THE SILK TREE by Julian Stockwin published in paperback by Allison & Busby today

Julian Stockwin’s THE SILK TREE is published in paperback today by Allison & Busby. There will be a LoveReading competition during the publication with copies of the book as prizes.

THE SILK TREE is a standalone novel which depicts the dramatic story of a pivotal point in history where a secret was stolen that changed the world forever. Global stakes, high personal risk, and atmospheric story-telling combine to tell of the quest to bring the closely-guarded secret of silk production out of China to the west. ‘Conn Iggulden meets Robert Harris’.

At 14 Stockwin joined a tough sea-training school, followed by the Royal Navy, transferring to the Royal Australian Navy when his family emigrated.  He saw active service in the Far East, the Antarctic, the South Seas and Vietnam, and was on board the Melbourne at the time of its disastrous peace time collision with the Voyager.  He later worked for NATO on the strategic deployment of merchant shipping. 

Stockwin is currently writing another KYDD novel for Hodder and another standalone, THE CRAKYS OF WAR, for Allison & Busby.

Praise for THE SILK TREE:

‘Julian Stockwin takes this tale and turns it into a fascinating story, full of colour and incident.’ – Historical Novel Society

‘This is a page-turning historical fiction of the first order written with great brio and opening the reader’s eyes to a world that, as the author says, ‘we in the 21st century can only wonder at.’ – The Good Book Guide

‘A non-stop, action packed adventure from 549 AD spanning the fascinating Roman and Chinese empires … The simple descriptive detailing eloquently brings the background to life; Julian Stockwin has the gift of allowing the reader to see lands for the first time through the eyes of Nicander and Marius. THE SILK TREE is an entertaining, enjoyable read and one you can gallop through in an easy sitting.’ – Liz Robinson, LoveReading

The Silk Tree: Fact versus Fiction

by Julian Stockwin

This post originally appeared on Julian's blog, and can be found here.

Two exotic worlds separated by a vast distance

Two exotic worlds separated by a vast distance

My standalone historical fiction The Silk Tree is somewhat of a departure from my seafaring tales but has been a hugely enjoyable project, not the least being the research. As in all historical fiction there is a certain leeway for an author but I firmly believe you have to thoroughly do your homework first and establish what facts are known. Then the historical fiction writer’s creative challenge is to craft a page-turning story, filling in the gaps between what is known to be fact, to offer a plausible and entertaining tale.

The Silk Road (that actual term wasn’t used until the nineteenth century) began very early. An organised camel-based commerce was in place at the time of Alexander the Great’s feats of conquest. There was regular early Roman trade which was interrupted by the Parthians and Persians after which it fell off until the medieval golden age of Marco Polo. It declined terminally when Vasco da Gama found a trading route to the east around Africa in 1498, although the last camel caravans lingered on until modern times. Relics of the Silk Road are still in existence. I visited an ancient caravanserai on the Anatolian plateau and many can still be found dotted along the old routes into Central Asia.

Just what is known of the story of silk? China kept the secret for all of a thousand years and legend there tells of a princess who smuggled eggs out in her headdress when married to a prince of Khotan. In the West accounts generally agree that it was two monks who returned from China in 551 with the secret of silk – I have this from three sources. However these documents vary in their details, each providing tantalising references and with no one version standing out as definitive. My tale is based on these.

Where we do have verifiable historical information I have taken some pains to ensure veracity. Many of my characters in The Silk Tree did exist and it was fascinating researching their lives.

I’ve picked just five to highlight:

On the Silk Road gold talked…

On the Silk Road gold talked…

Emperor Justinian was a towering figure in antiquity who did much to restore the respect and standing of the Roman Empire in the East, and his codifying of laws is the basis of much jurisprudence today. He was, incidentally, the last emperor to speak Latin as a native first language.

Belisarius was his loyal and gifted military general who some claim was ill-used by a jealous Justinian. It is undisputed that it was largely his genius that allowed Justinian to reclaim much of the Western Roman Empire, giving rise to his nickname of ‘Last of the Romans’.

The warlord-turned emperor Wen Hsuan was a genuinely unpleasant individual, the range of his barbarity grim and shocking. He poisoned the deposed emperor ten months after assuming the throne and his blood-soaked reign lasted for another nine years. Stability only came with the glorious T'ang dynasty 70 years later

The immensity of Central Asia starts here

The immensity of Central Asia starts here

Antonina was daughter and granddaughter of charioteers and became an actress, much derided by my historian Procopius for her lewd performances. She oddly became friend and confidante to Theodora, the wife of Justinian and became privy to court secrets. Belisarius saw her and fell in love and she gave up her wild life to follow him in his campaigns.

Ts’ao Fu was a poet of stature in the murderous times before the dawn of the great T’ang dynasty. These men, inheritors of a continuous cultural past, that was well over a thousand years old at this time produced works of great beauty that are still revered to this day.

THE SILK TREE is published by Allison & Busby on Thursday 6 November. If you’re in London on 30 October, you are cordially invited to the Launch Party at Goldsboro Books. We hope you can join Julian to raise a glass to Marius and Nicander’s great adventure!



PASHA by Julian Stockwin out in the UK today

The 15th KYDD adventure, PASHA, is published in the UK today by Hodder. In this latest instalment of Julian Stockwin’s acclaimed maritime adventure series, an Admiralty summons to England cuts short Thomas Kydd's service in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. While the crew of L'Aurore can look forward to liberty and prize money, a shadow hangs over their captain: the impending court martial of his one-time commander, Commodore Popham, who led a doomed attack on South America.

