I was a born in Watford in the United Kingdom. I still live in Hertfordshire with my wife, my two teenage daughters, two cats and a chicken. For most of my working life I was a senior manager in the motor industry, but my real passion was always for history and literature. I wrote my first book while I was on a career break between car manufacturers, really just to see if I could. When I went back to work, I sent my manuscript out to a number of literary agents, fully expecting it to be rejected. But it wasn’t, and in 2016 my family and I took the decision to give up the certainties of a well-paid job so that I could write full time. Four years and seven published works later we are a little bit poorer, but very much happier.
My books are set in the 18th century Royal Navy. I could have set them in any one of a number of periods or places, but that was the genre that interested me most. I grew up enjoying the books of C.S. Forester and in particular Patrick O’Brian. They awoke in me a life-long passion for the age of sail. I went on to study the 18th century navy as part of my history degree at London University. When I left, I remained a member of the Society for Nautical Research and also a keen sailor. The 18th century is a period with unrivalled potential for a writer, stretching from the age of piracy, via the voyages of Cook to the battles and campaigns of Nelson.
The period also works well from a creative point of view. On the one hand there is the strange, claustrophobic wooden world of the period’s ships; and on the other hand there is the boundless freedom to move them around the globe, wherever the narrative takes them.
The seven books I have published so far form a series that follow the adventures of a group of characters, both officers and sailors. They all serve with my main protagonist, an officer called Alexander Clay. In my first book, The Captain’s Nephew, he is a lieutenant, while by the end of my latest novel, In Northern Seas, he is a senior post captain helping Nelson win his victory at Copenhagen. Each book can be read as a standalone work, as it contains its own complete story; or the series can be read in order to appreciate the progression of the characters.
I try and use period language and authentic nautical detail to draw the reader into a different world, although I aim to pitch this at a level where a reader with no knowledge of either will still enjoy my work. I test this on my first reader, my wife, who has little interest in the sea. If she enjoys what I’ve created, great. If not, I go away and rewrite it. What many readers tell me they enjoy most in my books is the cast of fully-formed lower deck characters, as well as the officers. The sailors all have their own back histories, adventures and plot lines. Think Downton Abbey on a ship, with the lower deck as the below stairs’ servants.
If you want to find out more about me or my books, the links below may be helpful
Click HERE (and scroll down to 'A') to find our reviews of Philip K Allan's books on Discovering Diamonds
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