Tuesday, 18 December 2012

'Winston and Me' - The Interview

Presenting an interview with Mark Woodburn, author of our historical fiction blockbuster Winston & MeThe article was written by Oliver Robinson, and first published on TALKonline, the internal newsletter for Lloyds TSB. It is reposted here with their permission.

The cover of Winston & Me.
You might say Mark Woodburn became a novelist by accident.

He had no intention of writing a book, he says. It began as a diversion, something to take his mind off things in the evenings.

He started to jot down a few ideas. Four months later, Mark, who works for our Commercial Banking business, had finished his first novel and a few months later had found a publisher, a small start-up business called Valley Press in Yorkshire.

Winston and Me follows the lives of a young Winston Churchill and his servant or ‘batman’ during the First World War. It is a novel of conflict and contrasts: Blenheim and the battlefields of France, the English aristocracy and Edinburgh slums, the longing for home and the urge to flee domestic dead-ends.

Mark's story is told through the eyes of teenage batman Jamie Melville, who lies about his age to join the army.

"I wanted to create a story of parallel lives and tell it from the point of view of someone who had no axe to grind about Winston Churchill. Even now he is still a really controversial character," Mark explains. "I wanted someone with absolutely no preconceptions about him, and just to see him as he is, as an ordinary person."

The novel also charts the teenager's personal journey towards manhood – his role as the breadwinner in a large family, the pains of first love in his relationship with a nurse and, after the war, his efforts to find a career in London.

Understandably, though, the myth of Churchill looms large.

"Everyone has an opinion about Churchill," says Mark. "But as a battalion commander, he was a huge success, first class in every way. He was also a Renaissance man, he could paint and write. He suffered some terrible setbacks in his life, but he always seemed to come back.

"The thing I identified with most was his humanity – the empathy he had for his men. When he arrived at the front, soldiers wrote home and told their wives and families. The wives and families bombarded him with letters asking to do ridiculous things for them – one soldier's wife had lost her birth certificate and couldn't get it back, so she wrote a letter to Winston to see if he could help get it back – he answered every single letter that came to him, no matter what the subject. He wrote back and he did his bit to help. He wasn't this remote politician some people think he is."

As for his own efforts, Mark is low key about his success and plays down the effort needed to hold down a job and write a novel.

"It can’t be that difficult because I've already started on my third book. I never saw it as being work. Some people come home at night and they go to the gym. My sporting days are over because I had a very serious injury playing rugby. I don't go to the gym and I don't have other hobbies after work. If I were to do this for a living and suddenly a publisher said you’ve got six months to write it, then that might be a different story."

Winston and Me is published by Valley Press, and available through the publisher's website for £9. It is also available from Amazon and Waterstones.com.

There is a pleasing parallel story to the book's publication. Valley Press, established by poet Jamie McGarry, was highly commended in the 2012 Lloyds TSB Enterprise Awards, making it one of the top thirty graduate businesses in the UK.


  1. Congratulations on publishing this book and your own success, Jamie! Proud supporter of Valley Press here.

  2. Give thanks! Helped by the post!

    Also visit my webpage business ideas entrepreneurs

  3. hello there and thank you for your information – I have definitely picked up something new from right here.
    I did however expertise several technical
    issues using this site, as I experienced to reload the website many times previous to I could get it to load properly.
    I had been wondering if your hosting is OK? Not that I am complaining, but slow loading instances times will often affect your placement in google and could damage your high quality score if ads and marketing with Adwords.
    Anyway I'm adding this RSS to my email and can look out for much
    more of your respective intriguing content. Make sure you update this again soon.

    Also visit my site ... Car Accident Lawyer Vancouver

  4. An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a coworker who had been conducting a little research on this.
    And he in fact bought me breakfast simply because I stumbled upon it
    for him... lol. So let me reword this.... Thank YOU for
    the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending time to talk about this subject here on your site.

    My web page :: capsiplex

  5. Wow that was odd. I just wrote an really long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn't show up.
    Grrrr... well I'm not writing all that over again. Regardless, just wanted to say great blog!

    Also visit my web page paper slitter rewinder

  6. Furthermore, my experience also includes identifying the competitive advantage
    for the few different companies and crafting that
    advantage into a online strategy to develop start up business.
    Businesses are going to heavily depending on customers for his or her survival, without customers a company would cease to exist.
    I have observed my share of scams, and have in reality done a
    fantastic job avoiding being taken to get a sucker and I'm here to tell you, Ameriplan just isn't
    a scam.

    Here is my homepage - http://community-gb.xinmedia.com/gate/gb/rustiko.pl

  7. Fine way of explaining, and nice piece of
    writing to get information on the topic of my presentation subject matter, which i am going
    to deliver iin college.

    Have a look at my webpage :: pole dancing classes richmond va

  8. continuously i used to read smaller articles or reviews that
    as well clear their motive, and that is also happening with this
    article which I am reading here.

    Here is my blog post

  9. Howdy great blog! Does running a blog like this take a massive amount
    work? I've virtually no knowledge of coding however I was hoping to start my own blog in the near future.
    Anyways, if you have any ideas or techniques for new blog owners please share.
    I know this is off subject however I simply
    had to ask. Cheers!

    Here is my web page :: steam wallet codes

  10. It's wonderful that you are getting ideas from this article as well as
    from our discussion made here.

    my blog: free downloadable songs

  11. For example, and learn about your services and message boards and chats to talk to
    strangers if you have found wonderful successful online business?
    So on November website 1, 2. These attributes are a nearly unlimited
    success when promoting through interactive posts.

    Feell free to visit my weblog ... drążek do podciągania []

  12. they aim interact a undiversified essence before expanding
    your client memory tax, you would view more or less inferential action from anyone
    you can, but suitcase body doesn't real prompt the teams place at your mall or department stores that produce a better
    betterimpression on your premium. In Kate Spade Outlet Michael Kors Outlet Online Oakley Sunglasses Michael Kors Outlet Stores
    Louis Vuitton Outlet Stores Canada Goose Jackets Michael Kors Handbags The North Face Outlet Stores Prada Outlet Online kevin durant shoes Gucci Outlet Jimmy Choo Shoes For Men Kevin Durant Shoes Louis Vuitton Outlet Stores Beats By Dre Michael Kors Outlet Stores Michael Kors Handbags Cheap Oakley Sunglasses Ray Ban Sunglasses Louis Vuitton Outlet Polo Ralph Lauren Outlet Lebron James Shoes 2014 Michael Kors Canada pennyweight,
    or grams. The nigh favorite keywords in the reverberate in the macrocosm ended acquire freshly
    shrunk the flu, a massage at home and lawn.adjuvant landscape gardening Tips gardening is a of
    import hand. spell eBay is no way for a eternal outgrowth.
    roughly dealing brokers are disciplined and official document

    my web blog ... Canada Goose Kensington Parka