Fans should also look out for Stockwin’s new novel, THE SILK TREE, which will be published in November by Allison & Busby. It tells the tale of a quest to bring the secret of silk production out of China to the west.

At 14 Stockwin joined a tough sea-training school, followed by the Royal Navy, transferring to the Royal Australian Navy when his family emigrated.  He saw active service in the Far East, the Antarctic, the South Seas and Vietnam, and was on board the Melbourne at the time of its disastrous peace time collision with the Voyager.  Later worked for NATO on the strategic deployment of merchant shipping.

Praise for the KYDD series:

‘The story takes you on an explosive journey, which is full of unexpected turns … rich in action and full of interesting characters, this thrilling novel leaves you in awe of the 18th century seaman.’ -- Evening Telegraph

‘A wonderfully fresh and incredibly vivid debut novel … I reckon [the series] will be as popular as the novels of Patrick O’Brian so exciting is this new author.’ -- Publishing News

Team Stockwin and The Silk Tree

Julian Stockwin is the author of the Kydd Naval series and his latest novel, THE SILK TREE, will be published in late 2014 by Allison & Busby and is now available for preorder here. Julian's partner, Kathy, has become an integral part of the writing process. Below, the author explains the creative development behind THE SILK TREE, where planning and research are the essential ingredients for a compelling story and great writing. 

Team Stockwin!

Team Stockwin!

THE SILK TREE is a new departure for me, a stand-alone historical adventure fiction that is not maritime at its heart.  Its genesis was my wife Kathy’s discovery of a rather lovely silk scarf in the ancient Kapali Carsi, the Grand Bazaar, in Istanbul during a recent research trip to Turkey.  While she was chatting with the merchant I idly wondered just how silk had been brought from China to the West. Intrigued, I did some research and the creative juices started flowing – I knew I had a story I had to tell.

So we got to work, drafting up a list of topics to investigate; a very pleasant task over a meze of various delicious morsels – then on to kepab – all in the name of research, of course...

As usual, local museums and libraries were a major resource. I always travel with a small pocket dictaphone and a compact camera that can take high-quality images of textual material. At the end of the day it’s our strict rule to go through the photos and notate each one. I also transcribe the notes I took verbally and Kathy and I work up any changes to our itinerary as a result of the day’s research.

Of all the iconic architecture in modern Istanbul, Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace are the most memorable.  At the time of THE SILK TREE the former was a Christian shrine but Topkapi was yet to be built. Part of the task of a writer of historical fiction is to recreate city landscapes of the past in his mind’s eye and for THE SILK TREE this meant  sixth century Constantinople (as it was called then).

Back in the UK Kathy and I flow-charted the basic story on a large white board that we find invaluable at this stage.  Then we had a number of sessions working up the personalities of the main characters, Nicander and Marius. Once this was done we developed sub-plots around the main story – the quest for the secret of silk. Kathy thought we should have a love story element in the book and we had to find a way to bring two people of very different cultures to mutual respect then a deep attraction. But I don’t want to give the game away as to how this happened...

I’m a firm believer in the old saying that no life experience is wasted for the writer and for THE SILK TREE I was able to call upon my admiration of Chinese calligraphy which goes back to the time I lived and worked in the Far East. And all those hours of dry study of ancient Greek and Latin at grammar school came in handy, too!

When we were satisfied with our planning for THE SILK TREE a detailed synopsis was created, and I wrote the first three chapters, which I sent off to Carole Blake. She loved the idea and I then set out to write the rest of the book.

Kathy is a very integral part of my writing process. Once we have agreed on a strong beginning and a satisfying end, along with the thrust of the middle of the book, we walk and talk segments, making sure the right elements of tension, stakes, detail etc. are there before I write.

Kathy is also my live-in ‘blue pencil’, fine-tuning my writing with her very considerable editing skills as I go along. At the end of the process she does what she calls her helicopter editing, looking at the work as a whole.  Then we both go through the manuscript very, very carefully a number of times before it’s ready to submit.

I realise I am very privileged to be able to earn my living as a full-time writer – and to be able to work so closely with my life partner in this is a wonderful thing indeed!

The Anatolian Plateau, the last stage for the great camel caravans of the Silk Road.

The Anatolian Plateau, the last stage for the great camel caravans of the Silk Road.

Hagia Sophia at dusk

Hagia Sophia at dusk


New novel from Julian Stockwin signed by Allison & Busby

Photo Credit: Allan House

Photo Credit: Allan House

Carole Blake is delighted to announce the sale of THE SILK TREE, a new novel from bestselling historical author of the KYDD series, Julian Stockwin, to Allison & Busby.

Publishing Director Susie Dunlop bought UK & Commonwealth rights (excluding Canada) from Carole Blake at Blake Friedmann, and will publish THE SILK TREE in November 2014.  A departure from Stockwin’s ongoing maritime Kydd series with Hodder, THE SILK TREE tells the dramatic story of how the secret of silk was brought to the west from China, and will be followed by a number of novels dramatising other pivotal historic discoveries.

Dunlop commented: ‘I have long admired Julian’s work, and it’s fantastic to add him to our list which already boasts John Wilcox and David Donachie.  We are looking forward to introducing his dedicated fans to this exciting new novel’.

Julian Stockwin said: ' I am especially pleased to be published by Allison & Busby, a house with an excellent reputation amongst independent publishers and one with such a great enthusiasm for the art of story-telling.'

Carole Blake said: ‘This novel is the first of several that will certainly broaden Julian Stockwin’s readership.  We already have a lot of international interest from publishers around the world.’

For rights information please contact Carole Blake: