The Chain is a series of one-to-one conversations between authors discussing the business of writing.


Michael Dobbs and Bruno Hare discuss peerages, parenthood and passions 




Hello, Bruno, it’s great to be able to chat with a fellow author. It can be an isolated life while we’re locked away with our thoughts, can’t
it? You’re a relatively new writer yet your books are fabulous romps, tales of extraordinary ambition that cross both continents and centuries. Perhaps that captures your earlier career in the film industry. What’s been the best part of your life as a writer so far – and give me an idea about what you find most difficult. How do you fit it in with ‘real life’? 


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Hello Michael, it is very nice to chat with a fellow author, as you say. It will be fascinating to compare one’s own life of isolation to that of another, but I have a feeling yours cannot be all that solitary what with sitting in the House of Lords and being so heavily involved at Westminster. How do you find the time to get your books written? Do you wait until recess and vanish for a couple of months? Or do you do it bit by bit, finding time where you can? Perhaps you sneak in the odd hour while every one else in chamber is having a snooze? Speaking of peerages, how do you feel about the prospect of Lords reform? And what would Harry Jones, your fantastic parliamentary adventurer, have to say about it?

My background in film has informed my writing, in as much as I entered into both worlds out of a love of storytelling. I never really considered being involved in anything else. Luckily it seems to have worked out so far – there’s no back-up plan. The freedom an author has writing books has certainly been the best part of the life so far – I am restricted by nothing but my imagination. Of course that means the worst part is when my imagination does conspire to restrict me, but thus far that has not been a common occurrence, I’m pleased to say.

I read that Harry Jones is being developed into a Hollywood film. Do you, as his creator, have any involvement in that? Will he retain his Englishness, or will he become an American, as Urquhart will in Spacey and Fincher’s upcoming adaptation of the House of Cards? Speaking of which, can anything top Richardson’s version? 


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michael dobbsMichael Dobbs


A Sentimental Traitor

by Michael Dobbs


The Wreck

by Bruno Hare

both published by

Simon & Schuster

bruno hareBruno Hare


Wow, plenty of questions, Bruno. But that’s part of a writer’s craft, getting into other people’s lives, finding out what drives them, makes them different.

The House of Lords? Brilliant place, much misunderstood. Full of characters who’ve seen and done everything, and are happy to share their experiences. In my first Harry Jones novel, The Lord’s Day, I held the place hostage – but they still let me in! It’s hugely distracting, of course, but makes up for it with long days and many nights crammed with inspiration.

I suppose the biggest thing for me right now is that adaptation by Kevin Spacey of House of Cards, when FU knifes his way into the White House. It’s going to be simply huge when it’s released early next year. How will he top Ian Richardson in the role, you ask? He doesn’t have to. He will do it in his own extraordinary style and be magnificent.

But the films and plays I’m involved with now are very different from the loneliness of the long distance novelist. So what is it for you – a job that will help you raise your young family, or a personal passion that insists on finding an outlet? 

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It’s certainly a personal passion that drives me to write, Michael. It would be a tough job to produce anything directly from your imagination if you weren’t passionate about it, I think, but a writer’s existence also makes for a pretty flexible working life, which has proved useful at the onset of parenthood. In a country where most fathers receive only two weeks’ statutory paternity leave following the birth of a child, I feel very fortunate to have been party to so much of my twins’ early years. The temptation is to be all too flexible, of course. It’s difficult to persuade yourself to sit at a computer when the first smiles are being coaxed from the strange little organisms whose sole purpose in life to that point seems to have been depriving you of sleep. Then again, sleep deprivation gets the mind working in strange ways, I’ve found, and had I not been forced to sit up in the middle of the night for hours on end, I’m sure my first book, The Lost Kings, would have proven a little less twisted. So all round I’d say combining the life of a writer with parenthood has been a pretty good deal.

Have you found it easier or more difficult to keep disciplined in your work as you have grown older and more experienced? 


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Discipline! What better discipline could there be than raising four sons? The biggest challenge is keeping the chaos on the other side of the study door. In all honesty, it’s a challenge I frequently fail. Talking of doors, novels are very much like that. Open a book and you walk into a different world, with all its fresh excitements and uncertainties. I’m reading and hugely enjoying your latest – The Wreck. It’s very different from your first book in both time and setting. I’m dying to know – what was its inspiration? 

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My girlfriend is Norwegian and when we lived there I was struck by three things in particular, all of which inspired The Wreck. Firstly, the wartime resistance movement there was staggeringly brave and compared to their French counterparts relatively internationally unsung. Ripe for story weaving. Secondly, Lebensborn, the Nazi breeding programme that had a heavy presence in Norway, is a fascinating area of the war, the repercussions of which are still felt today. And lastly I was grabbed by the story of the German warship, Blücher, the destruction of which was one of the most unlikely Nazi defeats in the entire war. With its wreck still lying at the bottom of the Oslofjord today, I just knew I had to dredge it for mystery and untold history.

Your latest, A Sentimental Traitor, deals with a special branch of Brussels trying to take control of Europe, with one man, the shady adventurer MP Harry Jones, out to stop them. Tell me, with all your dealings in Westminster, have you ever come across someone like Harry Jones? Are his facets an amalgamation of different people you have encountered, like Bond, or is he simply someone you would like to have existed? 


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What a brilliant basis for a plot. I love your idea of taking powerful history and making it come to life once more. Mind you, I’ve always said political plots are essentially simple – you take political reality, and then water it down. You have to, in order to make it credible!

And Harry Jones? Well, with all the private torments behind his public triumphs, I suspect there’s a fragment of Harry in every politician. And, yes, there are still plenty of extraordinary men and women amongst the obvious rogues in Westminster. I continue to travel in hope.

I suspect I’ve got to let you get back to your keyboard, Bruno. I’m something like sixteen novels ahead of you, and still there’s the lurking terror that the ruffian Deadline will trip you at the top of the stairs and send you tumbling. But before you go, can you tell me a little about the next project? Book? Play? Film script? 


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People are always saying you should write about what you know. Having entirely ignored this advice for my first two novels, I am at last setting things straight, and working on a set of stories based on the inner workings of the relationship between twins much like my sons. Having said that, in dealing with a pair of lads who possess identical physiognomies and DNA, I am not about to confine myself to utter realism, either, and am having great fun with the possibilities.

I think you are right, Michael – our word count has come and gone. It has been a pleasure to pick the brain of one with such storytelling flair and experience. Until next time, all the very best. 


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