeah. Are you a night hour as well?

Alan Petersen
Yeah, I am.

Rory Clements
It’s quite a nice sort of wondering out to bed. And finally it’s actually daylight. Great to bed, isn’t it?

Alan Petersen
Yeah. Everything is quiet and there’s less distractions, and it is nice and quite.

Speaker 1
So I was also wondering, too, with this crazy year that keeps on giving this pandemic year. Plus now how that affected all your writing process.

Rory Clements
I’d be very lucky. We live in the countryside in old farm house, and there are lots of fantastic walks around here. I mean, the only difference it made to me was that I couldn’t see people I wanted to see and I couldn’t play tennis. I don’t know why they banned tennis, but they ban tennis. So I just said I went for a five mile walk every day and can we work? And it now seems to be opening up eating. But I don’t know how it is in America, but it’s opening up here.

Speaker 2
Funny enough, my daughter is 20. She’s just got coded, but she seems to be doing pretty well with it. She’s in London in her apartment, so I don’t know she’s seen. I really see it on face time, but she seems right.

Alan Petersen
Yeah, that’s good. Yeah. It seems like it’s affecting the younger people now, this new variant or whatever, but hopefully since they’re younger, it doesn’t hit them as hard. So it doesn’t seem to Serhat’s a positive outlet. I guess. I don’t know the way it’s going. It looks like everyone’s going to be getting some sort of variation of it. So who knows?

Rory Clements
I guess. Well, yeah. We all end up either Jab or had it. I guess I should be swimming with antibodies.

Alan Petersen
Yeah, exactly. All right. Aspiring. This is the one question I always ask before I I wrap things up again for the spring writers. Any advice out there? Especially if they’re interested in perhaps writing a historical thriller like you do.

Rory Clements
The obvious thing is you have to do your research. You have to do your research. To the extent that you don’t have to think about what’s happening, you have to feel that you’re there in that time. You have to be so immersed in the time. Otherwise, you have to have far more research than you actually need, so you can discard a lot of the research. You’re not trying to fill it in. It should just feel natural. That’s what I’m saying. Obviously, you have a problem with getting the right voices.

Speaker 2
Publishers always call it to your peers. If you’re in to about 60 century, like I did, you have to talk in a language that doesn’t seem quaint and Shakespeare, and because your readers would get lost. And also those people were not quaint. The people there are tough people who went around the world in ships that just basically wooden tubs and the and then again, for the 20 century, their language is very familiar in the 1930s, actually, they also talked in very different ways to the way we did and not just in this country, in Britain, but in America.

Speaker 2
To a short. The same is true was there was casual racism and there was casual sexism, which it was familiar then, but it would be wrong to have it. Now. I remember some of my grandparents talking the way they talked. It was appalling, actually, some of the time, but it was just what they were brought up with us. You see what I’m getting at?

Alan Petersen
Yeah. Especially the last ten years, not even the 510 years last two to five years. The changes have been monumental from when I was growing up.

Rory Clements
But at the same time, you can’t avoid the fact that they were like that in those times, because if you’re dealing with Nazis, I mean, they weren’t just casually racist. I mean, there it was a state, state run necessity for them that people had to go along with it or they were done for. So you have to sort of accept the way people existed then and spoke. But you have to write it for a modern audience and respect the modern audience. And actually the modern audience is right. And they were wrong to tell the truth.

Alan Petersen
Yeah, that is fascinating. It’s interesting. I never thought about that. That is a very difficult balance for you or for historical writers. I mean, you want to be true to the era, but you also don’t want to offend everybody. That’s really good now in the 21st century.

Rory Clements
Yeah, they were wrong in that time, in fact, is brought up at a time when Britain still had the vestiges of an Empire. And I said long arguments with my mother about it because she sort of came from that Empire background. She’s born out in Malaya. Her mother was born in India as part of the Empire. And I had long arguments with my mother about how awful the Empire actually was to them. They thought it was the greatest thing in the world.

Alan Petersen
So work in the US. Find you online on your website. I was checking out your website. You have a great looking website.

Rory Clements
Thank you very much. It’s very kind to say so. Yeah.

Alan Petersen
What was just your name? Roy Clements, co. Uk we didn’t we? Yeah. You can find information there. And Roy, thank you so much for being on the podcast. I really enjoy talking with you.

Rory Clements
Thank you, Alan.

About the Author
I write thriller and crime fiction novels and host the Meet the Thriller Author podcast where I interview authors of mystery, thriller, and suspense books.

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