The Writing Life of: Roland Ladley
This week I am thrilled to be interviewing author Roland Ladley. Roland will be sharing with us details of his writing life, telling us all about his latest book ‘On The Back Foot To Hell‘, which was released on 31st July 2019 and answering a few fun questions too. This post contains affiliate links.
Roland Ladley’s ‘flawed but resolute’ protagonist, Sam Green, has been compared to a female Jack Reacher – ‘only more edgy and much more prone to tears.’ His second spy thriller in the Sam Green series, Fuelling the Fire, won a publishing contract with Kindle Scout and went on to become a best-seller in its genre. His other four books, Unsuspecting Hero, The Innocence of Trust, For Good Men To Do Nothing and On The Back Foot To Hell are equally well reviewed in both the UK and the US.
To bring realism to his writing Roland Ladley draws upon twenty-five years military service, including complex tours of Bosnia, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone. Subsequent work as a teacher helps him to communicate lucidly to a wide audience, and two grown-up daughters ensures he can laugh at himself and find comic moments in his writing when the tension is at its greatest.
Now a full time writer Roland Ladley is based in Bristol, UK, he lives an itinerant lifestyle with his wife in their motorhome, posting a travel/writing blog and marketing his five Sam Green novels. With the books’ cinematic style the first, Unsuspecting Hero, has been turned into a mini-series screenplay and is being considered by a well-known British director.
His sixth book in the series is underway. It should be available in the summer of 2020.
1) As a child did you have a dream job in mind?
I wanted to be an airline pilot, but my eyesight wasn’t up to it. In the end I joined the British Army (for 25 years) which I loved.
2) Who was your favourite childhood author (s)?
I wasn’t a great childhood reader – too busy getting muddy knees. I really got into reading with the early Tom Clancy novels (Red Storm Rising, etc) and Wilbur Smith. Escapism for me was key … but realism was essential. Early Clancy is a master here.
3) Was there a particular point in your life that you realised you wanted to be a writer?
Good question! After the military I became a math(s) teacher. But throughout I had written bits and pieces – always military or spy based, but never completed anything. I hate using cliches, but I guess I always thought ‘I had a good story in me’. I started in earnest in my early 50s when I semi-retired and found the time – as a man, I am definitely ‘single-issue’, and couldn’t hold down a job and write! I take my hat off to the thousands of writers our their who manage both. Bravo!
4) What is your average writing day like? Do you have any special routines, word count, etc?
Activity in the morning (walking, running, cycling, chores), write after lunch. I try and push out between 1,000 and 2,000 words a day. I then ‘trash-edit’ before I go to bed … and re-trash edit first thing in the morning. Then repeat.
When I left the school were I was a teacher, my wife and I sold pretty much everything and we moved into an RV/motorhome. We lived in the MH, travelling around Europe, for 5 years. We have now ‘gone firm’ in Bristol, UK, but I do my best writing in the motorhome.
5) How many books have you written? Any unpublished work?
Five novels – an ongoing series. One short story and a number of articles. I have just finished rewriting book one in the series, and by the time this is published I will have started book six. One book = one year. That’s the schedule! Oh, and I have penned a four, one-hour episode screenplay for book one. I was asked to do this by a British director. It has been fully edited, but so far no takers.
6) Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Panster. That’s not true. I am the biggest panster. I write spy-thrillers. If I’m not surprised by what happens next, how can I expect my readers to be? My characters have their own minds and woe betide me if I tell them what to do. It makes for interesting writing …
Concerning your latest book:
Sam Green Thriller Book Five
Pages – 623
Release Date – 31st July 2019
ISBN 13 – 978-1082204784
Format – ebook, paperback
A new, undefined terror is spreading across the globe. Indiscriminate, low-level acts of violence have hit all five continents – and it’s getting worse. The world’s security services are at a loss. Who is behind the upsurge in violence? Where will the next attack take place? Will it ever stop?
Sam Green, now a lowly supermarket till girl in a small town in England, is oblivious to world events. She has her own inner demons to fight and they’re consuming her every spare moment. All too soon those demons will take on human form. And then she will be faced with two choices: run or fight.
