Interview with Darius Stransky   Leave a comment

Darius StranskyThis week’s interview is with Darius Stransky, who wrote a fascinating historical thriller, “The King’s Jew”.


Tell us something about yourself. Born in North-west England after the war (no not the first one!!) Half Irish and half English gypsy. I’m not old nor am I young and have still to decide just what I will do when I grow up! Let’s just say I’m over fifty but my head tells me I’m nineteen! Had a varied career and the longest I ever worked for anybody is me (apart from the army that is – but we won’t go into that!). I have made a living from writing for many years. Freelance journo, columnist for major titles in the UK and the States. Thought of being a missionary priest in my youth but got chucked out of the seminary for hoarding bottles of Guinness. One thing that episode gave me was a great education in Latin and French and good knowledge of apologetics, theology and philosophy – been a bit of a philosopher ever since.


What are you major writing influences?

If I tell you I have a catholic taste in literature it’s not because of the incident mentioned above. I remember reading John Buchan and RL Stevenson as a nine-year old. I think that grounded me in the art of storytelling. The first work I ever read in French was Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Then I read his other works and appreciated the depths of a story. John Fowles played a  huge part in my life and I still return to his works, especially The Magus (me and John got drunk a few times together in the past but now he’s gone and I don’t drink much nowadays). Cormac McCarthy is one of my favourite writers – sparse, tense not a word or syllable wasted. I must mention Hilary Mantel here as a fellow writer of historical faction (that’s not a typo by the way).


I’m going to drop you off in a remote Alaskan cabin for a couple of weeks. It’s summer, so you don’t have to worry about freezing. I’m providing the food and the bug spray (an Alaskan necessity). What do you spend your time doing and, if you bring any, what books would you want along?

Sounds interesting. I have a request here – can I have a radio please? Can’t live without a radio and some good dramas and plays to dwell in. Not bothered about the news as I now realise that there is nothing I can do or say to change events so I’ll let the politicians get on with apportioning the world for their own ends and I will live for a while in a book. Any book. I’d have to bring along William Shakespeare and some good biographies though. A few Russian writers, Tolstoy, Chekov ETC and The Little Prince of course. I’d need pencil and paper also – if I couldn’t write I’d probably throw myself on the mercy of those bears you have up there. Oh and tea – lots of tea. Forget the coffee just some lovely tea.



What is something you cannot live without?

Love I suppose and peace and quiet. Books obviously and maybe my eyesight. I’d hate to lose that.



The King’s Jew is a historical with elements of intrigue. What sort of research went into writing it?

Three years of my life. Three amazing knowledge seeking years. I almost turned into the famous medieval Questing Beast in my search for knowledge. A long journey and a fruitful one. I reckon I could enter a quiz show and take as my chosen subject “Thirteenth century England with special reference to Edward the first”. We writers would never have been able to amass such background without the web and all its little intricacies. I read avidly as well, anything I could get my hands on but it’s the ancient pipe rolls and court records that enable one such as me to get to the nub of the affair.


Now, you and I share something as writers – your character Lord Cristian insisted upon telling you his tale. That’s how all my books start. Talk about that experience.

Ah!! Lord Cristian Gilleson my nemesis! Thirteenth century England was when the Jews were ordered from the land (1290 to be exact). My studies brought home to me just how badly treated the Jewish race were at the time – I have to be careful here or I give away the plot. Suffice to say that I was pondering on the fact that you never hear a ‘Jewish voice’ from those times. Oh the Rabbis and scholars are quoted but not the individuals who bore the brunt of the King’s wrath. So I needed a ‘voice’ and that’s when Cristian arrived and thus I could combine a number of threads into one and away we went on his fantastic journey at the side of King Edward. I must stress here that “The King’s Jew” is NOT just about Jews. It is a tale of a man who walks a fine line between two religions and his struggle to stay alive in a world of bigotry and superstition. He also attempts to sway the will of a King but ….. Well you’ll have to read it to find out.


Darius Stransky King's Jew CoverThe title suggests this will be a series. What are your literary plans for the future?

Correct. Book One is selling very well and has had some great reviews. Book Two will be published in May this year and the final book in September. That’s a total of 1,700 + pages of blood sweat and tears – not from me I hasten to add but from the characters in the novels. It’s their story, they actually lived it. Each date and place in the books is real and verifiable as are most of the protagonists. So what do I do after that? How about a cruise for six months? Sounds good to me but guess what? I couldn’t leave the writing alone for that long so my next project will be a modern novel – well modern to me – set in Ireland covering the years 1920 to 2016. I’m looking forward to that and the research is mostly done.


Anything else you would like to discuss.

Yes. The parlous state of the publishing industry. It seems to be run by non-writers chasing a fast buck and jumping on the nearest and easiest bandwagon that drives into sight. It sickens me to see so much good writing being ignored. Do I feel like that because I self-published my work? No I don’t. It’s because I am in control, my percentages are higher and I can change things whenever I – or my readers – want to (price, cover, dedications ETC).

Oh one more thing if I may? Thanks. Yes that’s it – a big thank you to the people in North America, China, Israel, Europe and all over the world who have bought my book and supported me with their comments and kind words. A writer is nothing without a reader. Too many writers forget that little adage.

Lord Cristian Gilleson just reminded me of another thing. You ready for this? The hardest part of writing a novel based in the thirteenth century is getting the dialogue right. Sometimes Cristian would give me a metaphorical kick on the shins when I wrote something too modern. In any historical faction (not a typo) the characters will raise merry hell when they are forced to speak a phrase or word they have never come across or a moral or social dilemma that never existed in their world or society. Will that be alright Lord Cristian? He said yes and thanks you Lelah for allowing him to mention it.


Links – Amazon






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