Author Interview: Kurosh Shadmand Children of Anshar

 


Hello Readers! Today is Tuesday and that means another awesome author interview. Today we are talking with KJ Shadman who writes about the ancient Assyrian civilization. Let's dive on in.

Author Bio:

KJ Shadmand is a graduate of history from the University of Oxford, and an avid fantasy, sci-fi and gamebook reader. His debut novel, Children of Anshar, was inspired by a short online course he took on ancient Assyria. KJ has several other fantasy books in progress and is due to release his second book, an adventure gamebook inspired by an H.G.Wells novel, in early 2021. A university lecturer by day and originally from Southampton, England, KJ has lived and worked in Japan, South Korea, the UK and Ireland. He enjoys hiking, traveling and practicing eastern martial arts, and currently lives in a village on the west coast of Ireland.




  

JMR- Hello KJ, welcome to the Book’s Delight. Tell us where you live? What do you  do for fun and what does the perfect day look like? 

  

KJS- Thank-you for having me! My location is a little bit complicated, as I’m moving  back to England very soon - to a little village near Romsey, Hampshire. At the  moment I’m living in a village near the west coast of Ireland, where I’ve been since  2017. It’s been a good location for writing Children of Anshar, and I’ve been able to  pick up a good deal of teaching work at a nearby university. Covid has interrupted the  day-work, sadly, so I feel that now is a good time to beat a hasty retreat back to the  UK.  

What do I do for fun? Hiking, reading and travelling, mainly! The west coast of  Ireland has been perfect for all of these things, and Romsey has plenty of green  spaces and second-hand book shops to enjoy. 

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JMR- You have a degree in English Literature and lecture in history. How and why  did you make the jump to writing historical fiction? 

  

KJS- I have a degree in history, actually, and a diploma in law (this is a fairly  common educational pathway in the UK, believe it or not!). I’ve lectured history, law  and literature at various universities around the world, so the move towards historical  fiction/fantasy was a natural progression. I’ve always dabbled in creative writing, but  it was only in my late thirties that I developed the patience to attempt anything more  serious. I gather that this is not an entirely unusual phenomenon for writers!  

The catalyst for writing Children of Anshar was taking a short course on Coursera  about the ancient Assyrians with Professor Radner at Ludwig-Maximilians Universitรคt Mรผnchen. At the time, I was working on a post-apocalyptic novel set in  present day Ireland, but after finishing my online studies, I couldn’t resist starting a  novel inspired by what I’d just learned. I have some Middle-Eastern ancestry and  have always been fascinated by the ancient world. Something just clicked and I set  aside my work in progress to begin Book 1 of Anshar. 

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JMR- Your book is set way back in the 1st millennium B.C. and had to recreate a  long-vanished civilization. Was it harder than you thought? 

  

KJS- It was a challenge, but not as difficult as I thought. We’re fortunate to have  quite a lot of archeology from the time of ancient Assyria, as well as some excellent  scholars who’ve done a good job of recreating many aspects of the world as it was  there and then. Having studied the ancient Greeks and Romans for my A’ Levels 

(these are courses many British teenagers take before heading to university), I had a  decent foundation for writing a novel inspired by the ancient world.  


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 JMR- What sources did you use to glean historical facts? What was the most unusual  thing you learned during your research? 

  

KJS- Fortunately, the ancient Assyrians left behind plenty of archeology that has (and  continues to be) studied by experts in the period. These include stone tablets known  as stele that are carved with scenes from ancient Assyrian life, as well as cuneiform  tablets created by Assyrian kings to immortalise their conquests and achievements in  building great cities. These artefacts helped me gain a sense of what it was like living  in that time, though I relied on secondary sources written by historians for most of  my information.  

You would think that the most unusual thing I learned in my research might relate to  the professional armies of the ancient Assyrians, their brutal means of dealing with  crime, or the ruthless ambition of many princes of the royal house. Actually, I was  most struck by the fact that the ancient Assyrians developed a very effective postal  service!  

This involved a network of roads across the kingdom, regular way-stations where  messengers could rest and procure fresh mules, and small stone tablets inscribed with  cuneiform script that were sealed within envelopes of baked clay with the sender’s  mark. This means of communication over long distances was not only weather-proof,  but assured the receiver of their authenticity and originality, because the clay  envelopes had to be shattered to read the tablet within. It was a very advanced system  to have in the early centuries of the 1st millennium BC, and such was my delight at  learning about it, that the ancient Assyrian postal system appears more than once in  Children of Anshar!  

