Today, I bring you an interview with fellow Australian author Daniel Layton. Daniel published his first novel this year. An adventure packed story inspired by his love of ancient history, and his work teaching.
Want to know more ? Let's find out.
Tell me about yourself
I live with my wife (assistant principal at local public school) and two sons, Ethan 11yo and Brynn 9yo, on the Mid North Coast of NSW, Australia. It is approx. 5 hours North of Sydney and is a picturesque beach community.
I am one of seven siblings, a lot I know, and I grew up in a regional town in NSW called Dubbo. That’s where I attended high school, and fell in love with Ancient History. I had the most wonderful, passionate, intelligent and funny teacher, Mr Sutherland, for my senior years and I think that’s where my passion for the ancient world, and wanting to study it further, came from.
In 1996, after finishing year 12, I took a year off and worked a couple of jobs, one was for my father’s telecommunications business and secondly, at a local restaurant, as a cook. I was not ready for full-time study straight after high school and I needed to save some money for university.
In 1998, I attended the University of New England in NSW and studied a variety of subjects including: Ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian history, archaeology and palaeoanthropology. I thought I would be the next Indian Jones (Ha Ha). It was at university that I met my amazing future wife – Stacey and she convinced me to roll all those subjects into something practical, so I added a bachelor’s degree in teaching.
Immediately after university, Stacey and I moved to South West Rocks as she had just been posted to the local school by state government. I was quickly snapped up by a local high school and taught history and geography. About four years into teaching, I was feeling flat and wanted a challenge and something new and I had always been curious about the NSW Police, so I applied and went to the academy in June 2006. Prior to attending the academy, Stacey and I were married in a beautiful ceremony on the beach at Coffs Harbour (An hour up the road).
In January 2007, I graduated from the Police academy and started full-time duties and studies at Kempsey Police station (30 min from South West Rocks) In 2009, I received my policing diploma from Charles Sturt University and continued as a first response Police Officer for next several years.
It was in 2009, while working full-time, I felt I needed another challenge and something to take my mind away from the stresses of policing. My wife mentioned one day after coming home from school, that it was hard to engage the boys in her class to read, but when they do find something they like to read, boys will inhale the book in record time. There were not enough books that appealed specifically to boys that would capture their attention, and keep them hooked for an entire book.
My wife said I should try and write something for boys because I have wealth of ancient history knowledge and I should know what boys want to read about, since I was once a boy looking for interesting books to read. The die had been cast and I accepted the challenge and started writing my first draft for book one. I wrote one page and then another, and another. Within a couple of months I had written the first draft for book one and book two. I knew from the outset that my story would be a series and follow my main protagonists from teenage age until adulthood. That I was certain of before I even started writing because I want my young readers to grow as do the characters in my books. I want them to feel connected and relate to the same issues and challenges we all face as teenagers. Regardless of place or time in history.
In 2010 and 2011, my sons were born and I became a stay at home dad and part-time Police Officer. It was the best time of my life, spending everyday with my sons and taking them to playgroups and the park and beach etc. My novels were put into a draw on a USB and life happened.
In late 2018, due to a number of bad injuries sustained on duty and diagnosed with PTSD, I was medically discharged from the NSW Police and was at my lowest point in my life. I even had genuine thoughts of ending my own life, a couple of times. My doctor and psychologist suggested I rekindle a hobby or activity that I love and could take my mind of my depression and crippling anxiety and it was at this time I pulled out the USB stick (almost couldn’t find it after so long) and started editing book one. I must have revised and culled and changed the first book about twenty times at least.
In June 2019, I sent my manuscript out into the world and to any publishers that allowed unsolicited manuscripts. In November 2019, I had two offers to have book one published and made into a real book. Pegasus Elliot Mackenzie publishers and about two weeks later, Austin Macauley publishing in the UK. As Pegasus was first and I was so excited, I went with Pegasus publishing.
In late January 2021, my debut novel was released by Pegasus Elliott Mackenzie Publishing worldwide. It has been an unfathomable dream come true. Not in a hundred years would I thought I could have my words and ideas in ink on a page for the world to read. Never, I am just a regular man, father and husband. I pick it up still and get chills down my spine when I see my name at the top of the cover.
How long have you been writing?
I started the first draft of book one back in 2008 and I was so driven that I completed book two first draft in the same year. Both drafts then sat on a USB stick in a draw until 2018, where I have been writing almost full-time and working on the rest of the series.
By 2021, I completed the first drafts for book three and book four in the series.
Can you tell me about your book titled ‘Lucius Barca and the Gladiators’ Rebellion?’
My novel 'Lucius Barca and the Gladiators’ Rebellion', Follows four best friends in 100AD Rome. The boys have just turned thirteen years old and live with their families outside the city. They are inseparable and mischievous boys, always looking for adventure and action together. The one underlying quality that binds them is their loyalty to each other, no matter what. Through thick and thin they have each other’s backs, til the end.
