Rory Clements


Rory Clements is the author of Holy Spy, the latest novel in the award-winning John Shakespeare Tudor thriller series.

We caught up with Rory to find out more about his career to date…

Q: What is your typical day as an author like?

A: I do most of my work between midnight and 4am. It’s quiet. Everyone’s asleep. No telephones ring. There are few distractions - and my mind is alive. In high summer it is glorious to go to bed as the sun is rising and the birds are singing. Simply beautiful.

There are problems, of course: it means I don’t get up until the late morning (between 10.30am and 11am), so people who need to contact me are getting a bit edgy. But it works for me.

When I’ve had a couple of strong coffees I go through my work from the night before and make corrections or changes as necessary. In the afternoon I like to play tennis – for the exercise and the company. But on those days when I’m not playing, I might do some gardening. It’s a simple life, but I love it.

Q: How did you first get published?

A: I had been planning and researching my first John Shakespeare novel for 15 years, but didn’t have the time to write it because I was working full-time as a national newspaper journalist. In 2007 we took the plunge and moved to the wilds of Norfolk, and I contacted an agent called Teresa Chris. I had never met her, but I knew she liked historical and crime novels. I told her my idea, but she said to come back to her when the book was written.

Six months later I sent her the manuscript of Martyr, and within a week she had taken me on. Within a further two weeks, she had sold the books to publishers in the UK and America, and I was on my way. I recognise that I was very lucky. But, of course, like most authors, I have a drawer full of unpublished and unpublishable manuscripts!

Q: What is the secret to good writing?

A: Make the reader want to know what happens. Each sentence should make you want to read the next sentence – and the one after that. I have no time for writers who expect their readers to do all the work to ‘understand’ them. It’s the author’s job to make themselves understood and readable. The author is creating a world – it must be believable, and it must draw you in.

Q: What advice would you give to people trying to get published?

A: Read a lot and write a lot. Have a thick skin, because you will be disappointed along the way. Don’t expect your first book to be published and, if it is, don’t expect it to be a bestseller. It might happen, of course, but it’s very unusual.

Show your work to friends and family. Listen carefully to what they say. If they think something is dull, improbable or clichéd, then they might have a point.

Think like a tennis player. No one could pick up a racket for the first time, go on to centre court at Wimbledon and beat Roger Federer (you wouldn’t even win a point, let alone the match). So it is with being an author. Work hard. Keep at it. Learn. Don’t give in.

Q: Which writers do you most admire and why?

A: There are so many over the years. I’d probably answer this question differently every time, but at the moment I am blown away by Hilary Mantel. Having read every word of Wolf Hall, I am now deep into Bring Up The Bodies. It is so good; so real, I have to keep pinching myself to remind myself it’s fiction. Hilary is the gold standard for the 21st century.

Going back a bit, other writers I love include Gustave Flaubert; Emil Zola; Thomas Hardy; William Somerset Maugham; Graham Greene; John Fowles; Anya Seton; Robert Harris and Brian Moore. The one thing they all have in common is that they tell wonderful stories.


To find out more about Roryclick here.

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