Welcome to What’s Good to Read, and welcome to our author interviews!
Today we are talking to Saviour Pirotta. Saviour is an author and playwright. He writes mainly children’s historical fiction, fantasy and retellings of myths and legends. I personally have loved reading The Wolfsong Series (Stone Age) and The Nile Adventures (Ancient Egypt), both are four book adventure series.
After reading these wonderfully exciting children’s adventures, I am happy to welcome him to What’s Good to Read, so let’s find out more about him, starting with some quick facts.
Quick Facts about Saviour Pirotta
FAVOURITE BOOK: The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff
FAVOURITE AUTHOR: Rosemary Sutcliff
FAVOURITE FOOD/MEAL: Mushroom Pizza
FAVOURITE ANIMAL: Cats
FAVOURITE MOVIE: Jason and the Argonauts
CELEBRITY CRUSH: Don’t do celebrities. Everyone in the world is special in their own way
If you could start by introducing yourself to everyone, let them know where you’re from and some of your interests and hobbies.
Hi, I’m Saviour and I have been a full time writer for many years. I started out writing non-fiction books aimed mostly at libraries, then moved on to adapting myths and legends and finally started writing historical fiction. I live with my cat Gino in the seaside town of Scarborough in North Yorkshire, but I’ve also had homes in Leeds, Bradford and London.
When not writing, I love cooking Mediterranean meals. I make fresh pasta by hand and my friends tell me I bake a mean focaccia. That’s a soft Italian bread with lots of herbs. I also love baking cakes, but I can’t quite get the hang of it. I’d never make it on to Bake Off. I do a lot of gardening too, mostly growing roses and herbs for the kitchen. My dream is to have a conservatory where I can have a collection of wild geraniums.
I love visiting schools and performing at literary festivals. I get paid for it, but I usually end up spending the money on books signed by fellow authors. Oh, I also love afternoon tea, with cakes, scones and sandwiches.
What inspired you to start writing?
I’ve always loved stories. My grandma was a brilliant storyteller and she would keep me hooked on her ghost stories for hours on end. We couldn’t afford many books in our family and there were no libraries close by. But I discovered an abandoned school trunk in a dusty room above my father’s carpentry workshop. It belonged to my Aunt Louise who’d trained to be a teacher and was full to the brim with books. Mostly classics like Treasure Island and The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley. I not only got hooked on books, I also started dreaming of becoming a writer myself.
What is your preferred genre to write in?
I love all genres to be honest but at the moment I really enjoy writing historical fiction. Which is weird because I was pants at history in school. I especially love the ancient world – Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. I just love digging up facts about ancient civilisations – the way people lived, what they wore, the food they ate and the pets they kept. I think historical fiction is very important because it’s only by knowing our past that we can understand what’s happening in the present and shape our future.
What is your writing process?
I used to be what we authors call a ‘pantster’. That means you have a vague idea of where you want the story to go but you make it up as you go along. After literally hundreds of sleepless nights worrying about plot points and whether I would be able to finish my stories, I turned into a ‘planner’. I sort out the entire plot in bullet points before I start writing, although I always deviate from it during the actual writing.
My writing day starts at about 5.30am. I cuddle with Gino my cat for an hour, then make myself a strong coffee and look through my notebooks. I am addicted to making notes of interesting facts and people I could put in my stories. I write the first draft of my books by hand, in pencil so I can erase anything I don’t like. Writing by hand gives your brain time to keep up with your fingers. It gives you time to think. Typing on a keyboard is too fast for me, and it looks good on the screen even when you’ve still got a lot of polishing to do. When I’m fairly satisfied with the first draft, I type into my macbook. I do four edits before I show the story to my publishers. There are usually two or three more edits after that. Writing a story is a bit like working on a diamond. The more you polish it, the shinier and more priceless it gets.
What is one thing you wish you knew now that you didn’t know when you started writing?
To stop trying to emulate other writers and be true to myself. I wish I’d had the confidence to find my own voice sooner.
What was the hardest part of getting published?
I was very lucky in that I had my first manuscript accepted right away. It took ages to start selling enough books to make a living, though. I think the hardest part of publishing for me was convincing publishers I could write long chapter books. They saw me as a storyteller who could adapt myths and legends.
If you use a pen name, why, and how did you come up with it?
I use my own name. I was born Salvatore because my ancestors were Italian and my parents gave me a name that had been in the family for generations. But when I went to an English-speaking school, Salvatore was changed to English and I became Saviour. My surname is still Italian, though.
Which book is your favourite and why?
This one is difficult to answer. There are so many books I love. Growing up, C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was my favourite book. I read it every Christmas. I also loved Ian Serallier’s The Silver Sword and, of course, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. But the book that had the greatest influence on my own writing was Lew Wallace’s Ben Hur. I have multiple editions of it in my library.
I would say my favourite children’s book today is Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth and my favourite adult novel is Les Misérables.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
I love Rosemary Sutcliff for her world-building, Charles Dickens for the way he deals with social issues and Andrea Camilleri and Agatha Christie because they tell a mean detective story.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on a new historical series but I’m not allowed to say anything about it yet. All I can say it’s going to have magic in it, but not the Harry Potter kind, and it’s going to feature a real castle I visited in Istanbul. In the olden days, the only way you could get to it was by sailing across the river.
How do you handle a bad review?
The first review I ever had was for my first picture book, Let The Shadows Fly (now long out of print). It was in The Guardian. It was scathing, and for all the wrong reasons. The reviewer said it would give her two year old nightmares. But the book was aimed at 5-7 year olds. I’m still fuming about it all these years later.
What’s next for you as an author?
I’m hoping to sign up to do four more books set in Ancient Greece. They’ll be very different from my Ancient Greek Mysteries series.
Before the pandemic, I wrote a musical called Granny’s Exploding Toilet. It was a sell-out at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. There was going to be a touring production but it was scuppered by Covid. I’m hoping to find the time to get theatres interested in it again.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Sitting at my desk still writing. I have so many more stories to tell.
Where is your ultimate holiday destination?
That would have to be Petra, the Rose-Red City. I’d actually booked a trip there on my first visit to Jordan where I was doing school visits. But there was a terrible storm in the UK dubbed by the press as The Beast from the East. I got to Jordan two days late and had to go straight from the airport to my first school event.
Visiting Petra is still top of my bucket list, though. I have a special notebook I am keeping for the occasion. I’m hoping to write a book based in the Rose-Red City.
What’s some of the items on your bucket list?
There’s so much I want to do, if I ever find the time. I’d like to visit Petra, go back to Egypt. Visit San Francisco and Los Angeles, learn to ski and scuba dive in the Caribbean.
And finally, if you could choose one superpower, what would it be and why?
I’ve always fantasised about being invisible. I stay on in historic places after they were shut and have them all to myself.
I would like to say a big THANK YOU to Saviour Pirotta for taking the time to answer these questions. I am looking forward to reading the last in The Nuke Adventures series – The Serpent’s Eclipse due out in January 2024, published by Maverick Books.
If you want to find out more about Saviour Pirotta and his books, visit his website saviourpirotta.com and Maverick Books. You can also find him on social media – X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, Instagram, Threads and TikTok.
You can purchase books by Saviour Pirotta on Amazon.