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Q&A  •  27 February 2024


Ferdia Lennon shares the Plutarch passage that inspired Glorious Exploits

Plus, find out why he taught himself to memorise an entire deck of cards while researching for the novel.

What was your writing process like? Did you have a writing routine or any regular rituals?

Ideally, I'm a morning writer and like to start first thing when I get up, before email or really anything else. Often, during the writing Glorious Exploits and my writing life in general, that wasn't always possible, and I would just write whenever I could. Ultimately, it doesn't matter when, as long as you're writing.

How did you first come up with the idea for the book?

The inspiration was from a passage in Plutarch's Lives where we learn that Athenian prisoners of war, who had tried and failed to conquer the Sicilian city of Syracuse, survived because their captors would give food and wine in exchange for quotes from Euripides' plays. My novel uses this as its starting point and follows two unemployed, theatre-obsessed Syracusan potters who decide to put on Medea with an all-star cast of Athenian prisoners.

If you could have dinner with any fictional character, who would it be and why?

Maybe Wilkins Micawber from David Copperfield. I'm guessing I would have to pick up the bill, but it would be a very entertaining meal.

If you were a character in a novel, what would be your signature quirk or catchphrase?

I think, 'Buy my book.' has a nice ring to it.

What fictional world would you want to live in, and how would you survive or thrive there?

The fifth-century Athens of Mary Renault's The Last of The Wine is a very compelling place filled with the greatest hits of classical Athenian history. As novels didn't exist back then, perhaps I would try my hand at playwriting.

What's the weirdest talent or skill you have that not many people know about?

When I was researching my next novel, there was a section involving memory techniques used in the Middle Ages, and whether for research or procrastination, I learnt them and could memorise a shuffled deck of cards, which I have assured my wife is a very useful skill.

What's your go-to karaoke song, and how well do you perform it?

The Beatles' 'Twist and Shout' and not very well. There's another Lennon who does it a bit better.

Where is your happy place, and why?

There's a beautiful park near our old neighbourhood in Paris called Parc de Buttes Chaumont. It was the only green space my wife and I could access during the pandemic, and as it was built around what was once an old limestone quarry, I'd visit there when I was writing Glorious Exploits if I needed inspiration for the quarry scenes. When our son was born, we'd go for walks there most days, and we had a favourite spot, so there are many happy memories there.


This article was orginially published on the penguin.com.au website. 

Feature Title

Glorious Exploits
An exhilarating and fiercely original story of brotherhood, war and art, set in ancient Sicily
Read more

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