A. I worked in theatre for a while before turning to journalism
Q. Favorite job
Q. High school and/or college
A. I went to Prestatyn High School, Darland High School and Wrexham Sixth Form College, all in north Wales
Q. Name of your favorite composer or music artist?
Q. Favorite movie
A. The Godfather
Q. Favorite television show
A. The Simpsons
Q. How would you describe your life in only 8 words?
A. A Welsh boy who loves art and history
Q. What is your motto or maxim?
A. I came, I saw, I stayed to look
Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?
A. Being in Italy with Sarah, my wife, and our daughter Primavera
Q. What’s your greatest fear?
A. Losing my sight
Q. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
Q. With whom in history do you most identify?
A. Niccolo Machiavelli
Q. Which living person do you most admire?
A. Family apart, the name that comes to mind is Seamus Heaney
Q. What are your most overused words or phrases?
A. I've made a New Year's resolution to stop saying "fantastic".
Q. What do you regret most?
A. Rejecting an opportunity to visit Mexico City at the height of the swine flu panic
Q. If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A. The ability to write poetry (see also my answer to Question 8)
Q. What is your greatest achievement?
A. My daughter
Q. What’s your greatest flaw?
A. Talking too much about my daughter... and excitability
Q. What’s your best quality?
Q. If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A. I would be the artist Cy Twombly... or at least would own his palazzo
Q. What trait is most noticeable about you?
A. Red hair, my mum says
Q. Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A. Joseph Conrad's Marlow
Q. Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A. Joseph Conrad's Mr Kurtz
Q. If you could meet any historical character, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A. It would be Leonardo da Vinci and I would tell him his science is still admired five centuries after his lifetime. He would know his art lives on - but he would be delighted to hear that his inventions also survive.
Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?
A. Bad art.
Q. What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A. Looking at art
Q. What’s your fantasy profession?
Q. What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A. Courage, humour, intelligence
Q. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A. Freshly made Pesto a la Genovese on spaghetti
Q. What are your 5 favorite songs?
A. Lou Reed, Perfect Day; Velvet Underground, I'll Be Your Mirror; Joy Division, Love Will Tear Us Apart; Bob Dylan, Like a Rolling Stone; Townes van Zandt, Poncho and Lefty
On Books and Writing
Q. Who are your favorite authors?
A. I love the novels of Philip Roth, Thomas Pynchon and Joseph Conrad, the stories of Boccaccio and Dante's poetry. Machiavelli's books have fascinated me since I was a history student and so have some great historians including Fernand Braudel, Natalie Zemon Davis and Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie.
Q. What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A. Shakespeare, Collected Works
Dante, The Divine Comedy
Joseph Conrad, Nostromo
Francesco Guicciardini, History of Italy
Tacitus, The Annals
Q. Is there a book you love to reread?
A. I keep re-reading parts of The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Q. Do you have one sentence of advice for new writers?
A. Write more than you read
Q. What comment do you hear most often from your readers?
A. That they agree or disagree with my opinion of an artist
A. The Lost Battles is about Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and the Renaissance; about war, politics and everyday life as well as about art. It tries to be as exciting as a novel but is steeped in detailed historical reconstruction and full of intimate discussions of works of art. That sounds like a plug... well it is... but how did I came to write it? I grew up in north Wales where there are a lot of castles but not many art galleries, so I did not see the big London museums much in childhood. Instead, the first art exhibition I ever visited was on holiday in Italy when I was thirteen. It was in the great hall of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence and it was an exhibit of Leonardo da Vinci's anatomical drawings. I was transfixed. You could say The Lost Battles comes directly from that experience because it is not just about Leonardo but about the very room where he saw the show, which in 1504 when the book begins was called the Great Council Hall.
A few years ago I read, in Giorgio Vasari's sixteenth century classic The Lives of the Artists, about how Leonardo took on Michelangelo - his junior by twenty-five years - in a competition to paint murals for this Great Council Hall. It was a direct standoff between my two favourite artists. I couldn't get over my fascination with this story and so, here is my book about it - an attempt to discover what really happened, who "won" the competition, and what it tells us about these two men and the world they lived in.
In a nutshell: the day I chanced on a story that brought to life these two artists whose works I have loved since I was a child, I was fated to write The Lost Battles.