Monday, 23 June 2014

Meet my main character.

This is part of a continuing series called, “Meet My Main Character.” It is the brain child of Debra Brown who is the Administrator of English Historical Fiction Authors, a really worthwhile website for anyone interested in obscure bits of British history. (Debra’s an American, so the whole England/Scotland/Wales bit tends to pass her by.)  The main website, despite the name, doesn’t have so much to do with fiction. This does. 

1) What is the name of your character? Is he fictional or a historic person?

James Burke was a spy for the British during the Napoleonic Wars. He was a real person and the story is based around real events in his life. That said, he was a very good spy, so there’s a lot we don’t know about him. This means that I get the chance to tell a good story without too much fear of being told I’m definitely wrong.

2) When and where is the story set?

It starts in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) in 1792, but the story pivots on the British invasion of Buenos Aires in 1806. It takes in Spain and Brazil as well, though. People in those days travelled around much more than most of us realise.

3) What should we know about him?

James’ father is an impoverished gentleman in Ireland, living off the rents of tenant farmers. Although this gives him the status of ‘gentleman’, there is no money to enable him to live the lifestyle that James wants. James is desperate to get away from Ireland and make a success of himself in Society. He decides his best bet is to join the army but, to his horror, he finds himself caught in intelligence work. He’s a snob and a social climber and hates being a spy, but he’s good at the work. He’s also never slow to take advantage of any opportunities to make money or influential friends that may come his way in his adventures.

4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his life?

He realises that there are more important things than personal advancement and he risks a lot for a cause he has come to believe in. More immediately, people keep threatening to kill him.

5) What is the personal goal of the character?
He starts out by wanting to make a lot of money and move in the highest levels of Society. On a day-to-day level, he cares about completing his mission for Britain and surviving in the conflicts between England, Spain, France, and South American rebels. Later, he gets caught up in the politics of South American independence and realises that there is more to life than his personal advancement. Unsurprisingly, there’s a girl involved.

6) Is there a title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

It’s called His Majesty’s Confidential Agent. There’s more about it HERE. There’s a sequel on the way, provisionally called Burke in Egypt. Yes, he gets around!

7) When can we expect the book to be published?
It was published by Accent Press at the beginning of May. Burke in Egypt should be published later this year.

Thanks for visiting the post. The next ‘Meet My Main Character’ post will be by Jane Pollard  in two days’ time (on Wednesday).


  1. Hi Tom,

    Your James Burke sounds like an interesting character. I hope lots of people get to meet him!

    As I protested per email, I do know the difference in the British countries--but I was focused on England when I started the blog. I just happen to be an Anglophile. But the other countries have fascinating histories, too, and they tie together due to... well, history, so authors of stories in the various countries became involved.

    Thanks for introducing your readers to the blog, too. Best wishes with your stories of James!

  2. I'm sorry, Debra. I'm sure you do know the difference - although many intelligent and educated people (some in the UK) struggle. My wife works with the law and often has to say England & Wales and Scotland, which is very confusing to those who don't realise that although Wales now has its own Assembly, England and Wales share a legal system while Scotland doesn't (except for the bits where it does).

  3. Hmmm, that is a bit more complicated than I realized, but almost amusing. But as countries are assembled in an evolving manner with rebels hacking at this arrangement or that for thousands of years, it is no wonder. Enjoy the continuing evolution.

  4. I quite like this format - Tom, would you and Debra mind if I do this on my blog as well?

  5. Bother! I should have asked you if you wanted to join in, but I don't have your email. Contact Debra through her blog and she'll add you onto the chain. Let me know and I'll mention you here as well.

  6. DLM: Did you pursue this? I'm going to do it again with James Brooke (of 'The White Rajah') and you could follow that, if you'd like. Or you can tag me for 'The White Rajah' if you are already doing one. I wish I had an email for you. It feels weird doing all our correspondence in public like this.

  7. I didn't actually - my computer has started blue-screening, and then there was this root canal that distracted me. *Hangs head in shame*

  8. So are you going to now? And is there any way to talk to you other than on my (publicly viewable) comments?