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JMR-What is your favorite historical era? Why? 

  

KJS- I really enjoy studying any era of the ancient world, in part because of its vast  differences from our own. For people of those times, fundamental truths we take for  granted remained mysterious. This absence of knowledge seems to have allowed their  imaginations to run wild in terms of building religious systems, creating art, and  devising systems for controlling their populations and empires. Individuals often  dedicated themselves to very narrow fields, such as irrigation, stone-working,  astronomy, or warfare. This is part of the reason why we often look at ancient  monuments and achievements of the ancient world with awe: they represent the  intense dedication and focus of many extraordinary generations.  


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JMR-Who is your favorite historical figure? Why do you like/admire them?  


KJS- I’ve always been fascinated by Julius Caesar. The fact that he rose to eminence  during the highly competitive Roman Republic, wrote down his experiences during  the conquest of Gaul, and bequeathed his name to his nephew (who became the first  

in a long line of Emperors or ‘Caesars’) strikes me as an outstanding achievement.   


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JMR- Do you think writing a fictional account of history has made you a better  history lecturer? Are your lectures a bit more vibrant, less dry academic names and  dates?  

  

KJS- I like to think that I was a decent history lecturer in the first place and that this  helped make my historic fiction more compelling...but I understand what you mean!  History - like any subject - can be taught badly, especially if it is reduced to a  memorisation of names and dates. Where’s the fun in that? Taught well, history is  about human beings who come with all the qualities and flaws that we see within  ourselves, yet lived in entirely different circumstance and were socialised with very  different beliefs. For me, the possibility of connecting with our distant ancestors in  this way is extremely exciting.  

Teaching history well is, in part, the art of telling an exciting story, so it would make  sense that writing Children of Anshar has improved my teaching. The main difference  is that history should be founded in the objective study of evidence from the past,  whereas historic fiction allows much more embellishment and invention. As long as  I’m not tempted to blur the division between reality and fiction in my classes, I  should be fine!  

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JMR- Tell us about your novel, Children of Anshar. 

  

KJS- Thank-you for the opportunity to do so! Without giving too much away, I would  say that Children of Anshar is an adventure story that follows a group of friends as  they struggle to survive in a harsh desert land that is beset by invasions and internal  division. There’s a lot for the reader to enjoy: chariot charges, a city under attack,  creatures out of ancient Assyrian myth brought to life, and a society of warrior  women who have developed a system of massed combat that has won them  independence and self-determination in what is otherwise a world of brutality and  male domination!  

Fundamentally, the story explores how friendships evolve over time, and how the  pressures of the world can cause trusting relationships to drift apart. The main  characters in the story do their best to negotiate a world populated with ambitious  governors and princes impatient to achieve power and glory. Not an easy task! And  there’s more than one twist and turn in the plot that should keep readers guessing...  

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JMR- What is your next project? 

 

KJS- I’m the final stages of writing an adventure gamebook that allows readers to  play the hero in one of H.G.Wells science fiction books. I grew up on the Fighting  Fantasy gamebook series, so this is my homage to the genre. Once the gamebook is  completed, it’s back to another novel, this time a fantasy adventure based in a  fictional world most akin to 16th century north-western Europe. It’s already half written, and I’m excited to make it available for readers. 


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JMR- How can readers find you on the web and social media? 

  

KJS- Readers can find me on Twitter: @kshadmand or on Goodreads as  K.J.Shadmand. Children of Anshar by KJ Shadmand is available in e-book and  paperback on all Amazon stores. I often hold giveaways on Twitter that allows  followers to win signed copies of my books. 


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JMR-What were you hoping I’d ask but didn’t? 

  

KJS- You’ve asked some great questions. Readers sometimes ask if there will be any  more novels set in the kingdom of Anshar. The answer is a resounding yes! Once I’ve  finished the two previously mentioned books, I plan to get to work on Book 2 of the  Anshar series. It may take a year or two to get there, but I’m working on it. 


JMR-Thank you Kurosh for a great interview!


Readers if you are interested in looking at Children of Anshar I have but a link below in the Amazon button.  






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