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Author Interview: James Mace & I Stood With Wellington and Forlorn Hope

 

 

James MaceABOUT JAMES MACE

James Mace was born in Edmonds, Washington, and grew up in Meridian, Idaho. He joined the U.S. Air Force out of high school, and three years later changed over to the U.S. Army. He spent a career as a soldier, including service in the Iraq War.

In 2011, he left his full-time position with Army Guard and devoted himself completely to writing. His series, “Soldier of Rome – The Artorian Chronicles”, has been a perennial best-seller in ancient history on Amazon. In 2012 he branched into the Napoleonic Era with the short novella, “Forlorn Hope: The Storming of Badajoz”. This was soon followed by the full-length novel, “I Stood With Wellington”.

He also co-wrote the critically acclaimed screenplay, The Evil That Men Do.

Welcome to Between the Covers!  Why was writing I Stood With Wellington so important to you?

It was a story I felt needed to be told. The Battle of Waterloo is one of the most significant events in history, one that should never be forgotten. While textbooks are plentiful enough, there are very few novels in existence. As most people do not arbitrarily pick up what they would view as a ‘dry’ textbook, novels are I think the best way to inspire people’s interest in our history.

What was the experience like writing I Stood With Wellington?

Though my seventh work, this is the first novel I’ve written since leaving my previous job in order to become a full-time author. The experience of working on this project was by far the best of my writing career so far. I spent part of last summer in England, taking an entire day to go to Apsley House, which was the Duke of Wellington’s residence in London. Aside from electrical lighting and modern plumbing, the house is kept almost exactly like it was during the Duke’s time. I was able to see up close the original portrait of Wellington by Sir Thomas Lawrence that appears on the cover of the book, as well as numerous other priceless pieces of art and a number of his war trophies.

As for the actual writing of the story, I became far more engrossed in it than anything I’ve written in recent memory. Though it is my longest work by about ten-thousand words, I actually wrote it in only five months. It used to take me on average eighteen months to put out a book. I honestly did not want to stop writing, and was both excited and a bit sad when I finished.

How did you come up with the title?

My original intent was to write this book in the first-person, like Webster was writing it as a journal. I quickly scrapped this idea once I realized just how difficult it would be to tell a story this way, plus there would be a lack of suspense as the reader would know right away that Webster survives Waterloo. There was also the issue that I wanted to tell this story also from Wellington’s point of view, as well as the French perspective via Napoleon and his marshals. I stuck with the title because I found it caught people’s attention. And just as in its predecessor, Forlorn Hope: The Storming of Badajoz, there is a journal excerpt at the beginning of major chapters and sometimes at the end.

Can you tell us more about your main character (use yourself if non-fiction)?

Captain James Henry Webster is a company commander with 3rd Battalion of the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards; the elite of the British infantry. He is twenty-seven years old and has a three-year old daughter named Amy. His wife, also named Amy, died soon after giving birth to their daughter. Soon after, while still a lieutenant, he volunteered to lead the first group of volunteers into the breach, known as the “Forlorn Hope”, during the Siege of Badajoz in 1812. Webster was badly wounded during the assault and while convalescing in England was reassigned as a recruiting officer. These events are covered in the prelude novella, “Forlorn Hope: The Storming of Badajoz”. It is only just prior to Napoleon’s return to power in February 1815 that he rejoins the army, which is stationed in Brussels, Belgium.

What are his strengths and what are his weaknesses?

Captain Webster is an exemplary officer, with much combat experience, despite missing the final two years of the Peninsular War due to his injuries. He is pragmatic and level-headed, willing to listen to the advice of his non-commissioned officers (NCOs), and even goes so far as to spend his own money in order to acquire additional training ammunition for his men. He is also a devoted father. He swore he would never leave her again after his return from the Peninsular War, and yet in order to protect her, he will soon be forced to break that promise.

His biggest weakness comes from his personal life. Despite what he feels are his best efforts, he’s never fully let go of his deceased wife. He has become very close with a woman named Emma, and yet while she has developed very strong feelings for him he has been oblivious to them. This is despite being berated by his friends for being blind, not to mention even earning a subtle rebuke from Wellington himself. By the time he realizes his feelings for Emma, the hour has grown late. He later laments, “To have said ‘I love you’ only when it was time to say ‘farewell’.”

Are there any supporting characters we need to know about?

The cast in this story is quite large; however there are a few characters that one should focus particularly on. The foremost of course is the Duke of Wellington. Though Webster is the main protagonist, the Duke’s role is crucial, both historically and regarding characters within the story. The two officers we see most from his staff are his secretary, Major Fitzroy Somerset, and Colonel William DeLancey. DeLancey befriends Webster when they are traveling with the Duke to Paris and Vienna during the interim peace that preceded Napoleon’s return.

We also see quite a bit of Napoleon Bonaparte, as I felt it was important to give the French perspective as well. Amongst his marshals we particularly see Nicolas Soult, his chief-of-staff who fought against Wellington numerous times in the Peninsular War. The other primary French character is Marshal Michel Ney, regarded by both sides as “The Bravest of the Brave”.

Within Webster’s company, the most important character has to be Colour Sergeant Patrick Shanahan, an Irish NCO who saved Webster’s life at Badajoz. He is one of the most experienced soldiers in the company, and despite being Irish, the men in the ranks all look up to him.

Can you open to page 25 and tell us what’s happening?

It is right after the Battle of Toulouse at the end of the Peninsular War. Wellington has just received word that Napoleon abdicated five days before, and in an unheard display of emotion, breaks into a flamingo dance in celebration. One of the enlisted soldiers, Private David O’Connor, overhears the news and laments that with the war having been over for five days, all their friends who were killed during the last battle died for nothing. None of them know that Napoleon’s fall from power is only temporary and that within a year he will be back on the throne of France.

What about page 65?

Colour Sergeant Patrick Shanahan has just had a run-in with a belligerent subaltern, who berated and insulted him in front of Patrick’s wife. Just as he threatens to break the young officer’s legs, Webster’s second-in-command, Lieutenant Edward Grose, intervenes. Edward is very fond of Patrick, and knows that regardless of provocation, had he followed through with his threat, in the very least he would have been flogged and stripped of his rank for assaulting an officer. He then privately reprimands the young ensign, telling him he’d do well to listen to Colour Sergeant Shanahan and learn from his example.

Now that I Stood With Wellington has been published, what is your next project?

I wrote this book, along with the prelude novella, Forlorn Hope, during a hiatus from my previous series, Soldier of Rome – The Artorian Chronicles. I currently have four books out in that series, and now intend to finish out the final two this year. The fifth, Soldier of Rome: Journey to Judea, will be out this spring, with the sixth, Soldier of Rome: The Last Campaign, slated for release in the fall.

Do you have anything else you’d like to tell our readers?

To fellow authors, write first for yourself! Remain true to your work as you see it, not how you think others want to see it. If you compromise on that, then what you write is no longer your own. Also do not sacrifice quality for expediency. I learned that lesson the hard way, and I hope others don’t have to. When you think your story is ready to share with the world, hire yourself a good editor. Under no circumstances try and simply edit your own work, nor rely on friends and family to do it. Hire a professional to make certain everything is correct in terms of spelling, grammar, and formatting. Also, do not go into publishing with any expectations. This is difficult, I know. That being said; embrace whatever success you achieve, whether modest or if you become the next J.K. Rowling. And finally, with the publishing world ever-changing, take any lessons you learn on your journey and pass them on to others. When you meet a fellow aspiring author with a story to tell, take a moment to ‘pay it forward’. Above all, never lose your love of storytelling.

 

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