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David Gilman: On the Accuracy of Historical Fiction

Award-winning author and screenwriter David Gilman discusses the joys and challenges of writing the seventh book in his Master of War series, Shadow of the Hawk.

David Gilman enjoyed many careers—including firefighter, paratrooper, and photographer—before turning to writing full time. He is an award-winning author and screenwriter.

David Gilman

David Gilman

In this post, Gilman discusses the joys and challenges of writing the seventh book in his Master of War series, Shadow of the Hawk, why your publishing team is important, and more!


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Name: David Gilman
Literary agent: Isobel Dixon
Title: Shadow of the Hawk
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Release date: April 1, 2021
Genre: Historical Fiction
Elevator pitch for the book: The English King’s Master of War and his small group of men are sent to rescue the Spanish King under threat from an overwhelming force. They shelter and protect a child who is the only living witness to the young Spanish queen’s killer.
Previous titles by the author:

  • Cross of Fire
  • Scourge of Wolves
  • Viper’s Blood
  • Gate of the Dead
  • Defiant unto Death
  • Master of War
  • The Englishman
  • Night Flight to Paris
  • The Last Horseman
  • The Devil’s Breath
  • Ice Claw
  • Blood Sun
  • Monkey and Me
Shadow of the Hawk (Master of War Book 7) by David Gilman

Shadow of the Hawk (Master of War Book 7) by David Gilman

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What prompted you to write this book?

It is the seventh book in the Master of War series and follows historically from the earlier novels. It covers a wider geographical range than in previous books—which tended to be based in France or Italy. Now, my protagonist, Thomas Blackstone, fights and travels from Brittany in France down through Aquitaine and into Spain.

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How long did it take to go from idea to publication?

The idea changes all the time because I don’t know where the story is going. It unfolds as I write. I want to be as surprised as my readers. The process usually takes about 9 months to write as I spend a great deal of time researching and rewriting. Then it’s another three months or so until publication. The books are contracted to be delivered by a certain date which enables the publisher to read and then pass on to my editor. So timing and delivery are crucial. A lot of people behind the scenes work to schedule the annual publication date. You can’t be late!

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

None at all. I have worked with this publisher for 10 years and they have published all my work except for the Young Adult titles and my children’s book (Monkey and Me) because at the time they did not handle those genres. Once you are with a publisher, you are part of a team, but as I have said elsewhere, it’s the author’s responsibility to deliver the manuscript on time. Your book is on a production schedule, the advance publicity is in place for in-house magazines and the editors and staff have you slotted in.

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Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

No surprises as such, but always learning more about the historical period and the people involved. As has often been said—history depends on who writes it. It was interesting to discover that King Pedro 1 of Castile and Leon had made a pact with the Muslim Emirate of Grenada, south of his kingdom. By doing so he was excommunicated by the Pope. And the architecture of his beloved palace in Seville was very much Moorish in design. Complex characters, as unpleasant as they may be make for interesting storytelling. Pedro the Cruel did not disappoint.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

I hope my readers will be drawn into the historical era I attempt to create as seen through the eyes of a common man elevated to knighthood. And if I can involve them in the trials and tribulations of my characters then that enriches their reading experience.

David Gilman: On the Accuracy of Historical Fiction

If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?

Listen to your inner voice. Banish the fear of the blank page. Don’t get bogged down—get going. That first thought and desire about telling a story is the best thing to cling to. And don’t join or discuss with others any sense of ongoing failure. That only feeds the negative. It’s your story. No one can take that away from you. What a gift to be able to share.

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