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London: A Spiritual History by Edoardo Albert
  

London: A Spiritual History

RRP £8.99

Synopsis

London: A Spiritual History by Edoardo Albert

This book takes the reader through London and its spiritual history - what its inhabitants believed, what they worshipped, where, when and how; the landmarks, the names, the issues and the arguments. Written in a more or less chronological way, it is interwoven with Albert's own spiritual journey. From its earliest days when Londoners would have worshipped pagan gods, through Roman occupation, the coming of Christianity, and the later waves of other faiths - Jews, Muslims, Hari Krishnas - this book takes the reader on a fascinating journey.

About the Author

Edoardo Albert is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in Time Out, History Today and The Daily Telegraph, among other places. His book on the history and archaeology of Northumbria: The Lost Kingdom was published in October 2012 by The History Press. Getting on his bike, he also edited the Time Out Cycle London Guide.

Below is a Q&A with this author.

1. What first inspired you to write The Northumbrian Thrones series? Northumberland itself! My brother-in-law is an archaeologist and director of the Bamburgh Research Project (www.bamburghresearchproject.co.uk) and back in the early 2000s we went up to visit him. I can still remember, more than a decade later, the quite literally jaw-dropping impact of turning up the road from Seahouses and seeing the huge bulk of the castle, squatting upon its outcrop of the Great Whin Sill, dominating land and sea and sky. Paul and I then collaborated on a (non-fiction) book about the history and archaeology of the region, called Northumbria: The Lost Kingdom, and during the writing of that I learned about the kings of Northumbria, in particular the successive monarchs, Edwin, Oswald and Oswiu. Their stories make such an extraordinary narrative that I was sure someone, somewhere must have already written about them – but, it turned out, no one had! So I thought I would do it. Oswald: Return of the King is the second part of that story.

2. Do you have a particular writing routine? Get up early and get going! Writing, unless you’re JK Rowling or Dan Brown, is a singularly ill-paid profession, so most writers have to fit in writing with actually making a living. Couple that with a family, and young children, and there really isn’t much time in the day. My only reliable window is the early morning, so I set the alarm for 5am, stagger out of bed, stumble downstairs, make a cup of tea and start. Even if I only manage a few hundred words, they are words that would not have been written otherwise, and, once I’m in the flow, I often write quite a lot more than that. And when I get a whole day that I can devote to writing, I go to a local library and work there – particularly ideal when, as often happens, their wifi is down; the first and often hardest task for a writer today is to disregard digital distractions!

3. Name the writing habit you rely on to get you through a first draft. Planning out a rough outline. I’ve tried the write-and-go approach but, after a good beginning, I usually find myself circling around in search of an ending. With historical novels, particularly ones like mine where I try to keep rigorously to what actually happened, that is made easier – I know what happened, it’s my job to understand why it happened and to let the reader understand that too.

4. Which living author(s) do you most admire? Dan Abnett, for his extraordinary productivity and consistently high quality; Justin Hill, for the best recent evocation of late Anglo-Saxon England I’ve read; Frederick Buechner, for theological depth and a style that is luminous and gnarly at the same time (Godric begins ‘Five friends I had, and two of them snakes’); Andrew Norris for his deceptively simple children’s stories (Aquila is, I think, the best constructed story of the last 30 years); Neil Gaiman, for his talent; Bernard Cornwell, for his generosity.

5. Which book would you take to a desert island? Let’s stick to the formula – excluding the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare. The Lord of the Rings (with its appendices). Not just a story, a world. Since I’d have some time to spare – I’m assuming this is the paradisical version of a desert island rather than somewhere like Disappointment Island – then I’d also be able to learn Elvish. If I could be allowed another, I’d take Dante’s Commedia – it would give me the chance to brush up my Italian.

