An Interview with Bernard Cornwell

Francesca Tyer interviews author Bernard Cornwell about his publications and writing experience.

Bernard Cornwell (Image provided by Cece Metz)


Bernard Cornwell is best known for his novels about Napoleonic Wars rifleman Richard Sharpe. He has however written several other historical series, a contemporary thriller series, and a nonfiction book on the battle of Waterloo.


Back in 2013, Richard Hardie interviewed Bernard Cornwell about his Sharpe books. Cornwell shared some fascinating insights about his work and in recent months agreed to another interview with Authors Reach.


To view the original article, please click here: richardhardies.blogspot.com/2013/06/my-interview-tonight-is-with.html


The interview:


How would you describe your writing style in just three words?

Plain, violent and direct.


Why do you write? What drives you to do it?

To earn a living!


What makes a book good in your eyes?

The story – if the story doesn’t grip you then the book fails. It’s all about the story!


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I believe you had a new book out in September which is about Richard Sharpe and starts immediately after the Battle of Waterloo. Is this be the last Sharpe book?

Sharpe’s Assassin is out now – but I’m still not sure if there will be another after this one…


Now that Uhtred’s series has finished, do you have a new series or standalone novel in mind?

Will I start another series? I doubt it – I’m getting too ancient, so future books will probably be standalones.

Will there be a Sequel to Fools and Mortals?

Probably not, though I have thought about one, so there is a small chance.


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What is your favourite/least favourite part of the writing process?

My favourite is rewriting the book, my least favourite is struggling to find the story. I never plan a book, I just can’t do it – I have to write the whole thing to find out what happens, but once that first draft is done then the good time starts when you polish it and add details. Why do you think it’s important for people to read books?

How else do people learn about their world? About other people? About anything! Books are one of the wonders of the world and open that world to us, so yes, it’s important to read – and fun too! What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned as a writer?

That it was possible to earn a living writing stories! That was an astonishing and very welcome surprise!

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More about Bernard:


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. Bernard and Judy married in 1980, are still married, still live in the States and he is still writing Sharpe.


About page from Bernard Cornwell's website: www.bernardcornwell.net/

With many thanks to Bernard Cornwell and his PA, Cece Metz, for this interview.

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