The Roman Empire is ruled by Augustus Caesar, a just and fair emperor who only cares deeply about his and his only daughter, Cecilia 13yo. The emperor, a huge gladiator fan, has invited the empires most beloved and famous gladiators - Spartan brothers, Stelios and Kimon, to his palace for night of feasting and drinking wine.
On this fateful night, the Spartan brothers are asked out onto the emperors’ personal balcony to discuss gladiatorial match fees and payments. The entire night is organised by the emperor’s personal assistant – Vitruvius. A man who has served Augustus Caesar for many years.
Vitruvius has enlisted the emperors Chief Praetorian guard, Brutus, in a conspiracy to overthrow the emperor and blame the Spartan brothers. Vitruvius wants the throne for himself and Brutus wants a mountain of gold. The emperor and Spartan brothers are set upon in an ambush that fateful night at the palace.
One of the Spartans escapes the palace with life threatening wounds while his brother , emperor, and his daughter are taken hostage and thrown in the dungeons below the palace. That very same night, Lucius Barca is woken by a noise and investigates outside. The leader of the Apollonian mares, mythical horse protected by the gods, invites Lucius for a ride.
Lucius is taken to the palace where he meets the wounded gladiator, his idol, and the two narrowly escape before praetorian guards capture him. Lucius hides the gladiator at his farm and tells his friends. They make a blood pact and promise to help the gladiator and rescue his brother from the palace.
Lucius and his friends are drawn into a conspiracy that threatens to tear the empire apart. They refuse to handover the gladiator and know that they must have been chosen by the gods to help. They set about unravelling the conspiracy at the palace and rescuing the emperor and his daughter and most importantly, helping a friend. They will not rest until the Spartan brothers are reunited and the emperor sits atop his throne.
The story is filled with danger, action, adventure, laughter, friendship and loyalty. Everything I would have loved to see in a book way back when I was at school.
How much of a role did your job teaching Ancient History come into play when writing your book?
I strongly believe my role as a high school history teacher and genuine avid reader of ancient historical fiction novels played a predominate role in deciding to write about the ancient world.
Can you describe your writing process?
For the first two novels, I didn’t have any writing process with which I followed. I just wrote the story as I came up with it. I was well aware the story would need serious editing once finished but I was concerned with getting down the plot on first draft.
For my third and fourth novels recently completed, I made a conscious effort to plot out the storyline and that was done with roughly half a page chapter summaries. I sit down at my laptop and under each numbered chapter I write about half a page, what will be in this 9-10 page chapter. Including such things as: all characters, setting, location, if any new characters are introduced etc. I also use question marks next to new characters names, so I can come back and check they are the right name I want for the story and characters personality.
Changing my writing process to latest version, I feel better when I sit down to actually start the novel. Its so daunting as every writer will know to sit down and create an entire novel from nothing but having the chapter summaries, gives my guidance and little structure. I don’t always adhere strictly to the chapter summaries and my novel is always fluid and dynamic. Having the chapter summaries as I’m writing gives me confidence I can keep going and complete the story.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Personally, I believe my interesting writing quirk is that I have an excellent imagination when it comes to storytelling. I am constantly walking around town or at home doing chores or mowing the lawn and I will be thinking creatively about my series . Wonderful ideas, plots, and characters spring up which I try to include in the latest novel, or save it for next book.
Imagination and creativity are certainly my best writing quirks I believe.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
I have never had such a unique question asked of myself as a writer and I had to literally go away and stew on the question. After a long consideration, I feel my avatar would be the Egyptian god Thoth. I have always loved ancient Egyptian culture and especially the gods. Since Thoth was the god of writing, wisdom, science, art and hieroglyphs, that is all the aspects of the culture I love.
What advice would you give a new author?
The only advice I would give to new or aspiring writers is to commit. There are so many reasons in our modern, busy lives to put off our writing, or do it later. I am a perfect example of putting my writing away and life happening. That is how you give up on your dreams. The routines of daily life. I have sat down at my laptop after 12 - 14 hour shifts at work, utterly exhausted, and wrote because it was the one thing in my day that gave me a smile, and lifted my spirits. So commit when you start and chip away slowly if you have it, but do not stop.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
My favourite past time away from writing is being with my family. Going to beach and going for bike rides and bushwalks. Taking our dog for walks. I am coaching one of my son’s soccer teams this season, and I enjoy that. My wife and I have coached for a few seasons now.
On my own, I enjoy running and always have since being a teenager. I completed a half marathon a few years ago and I’m working up to completing my first full marathon in the next year or two.
I love to watch movies with my sons and eat popcorn and read historical fiction novels. I can not get enough of those novels and have read hundreds over the years.
Thank you to Daniel for sharing his story with us. Isn't it wonderful to know that writing can be great therapy. I certainly know it helped me get through some rough times. If you would like to check out his book, click on the links below.