Jem is not necessarily a girl's name.
My father is Turkish and ‘Cem’ is a male name in Turkey. The Turks don’t have the letter J, so my mother Anglicised it. This has led to misunderstandings, for instance when people have expected a woman to turn up at meetings. Occasionally, when I’ve had exchanges on social media or email, guys have even got a little flirty with me!
I’ve been a fan of history for a long time
It was the Sutton Hoo helmet that sparked my interest in history. My mother noticed that every time I went to the British Museum, I would return with a souvenir of it – a jigsaw, a postcard or a badge. I still love it. The decision to mount the helmet fragments on clay makes it look like it was exhumed just yesterday, when in fact it was excavated in the summer of 1939, when bigger events were about to unfurl.
Writing is my midlife crisis
When I hit forty I had the feeling that time was starting to slip away. At this point in life some men behave in ridiculous ways; however my wife was quite pleased that, instead of buying a fast car, I started to write. I have always loved history and feel liberated that I’m able to share this part of my life with others.
I am a published historian
I’ve had six history books published, with the seventh on its way. I enjoy making historical topics accessible. Historians often expect people to wade through 600 page books with endless footnotes. I would much rather write The Romans in 100 Facts, which summarises 1,000 years of civilisation in less than 200 pages.
I’m always looking for unusual historical facts
I try to post one historical fact every day that people won’t have heard before @HistoryGems. For example, did you know that one of the most feared samurai in history was a woman called Tomoe Gozen?
My book was created on kindness
The editor who works on my history books volunteered to edit this book because she enjoyed it so much. And Simon Wright liked it so much that he and his team at Greenwich Design produced eleven possible covers for the book.
My editor may have worked as a favour, but she was TOUGH!
It amused me that she spent more time on this book than on any of my history books. However, her comments turned a good idea into a great story. Sandy, I love you!
Silent Crossroads is historical fiction
It is the story of Harry Woods, the only British soldier to have fought on both sides in both world wars. In reality no British servicemen did this, but the concept allowed me to tell the story of the inter-war years and WW II in Germany from an outsider's point of view.
Harry has strong women in his life
While the book portrays combat in several wars, events on the home front are just as important. Three key female characters shape Harry's life, including his wife and his daughter, and their story is crucial to the second half of the book. Female readers have told me of the empathy and horror they felt when Harry’s wife is forced to watch helplessly as their daughter falls under Nazi influence.
Silent Crossroads teaches history by stealth
Did you know that Spanish flu, which swept across the world immediately after World War I, killed many times more people than the war itself? Did you know that Germany had a civil war after World War I? It's this less well-known history that I weave into the story of a family’s struggle to survive. The book is a family drama, but if you look carefully, real history is happening in the background.
Silent Crossroads is available on Amazon.