Author Interview: Peter Watt

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Peter Watt is an Australian author who has published fourteen novels to date: a saga, a trilogy and stand alone novels. The latest of which is War Clouds Gather, the 8th instalment in The Frontier Series, and after reading it I was able to find out a little more about Peter and his career.

Hi Peter, welcome to Beauty and Lace
What made you want to pursue a writing career?

At the age of 40 I had run out of careers to try! So, I decided that if I was to become rich and famous, all I had to do was become an author…I am still waiting for fame and fortune!
On the other hand my desire to write could be because of some gene many of us are afflicted by that drives us to relate stories in print. That drive has always been with me, and like many reading this interview, they too will be nodding their heads in full understanding. Similarly, maybe there is a gene other people are born with that gives them a talent for wonderful cooking, sculpture or painting. In my case it was the gene to write stories based against the past that haunts our present like a ghost.

How have all your previous roles in life affected your writing?

My past has exposed me to many aspects of humanity. From policing to soldiering, labouring and law, the cultures of the Vietnamese and Melanesians, of which I had to be able to communicate in their languages on a day to day basis. Three former wives, and a lot in between has influenced where I am at now. As one grows older one does not grow wiser – just a recognition not to take life too seriously, and especially not to take myself seriously. Now I keep in contact with life researching and writing six months of the year to pay the mortgage, and working as an unpaid volunteer bush fire fighter for 6 months during the fire season. That often means I end up on the fire line most days of the fire season, alongside many truly remarkable Aussies. Fighting bushfires reminds me of the meaning of fear, camaraderie, physical and mental hardship. It makes it easier to go back to writing when the fires are no longer raging.

All your writing is historic, what inspired your decision to write historicals?

History has always been a subject that has fascinated me. The history of this country has been clichéd as we seem to concentrate on stories about Ned Kelly, Gallipoli and convicts. I hoped that by writing novels set against events and people most Australian readers have never heard about, I would become the voice of the forgotten people who helped forge this nation’s culture.

Your latest release is ‘War Clouds Gather’, can you tell us a little about it?

In my latest novel, War Clouds Gather, I have continued to use the family saga to place my characters in events little known to Australian readers. Beginning in 1936, it tells of the events leading to World War Two when the world ignored Hitler’s first concentration camps built to cower Hitler’s opponents, and the civil war in Spain where Germany and Italy lined up with the Fascist General Franco to fight the legitimate Spanish government, aided by Russia and Mexico. Britain and France did not want to get involved- lest they upset Hitler’s government. The Spanish Civil war saw Australian volunteers mainly fighting against Fascism in the International Brigades. Their contribution has been forgotten – except in War Clouds Gather. Needless to say the novel is about many other things; family relationships, intrigue, courage and conviction, love- and love lost. All the things we see reflected in our own lives in present times.

Peter Watt 2013 (3)

This is the 8th installment in the Frontier Series, have you got an endpoint in mind, is there going to be a set number of novels?

The series will continue for a few more books yet. I guess I will finish around 1962 with the first advisers sent to Vietnam from the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam. The series will then have covered a century in the two families’ lives. I let historical events form the canvas on which I place my characters. I should note that I have written other novels outside this series. When the Frontier Series ends I have many other books in mind to write, still using our colourful history as a canvas to paint words on.

What inspired the saga of the Duffy and Macintosh families?

The family saga owes its existence to the great story teller, Wilbur Smith and his Courtney family sagas. I thought what Wilbur has done for Africa I might be able to do for Australia. Internationally it seems the books have achieved that aim, although I remain relatively unknown in my own country, and rely mostly on word of mouth to find readers – and hopefully this interview will bring a few more!

Can you tell us a little about your writing process? Do you have a favourite time or place to write?

Writing for me is more than just a passion, it is also an occupation. My wonderful publishers in Australia, Pan Macmillan, pay me an advance to write books, and expect me to produce them to a deadline. I kind of wish I was independently wealthy, in which case I would not have to discipline myself to a ten hour day! I write in an office in the backyard that I built with a friend; it is a place where I can write, research and conduct all the other things that go with writing, such as keeping in contact with readers and supporting community charities. I tend to work from 8.30am until around 6pm, seven days a week for around six months. August to January is when I change into wearing a yellow fire suit, and fight fires often 12 to 14 hours a day.

Is there a must have item on your desk or workspace, or any superstitious/sentimental items you keep around for luck?

I have a stuffed figure of that long suffering squirrel from the movie Ice Age sitting on a shelf looking down on me. He was a present from my beautiful daughter, Monique, and has an acorn in his hand that reminds me just how tough it can be to produce a novel – but also inspires me, because from an acorn a mighty oak tree grows.

Are you working on anything new you can tell us about?

I am fortunate that heavy rain has delayed the expected fires of summer so I am able to both edit my next book in the Frontier series, And Fire Falls, and commence its sequel for release in 2015. I chose that title to have fun with the preceding two titles, Beyond the Horizon, War Clouds Gather, And Fire Falls. World War Two will see a continuing trilogy in the Frontier series. I sometimes feel as if I am controlling a time machine with this series. I hope my readers feel the same, as they have the power to set the dates, and go back or forward in our history when they read the Frontier series commencing with Cry of the Curlew.

Peter Watt
Author & Volunteer Fire Fighter

Thanks so much for your time Peter, good luck for a quiet Fire season and with the next books.

To find out more about Peter and his work you can follow him on his Website.

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