Bernard Cornwell interview with David Alan Binder

posted Jul 23, 2019, 4:30 PM by David Alan Binder

Bernard Cornwell interview with David Alan Binder


About the Author from his website:

Bernard Cornwell was born in London in 1944 – a ‘warbaby’ – whose father was a Canadian airman and mother in Britain’s Women’s Auxiliary Air Force.

He was adopted by a family in Essex who belonged to a religious sect called the Peculiar People (and they were), but escaped to London University and, after a stint as a teacher, he joined BBC Television where he worked for the next 10 years.

He began as a researcher on the Nationwide programme and ended as Head of Current Affairs Television for the BBC in Northern Ireland. It was while working in Belfast that he met Judy, a visiting American, and fell in love. Judy was unable to move to Britain for family reasons so Bernard went to the States where he was refused a Green Card. He decided to earn a living by writing, a job that did not need a permit from the US government – and for some years, he had been wanting to write the adventures of a British soldier in the Napoleonic wars – and so the Sharpe series was born.

(Note:  He is from England so his word spellings may differ from those in the USA.)

His website:


1. Where are you living currently?

In the summer we live on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and in the winter we decamp to Charleston, South Carolina.


2. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?

To keep on writing - every day. To wait for inspiration is a sure way to start Googling sites such as ‘Exciting Careers in Accountancy’. And, new writers excepted, there is no such thing as writer’s block. Okay, some days it’s like swimming through treacle, but you still have to keep going. I’ll believe in writer’s block the day that a hospital accepts a nurse’s absence because she has ‘nurse’s block’. His or her job is FAR more difficult than a writer’s job.


3. Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?

I have none . . . I’ve been fortunate. I’ve had the same publisher, HarperCollins, for forty years so have never needed to explore alternatives.

a. Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they


HarperCollins, London.


4. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?

There are no secrets! You have to write a book and then do your utmost to find an agent or a publisher, but do remember that both agents and publishers WANT new material. They’re not your enemy, they need you.

5. How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent? Any tips for

new writers on getting one?

I found an agent by pure luck. I had written a book, submitted it to a publisher in London and received an offer that I knew was insufficient to keep me alive in the six months it would take to write another. Then I ran into a British agent at a party in New York, told him I had an offer and his response, on hearing what had been offered, was ‘then it must be a f*g awful book’. I persuaded him to read it and three weeks later, I had a seven book deal. He stayed my agent for 39 years until his death. That probably isn’t typical, but common sense says pick your agent carefully (I didn’t, but have no regrets).

It’s no use sending a thriller manuscript to an agent who specialises in non-fiction. I would also recommend that you do NOT send a manuscript to an

agent who charges a reading fee. That’s just greed.


6. Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be so specific that this most likely will not have been seen elsewhere)?

First to remember that every published author probably began with the beliefs that they were wasting their time, that the job of writing a book was too vast, the obstacles to success too many and their own talents insufficient. I did. But all that has to be ignored and the book must be written. Secondly, you’re writing a book that YOU want to read. You’re not writing it for an audience, nor for an agent or publisher. It’s your book. Which is why I’m extremely suspicious of Writing Groups, which, in my limited experience, are dominated by strong characters who will criticise your book because it’s not the book they want to read. Write the book for yourself, finish it, then hope an agent or a publisher recognises its merits.

7. What was one of the most surprising things you learned with your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?

That it’s soluble in alcohol.


8. How many books have you written?

I think its 57, it might be 58.


9. Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be so specific that this most likely will not have been seen elsewhere)?

Only that if you’re bored by your own book then so will every reader.  The moment you feel tedium in your writing then stop, go back, and have a character make a different decision. It’s instinct.

10. What saying or mantra do you live by?

‘Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?’


·         Note:  This is a quote from Twelfth Night by William Shakespere ACT 2 SCENE 3 PAGE 6

Here is a summary of that scene quoted from Sparknotes:





100(sings) Shall I bid him go?


(singing) Should I tell him to go?


(sings) What an if you do?


(singing) What if you do?


(sings) Shall I bid him go, and spare not?


(singing) Should I tell him to go, and be harsh with him?


(sings) O no, no, no, no, you dare not.


(singing) Oh no, no, no, no, don’t you dare.


Out o' tune, sir. You lie. Art any more than a steward? Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?


That’s out of tune, sir. You lie. (to MALVOLIO) You’re nothing more than a servant here. Do you think that just because you’re a goody two shoes, no one else can enjoy himself?


Yes, by Saint Anne, and ginger shall be hot i' the mouth too.


They certainly will. They’ll have double helpings, too.


Thou'rt i' the right. Go, sir, rub your chain with crumbs. A stoup of wine, Maria!


You’re right. (to MALVOLIO) Go polish your steward’s chain, sir. Maria, bring us some wine!


110Mistress Mary, if you prized my lady’s favor at anything more than contempt, you would not give means for this uncivil rule. She shall know of it, by this hand.


Miss Mary, if you cared what Lady Olivia thinks about you at all, you wouldn’t contribute to this rude behavior. I assure you, she’ll find out about this.




Go shake your ears!


Go and wiggle your ears!


'Twere as good a deed as to drink when a man’s a-hungry, to challenge him the field and then to break promise with him and make a fool of him.


There’s nothing I’d love more than to make a fool out of that guy somehow. I could challenge him to a duel and then not show up. That would do the trick.


Do ’t, knight. I’ll write thee a challenge. Or I’ll deliver thy indignation to him by word of mouth.


Do that. I’ll write a letter challenging him to a duel on your behalf. Or I’ll deliver your insults to his face.