Hey there! I’m Angus Donald and I write historical novels (mainly). Most people know me for the Outlaw Chronicles a series of eight medieval tales about a gangster-ish Robin Hood. The last one, The Death of Robin Hood, was published in the summer of 2017. But I’m now deep into a 17th-century series about an unusual but rather brilliant chap called Holcroft Blood. The first book is Blood’s Game, which came out in hardback October 2017 (paperback out September 2018). I’ve written a blog about Holcroft, if you want to check him out. I’ve also just finished a novel called Gates of Stone (as Angus Macallan), first in my Lord of the Islands fantasy series, which will be published in February 2019.
So that’s professional me – guess I’d better tell you a little more personal stuff. I was born in China – my folks were British diplomats there in the 1960s – and I grew up all over the world. I went to a boarding school in England (Marlborough College) and went out to stay with my parents during the holidays. So as a kid I had experience of Greece, Hong Kong, Zaire and Indonesia. When I was all grown up, well, 18, I lived as a beach bum in Crete for a year, having some of the best fun on my life. I went to the University of Edinburgh and studied, among other things, Social Anthropology – and I was lucky enough to be sent to Indonesia to do some fieldwork based around the local magical beliefs. That was a fascinating and sometimes scary time – I met a lot of witch doctors and have quite a few weird magic stories to tell. The magic in my fantasy Gates of Stone is inspired by this time in my life.
I went to New York after university to try and write a novel about my exploits in Crete. But I spent too much time partying in that fantastic city and working hard as a waiter and not nearly enough time writing. The novel was a piece of crap anyway – many first novels are. After New York, I went to China – my father had been posted there again, this time as Ambassador, and I went to see my parents for Christmas and ended up travelling the country for six months. I ended up in Hong Kong in 1990, penniless, and with no idea what to do with my life except a vague desire to write. After some teaching jobs, I got a slot on a travel magazine, which led on to other magazine work – editing and writing – and then a job on the Hong Kong Standard newspaper as staff writer for their Sunday magazine.
I came back to the UK in 1995, just before I turned 30 – still more or less broke, and looking for a challenge. The logic in leaving Hong Kong was that I didn’t want to end up a big fish in a small pond. I also had some girl trouble, to be honest. Long story. Back in the UK, I got work on the Sunday Telegraph Magazine for a couple of years, and then moved to the FT newspaper. The FT were kind enough to send me back out to Asia, as a stringer in their Delhi office. To be frank, I didn’t much enjoy Delhi or my job and I quit in 2001 just after 9/11 to go up to report on the war in Afghanistan.
I was in Pakistan and Afghanistan for about four months, getting work as a freelance reporter as best I could – but it was hellishly dangerous for such a small financial reward. My colleagues were regularly being killed, some captured and tortured to death. And as a freelance I had no back-up and no resources. I remember coming back from a 16-hour day reporting on the battle of Tora Bora in December 2001 and working out that I’d made £70 for my efforts – filing a piece for The Independent newspaper – during a day in which I’d been shot at with machine guns and nearly hit by mortar fire.
In 2002, I came back to the UK, once again broke and rather directionless. I sat down and actually made a life plan – good wheeze this, IMHO – I took a job at The Times as a sub-editor on the Saturday section Body & Soul, a nice, easy 10am-6pm job on a rather girly health section, but with the great advantage that nobody was trying to kill me. I decided to become a historical novelist, which I realised is what I’d always wanted to be. It took me six years at The Times to get my shit together, writing very early in the mornings and at weekends, but in spring 2008, I got a publishing contract for two Robin Hood novels, which allowed me to resign from the paper and write books full time.
It’s not all plane sailing, this novel-writing lark, and there have been some alarming financial ups and downs, but I have never been happier. I’m finally doing what I want to with my life. I got married in 2005, I now have two lovely children, and I spend all day at home in a ramshackle old house in rural Kent, in my garden shed-office making up adventure stories. What could possibly be better than that?