In Naples, Italy, a young Welsh student is innocently researching a link between The Mafia and the history of art. And two thousand miles away in Moscow, Russian intelligence services are struggling to contain a new terror cell that threatens nuclear catastrophe. Are all these things connected? If so, can someone force order from chaos? Sam has managed before. But now there are too many obstacles, the biggest of which are those plaguing her own mind.
This time the world might just have to rely on someone else.
7) How did you go about researching the content for your book?
I always start with a conspiracy and, as a result, the antagonist. A lot of my conspiracy research comes from my own experience in the military … mix in a bit of reading … and mix in some watching of films and series. For actual detail I try not to write about places I haven’t been to, so I do travel (ie to SE Asia for the latest book) and then it’s the internet for the real detail. I also take advice from experts (I know a couple of ‘spies’!) and when I find interesting people, they or their experiences may end up in the plot line somewhere. Oh, and I often have seen something, or been somewhere, and think … yes, that would be fab to include in the plot. So it’s a mixture.
8) How long did it take to go from ideas stage to writing the last word?
I give myself the summer to think through the generality and then I start writing in the fall/autumn. The ambition is to have a first draft by Christmas day.
9) How did you come up with the title of your book?
About halfway through my wife and I start thinking about likely titles. For me they cannot be repeat titles of another book. And then I try desperately hard to get the title into the manuscript somewhere. That’s often fun!
10) Can you give us an insight into your characters?
Oh, goodness. Sam Green (female). Ex military intelligence sergeant medically discharged from injuries sustained in Afghanistan. She’s it. Described by one reviewer as ‘a female Jack Reacher, but more edgy and much more prone to tears’. She gets caught up in a West African conspiracy in book one, is employed by the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service in book 2 and 3, is sacked in book 4 … so for that book and book 5 she’s on her own. Sam is on the autistic spectrum (which makes her slightly savant – as a teacher I worked with a number of children ‘on the spectrum’) and is suffering from PTSD. She’s complex, but focused. Wily, but breakable. She doesn’t solve things on her own – she always gets help along the way. She is, so people tell me, lovable, if slightly odd. (I love her!)
Other characters are ones she meets along the way. There are two members of SIS who stay with her pretty much throughout. The antagonists also move through the series, with one or two not surviving the book, and a couple more joining the fray.
11) What process did you go through to get your book published?
Book one (Unsuspecting Hero) was self-published (I tried the traditional route). Book two (Fuelling the Fire) won a Kindle Scout contract and is still owned by Amazon. Book three (The Innocence of Trust) was self-published. As were book four (For Good Men To Do Nothing) and five (On The Back Foot To Hell). I self-edit with beta readers, I read aloud to my wife – which works really well – and I employ a professional proofreader. I do the covers myself … and, although I hate it, the typesetting.
12) What’s next for you writing wise?
Book six in the series (No Name). The tricky thing is keeping the series timeline accurate. I’m determined that Sam will get older as the books progress. As she loses her physicality, she’ll gain other attributes. By book fifteen I can see her a bit like Miss Marple …
1) If you could have any super power for the day which would you choose?
I’d be able to cure mental health issues at a glance. Thankfully, I’m currently fine, but our younger daughter has not been well since her teenage years. I’d like to be able to solve that.
2) Do you have any pets?
What, with all these characters in my head? Too much travelling to be fair on them.
3) If you decided to write an autobiography of your life, what would you call it?
Creative writing: the clue’s in the title.
4) Your book has been made into a feature film and you’ve been offered a cameo role, which part would you choose, or what would you be doing?
Definitely Freddie … yes, Freddie. He’s the main antagonist in On The Backfoot To Hell. Think The Mask meets Blofeld. I could really do that.
5) Where is your favourite holiday destination?
Serious answer: anywhere our motorhome takes us. Seaside is good, but so are mountains.
6) A baseball cap wearing, talking duck casually wanders into your room, what is the first thing he says to you?
‘Is this your hat?’
I would like to say a big thank you to Roland Ladley for sharing with us details of his writing life and for a wonderful interview.