18 March, 2013

#Author Interview: Bob Atkinson, Author of The Last Sunset

I was born and raised in Fort William, in the Scottish Highlands. At the age of seventeen the age old curse of the Highlands, lack of work and opportunity, led me to follow the same military path taken by many of my predecessors.
While serving with the army in Northern Ireland I met my future wife; the lovely and diminutive Ruby, inspiration for at least one of the female characters in The Last Sunset.
After leaving the army I moved to Belfast, where together Ruby and I lived through many of the worst years of the Troubles.
Eventually, very much the worse for wear, we brought our young family of three home to the Highlands.
The lochs, hills and glens are like balm to the soul, and have inspired storytellers for as long as people have lived in these glens.
The Last Sunset is simply the latest in a long line of tales inspired by this ancient land.
Connect with him on Facebook or Twitter or his Greyhart Press Bio Page

What was the inspiration for the book?
I was inspired to write this book by His Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland. His army brought such mayhem and slaughter to The Highlands that the effects are still felt to this day. Thirty years after Culloden, Dr Samuel Johnson toured the area. What he saw inspired him to quote the Roman biographer Tacitus: "They have created a desert and have called it peace".
I live in an area that is not only stunningly beautiful, but is also incredibly rich in history. Within a twenty mile radius of Fort William lie five historical battlefields. On many hilltops can be found the ruins of ancient forts that were built before the time of Christ.
Inhabited for thousands of years, many of the glens lie empty now, cleared of people during the evictions of the 19th century. The past continues to scar this land. There are glens within a few miles of Fort William where a person can walk all day without seeing another living soul. Once well populated, these places have long been left to the wind and heather.
The past hangs heavy here, and occasionally - just occasionally - you can sense moments from those days. A brief scent of peat smoke in a ruined settlement. The tang of manure amidst the green swathes of a shieling that havent seen cattle in two hundred years.
I think 
The Last Sunset
 was my way of repopulating the empty glens; relighting the peat fires in the ruined houses, as it were.

Tell us a little about the book, and where its available.
The Last Sunset is a romantic, time-travel adventure set primarily during the Jacobite rebellion of 1746.
The world is dotted with places around which the wheel of history briefly turned: Stalingrad. Waterloo. Gettysburg. The skies above England in 1940. Likewise for a few months in 1745/46, the Highlands occupied one of those crossroads of history.
The story seeks to pose that great question of speculative fiction: What if?
After all, who knows what kind of world we would inhabit had events transpired differently here?

The book is available from Amazon.com., Amazon.co.UK. Smashwords, Kobo, diesel and Nook.

How old were you when you wrote your first piece?
I began writing poems and short stories while I was in the army. It was a way of alleviating the boredom, I suppose. Some of my friends would ask me to write poems for them to send to their girlfriends. It didn’t do much for my own love life at the time, unfortunately.

What was it, and in what genre?
The first piece of fiction I wrote was a horror story set in a particularly dark and foreboding forest near our camp in Osnabruck, Germany. None of the guys would go anywhere near this forest after dark. The place had such a forbidding atmosphere.
Only a few years ago I discovered that that forest was the site of a horrendous battle between the Roman Legions and local Germanic tribes.
The idea that certain places can retain a powerful imprint from former times is something that
s explored in The Last Sunset

Did it take a long time to get your book published? 
I started writing my novel in 2001, and finished the original version about a year later. Over the next few years I revisited the manuscript, cutting, pruning, gralloching. 
‘Gralloching’ is a Scottish word which means to disembowel. It’s a word that is almost onomatopoeic. You can practically hear intestines spilling onto a wet hillside. 
Finally, about two years ago, when it was pared down to its leanest form, I began sending it off to publishers and publishing agents

Do you have a "lucky charm" or "lucky routine" you follow when waiting for your book to be accepted by a publisher?
After a manuscript had been submitted, I would avoid walking under ladders. Id throw salt over my left shoulder. Help old ladies across the road. Avoid black cats. Smile at traffic wardens. Be nice to children (the little rascals) and just generally do anything to create a credit balance in the Karma account.
Somehow or other this mish mash of sycophancy and superstition paid off. 
I had the great good fortune to have my book accepted by Greyhart Press. Greyhart is an independent, up and coming publishing company, based in Bedfordshire. The company is run by Mr Tim C Taylor; himself a writer of considerable talent. 

What genre would you place your books into?
My book contains elements of time travel, nuclear catastrophe, romance, adventure, humour, and tragedy. Basically, therefore, I would place it in the Dystopian, time-travel, romantic, action adventure, tragi-comic genre. And if there isn’t such a genre, then there should be.

Does any of your personal favourite authors influence your style of writing? If yes, then who and how?
I love the work of the late great Ray Bradbury. His ideas may be a little dated now, but his writing style is crisp and economical, at the same time wonderfully expressive. Any would-be author would be well advised to invest in a collection of short stories by this brilliant writer.

Is there a personal quirk that you have given to one of your characters? If yes, then what is it and who did you give it to?
A number of the reviewers have commented on the strength and individuality of the characters. One in particular said she liked the fact that although the main female characters were diminutive they were also extremely feisty. (I’m guessing this was written by a diminutive, feisty reviewer)
Of course the female characters are based upon the women in my life, all of whom are small, but pack a hefty wallop.

Time for Top 3:
Books :                
The October Country by Ray Bradbury
Kidnapped by Robert Louis  Stevenson
The General Danced At Dawn by George Macdonald Fraser

Authors :            
John Prebble - for his books on the Highlands
Charles Dickens - for his unforgettable, multi-faceted characters
Ray Bradbury - for showing the rest of us how it should be done

Dakota Fanning
Haley Joel Osment
Robert De Niro

Artists (Music/Art) :
The Beatles - (of course)
The Eagles - The best band to come out of America.
Runrig - A Gaelic rock band who have a huge following in  Germany, Scandinavia, and of course in Scotland.

Things on your Bucket List :               
See the Great Pyramids
Visit the battlefield cemeteries of World War One.
Walk along the Great Wall of China.
Attend the Hollywood premiere of  The Last Sunset, starring Dakota Fanning & Haley Joel Osment.

What is the one thing that you wish that every reader would take away from your novels?
A number of reviewers have said they’d welcome a sequel to The Last Sunset, so that’s very gratifying. Beyond that, I would love it if people were encouraged to visit the area in which the story is set. It truly is one of the most beautiful and historically rich areas in the British isles.

Anything else that you would like to tell to the readers, both who have read and are about to pick up a copy?
Without giving too much away, the story centers on a supernatural event which is closely based upon a story told to me by an intelligent and well educated woman. One night, while camping in a lonely glen, she and her partner watched a little piece of Highland history being enacted. She told me what she saw were not ghosts, but some kind of time displacement.

About the Book

The year… 1746.
Around Fort William, the Scottish Highlanders are in revolt and the Redcoats are coming…
Suddenly… time shifts… people from different eras are dumped at this one turning point in history.
In the future, Nuclear Armageddon has caused this powerful blast through time, but why?
Can history be changed?
Or is the future doomed to witness… The Last Sunset?

Buy the Book


  1. Many thanks, Debdatta. This is one of the best blogs on the web and it really is a priviledge to be featured on it.

  2. I love that sense of the past hanging heavy.

    1. Thank you Sheila for taking the time to read and comment on the piece.