Q: How long have you been an expat in Argentina and when did you feel you had enough material for a book?
I’ve been living in Argentina since 2005, but it wasn’t until around 2013 that the idea of the book came to me. This was during the latter years of the Kirchner regime and in 2016 I wrote the first page, with thoughts of that particular government fighting for space in my head.
I was feeling very frustrated and angry (with the regime) at the time, which perhaps helped lubricate my mind.
Q: Was ‘The Last British President’ inspired by a particular event or character?
It wasn’t until I’d been living here for a couple of years that I discovered that the British had failed to conquer Argentina – twice. On researching the invasions of 1806 and 1807, some stand out characters leaped off the page, in particular Lt General Robert Craufurd and his commander, General Whitelocke. The two men ended as bitter enemies in 1807 following the defeat in Buenos Aires and Robert Craufurd could be said to be the inspiration for the story. (Also, note that the spelling of his name is correct here, but probably became Anglicized later.)
Q: Readers have described your book as an intriguing history-meets-fiction. Was there any point in your book where you had to take it down a notch to avoid it being too close to reality and less of a fiction work?
The first draft was set in a fictional South American republic, which I had called Nueva Esperanza, with the capital being Buena Vista, but I didn’t feel that it allowed me to draw a real parallel to the characters and their similarities to real people. So, you could say that I took it up a notch by changing the setting to Argentina.
After that, I certainly didn’t pull back. If anything, I’d like to have shifted up a gear or two.
Q: Was it challenging to make historical references enjoyable to readers not familiar with Argentinian history?
Not really. Most people outside Argentina have a limited knowledge of its history, unsurprisingly.
They will have heard of Maradona, the Falklands war and possibly gauchos, but what I always try to do is write just as I like to read, without getting bogged down in tedious details.
Q: In ‘The last British president’, the main character, Robert Crawford, is an Argentinian kid born to Anglo-Argentinian parents who seem to have a very strong relationship with the United Kingdom, to the point that one is lead to think that they still consider the UK as their motherland. Do you think this is common between Anglo-Argentinians and what is your impression of the Anglo-Argentinians view of the UK?
No doubt and without exception, every Anglo I meet goes into great detail about their British ancestry, of which they are very proud. Oddly enough, they think that Britain is paradise, but perhaps that is only when they compare it to Argentina. The reality is a little different.
They have a very romantic view of the UK, but in the end, this (Argentina, Ed.) is their home after all and if push came to shove, it would be a hard decision to make the move, if that’s what you’re suggesting.
Q: Without giving away too much of the story, do you think the idea of the United Kingdom still being interested in Argentina is completely nonsense or that there is some truth to it, given Argentina’s richness in natural resources?
With or without Brexit, Britain needs as many trading partners as it can find, but the idea of any kind of colonizing or aggression is simply my over imaginative mind at work.
Q: What is your personal take on the decay of Argentina from world power at the beginning of the XX century to its current state of a country, constantly on the verge of default? Is it all to blame on Argentina?
It’s entirely to blame on the inept politicians the country elects and the culture of thinking that anywhere other than Argentina is a ‘serious’ country. That has to change.
Q: Back to your book – can you anticipate when the Spanish version will be available?
I’m currently in talks with an Anglo-Argentine and we’re trying to hammer out a deal. Unfortunately I can’t give a timescale at the moment.
Q: So far, I assume your book has been read mainly by expats in Argentina. What do you expect to be the Argentines’ reaction once the book’s available in Spanish?
In fact, the majority of readers are people who live in the UK and although the story is set in Argentina, the conspiracy could really take place anywhere. As for Argentines reading the book in Spanish, I’m convinced that it will be read by more people in that language.
I think it talks to their inner insecurity, more than anything else.
Indeed I do. If I were to wait for a publishing house to pick it up, I’d probably be an octogenarian by then.
Self-publishing has come of age, with the stigma having left the building, so to speak.
Q: Finally, have you made yourself any enemy by writing ‘The Last British President’?
Not yet, but I’m working on it.