The story concerns two brothers split by a historical event. One returns to England, intent on returning to rescue the other , a cannon maker, who is captured in Mexico. Richard, in London, tries to get a ship to return to Mexico, but hears rumours that his brother John has become a Catholic and is now making cannons for the Spanish ... New relationships, new loyalties, how these things are affected by politics and religion, all these things interest me . How do you adjust to living in a new country? My family emigrated to Australia when I was a young child, and then later returned to the UK. My formative years were unusual in that I was treated as an outsider both in Australia and on my return, so my own complicated roots allow me to empathise with the immigrant’s dilemma. How do I develop my characters? Drake was based in part on the then England Cricket Captain, Mike Gatting, plus various traits from other people I know. It is a bit like casting an actor for a film. Gatting was physically similar to the character I had in mind, but I chose him because he came across as hugely competent and an uncompromising leader. I interlace fictional characters into historical events, mixing real history with my storyline and characters, hoping that no one can tell the difference. I respect history insofar as I make sure that real historical figures do what they are known to have done. Drake and Hawkins are real, and there were people who did the things that the Tavistock brothers did, but we don’t have a complete record of the past and so a certain amount of licence is permissable. I presented the Court of Queen Elizabeth in terms of a portrait of a woman of supreme power. I wanted an illustration of how the exercise of power involves political manipulation. My novels get inside the heads of historical figures. When Richard Tavistock meets the Queen, he is working to meet his own personal ambitions, and the Queen is doing likewise. People negotiate to get what they want, whether that is a seat on a bus, a pint of beer or a country. I always want to create a well presented historical scene which shows the psychological underpinnings. The setting is very important. I like to do research and spend time in museums and libraries, but I have also been to most places where my novels are set. For Armada: the Caribbean, Spain, the Escorial, Portugal, many Tudor sites in England and Wales, extant royal palaces like Hampton Court and St James’s, and sites such as Richmond, Greenwich and Nonesuch. The Globe Theatre is interesting, a shrine to all writers for whom Shakespeare is hero. I visited the site when Sam Wanamaker was campaigning to build the place. I wanted to rub shoulders with the ghosts of that place. I have travelled a lot. For later books I spent research time in India, France, China, Turkey and I worked for a while in Hong Kong. As a teenager I was interested in science fiction. Time travel intersects particularly well with history. I always hope that my books will enable the reader to travel back in time to experience places that just don’t exist anymore, and to that end I try to make the settings as accurate as possible. There is a mystical element in Armada, as in most of my books. In every human life there are inexplicable coincidences. (See Arthur Koestler, “The Roots of Coincidence” for the concept of synchronicity.) Some things happen which are hard to explain using the ordinary rules of statistics. At one point Richard Tavistock attacks a Spanish ship, in which, unbeknown to him, his brother John is attempting to escape. Everyday life is like that, things happen which we cannot explain – karma.