6. If I could rewrite history, I would… ...have to be God, or at least have God-like levels of foresight, to know what I’d be mucking up by changing things. Of course, there’s the obvious things like going back and making sure that Hitler’s father kept his original surname, Schicklgruber, thus stopping World War II (‘Heil Schicklgruber’ simply does not work as the rallying cry for a fascist party) while at the same time avoiding the sin of assassinating a young Adolf. But, but, but… without those God-like levels of foresight, what would have happened then? It’s hard to believe that things could have got much worse, but then, if there’s one thing a view of history teaches us, it’s that whenever it seems like humanity has plumbed new depths of depravity, someone, somewhere comes along to beat that.

7. In another age I would have been . . . …richer, wittier, handsomer, taller, slimmer and really good with a rapier – I would, in fact, have been Errol Flynn, only for real.

8. Who would your fantasy dinner guests be? I’d probably be happy to swap dinner for an evening with the Inklings at CS Lewis’s room in Magdalen College; failing that, I’d have loved to have heard one of the many public debates that occurred between GK Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, on one side, and George Bernard Shaw and HG Wells on the other. Then, there’s Wittgenstein’s poker…

9. Which book do you wish you had written? Um, where do I begin? Every good book ever written, but with a special nod towards Tolkien, Dante, The Wind in the Willows and Kim.

10.Who is your favourite literary character? Puddleglum from The Silver Chair. Unrelieved gloom laid over unflinching hope – the perfect definition of a writer’s life!

11. Did any of the characters in your book surprise you while writing? All of them, at some point or another, which I hope is a mark of a book coming alive.

12.What would your super power be? The creation of extra hours in the day.

13.What is the worst piece of writing or career feedback you’ve received? Even the bad stuff is good in its own way – at least it serves to clarify my thinking, when working out why it is wrong, about my writing and career.

14.What is the worst job you've done? The most tedious was the many years I spent driving around London delivering and repairing televisions (back when people repaired their TVs). The tedium mainly lay in the traffic, but the job itself offered an unrivalled insight into people’s lives and homes, from the rich and famous (I’ve been in the bedrooms of both Joan Collins and Stephanie Beacham, and not many men can say that!) to the poor and the mentally ill.

15.What is the most important lesson life has taught you? The golden rule still applies.

16. Have you written anything and been surprised by its reception? A lonely-hearts ad. At one point, when friends became tired of hearing me bemoaning my single status, they clubbed together to buy me a lonely heart ad in Time Out. I drafted what I thought was a heartfelt and interesting ad and gave it to them to read. Let’s just say it took something like half an hour for them to recover from the bout of uncontrolled laughter that ensued (I think it was the bit about tickling the belly of a wolf that finally did them). Suffice to say, the ad never ran, and I found a wife through even more unusual means.

17. Which book (not your own) do you wish everyone would read? I’d like everyone to read Aquila, by Andrew Norriss. Not only would it unfailingly put a smile on the world’s face, but it would rescue Norriss from relative, and thoroughly undeserved, obscurity.

18. Which book do you suspect most people claim to have read, but haven’t? I suspect that most people today are more concerned to have claimed to have watched the TV series du jour than any particular book.

19. How do you feel about physical books versus e-books? I much prefer physical to e-books, but am more than happy for people to use whichever medium suits them best.

20. Do you have any advice for an aspiring author? It’s a cliche, but so for a reason: read. Most good writers were bookworms as children and teenagers and there’s a reason for that: you need to marinade your mind with words, allowing them to soak through, well, everything, so that everything can be turned into words. Also, get away from the internet. Go somewhere to write where there isn’t any wifi; buy an old computer without internet access; drag the typewriter from the attic; pick up a pen – anything to stop the mouse click and the screen stare.

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Book Info

Publication date

19th February 2016

Author

Edoardo Albert

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Author's Website

www.edoardoalbert.com/

Publisher

Lion Books an imprint of Lion Hudson Plc

Format

Paperback
240 pages

Categories

History of religion

ISBN

9780745956961

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