Friday, June 1, 2012

A Very Different Map of North America: An interview with historical fiction author Tom Taylor

Today I'm talking with Canadian historical fiction author Tom Taylor about BROCK'S RAILROAD, his sequel to his War of 1812 book BROCK'S AGENT.


1) Tell us about your book.

BROCK'S RAILROAD is a story of freedom in the War of 1812. Young Jonathan Westlake is sent on a secret mission to rescue a slave from a plantation in Virginia. The slave was a former sergeant in the British forces and he is needed now to lead "the Coloured Company" in Upper Canada. The story is about the abolishionists they meet and their own personal journeys to freedom.

2) This is a sequel to your book BROCK'S AGENT. How are the books different? How are the similar?

BROCK'S AGENT is about the redemption of Upper Canada's first secret agent in the war of 1812. This is the introduction to Jonathan Westlake and a cast of characters including Major General Brock. Whereas this book culminates with the Battle for Detroit, Brock's Railroad culminates with the Battle of Queenston Heights. Westlake has a love interest in both novels.

3) What inspired you to write a series about the War of 1812?

It is an aspect of the Napoleonic Wars that is seldom discussed. What the British forces did in British North America is nothing short of astonishing. Brock seized more ground the size of England and France combined and hardly anyone knows about it.

4) Can you tell us about some of the perspectives of the war you explore in the novel?

I think one key to understanding the war is that the British upper command had clear orders from Lord Liverpool to conduct a defensive war only. Do nothing to offend the Americans! Secondly, Washington declared war before they were prepared to conduct it or pay for it. It nearly bankrupted the new republic. Sound familiar?

5) What sort of research did you do during the course of preparing this book and its predecessor?

I've been researching this war for at least 10 years. All of Brock's letters are available and lots of secondary sources are available if one knows what to look for.

6) If you could meet anyone from the period of the war, who would you want to meet and why?

Sir Isaac Brock. He was born on the Isle of Guernsey in 1769, the same year as Napoleon and Wellington. I think if given the freedom to pursue the war as he saw fit, he could have crushed American forces and we may have had a very different looking map of North America.

7) Are there any authors who have influenced you in the course of your writing career?

Bernard Cornwell has shown many of us budding historical fiction writers the way ahead. At the same CS Forester of Hornblower fame started everything rolling.


Thanks, Tom.

You can read more from Tom at

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