Robert Seymour, (under the pseudonym of Charles Courtley) is a retired judge who lives on the English coast with his wife, Jane, of 38 years, and a small dog called Phoebe.
He is the author of Wig Begone, a tale of a young barrister’s triumphs and tragedies. As well as adapting his novel into a screenplay and writing a sequel, he contributes to legal newsletters and blogs.
Find him online at http://courtleyprocedures.wordpress.com.
Q: Thank you for this interview, Robert. Can you tell us what your latest book, Wig Begone, is all about?
It’s the story of the triumphs and tragedies of an English barrister’ career, set in a less politically – correct era.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?
Charles Courtley is a poor but ambitious young lawyer, struggling to make a career at the English Bar which is somewhat hidebound by tradition. His long-suffering wife, Andrea, shares his life, which is peopled by devious criminals, crusty judges as well as eccentric fellow- professionals.
Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
The two main characters are based on my wife and myself (now married for 38 years) and the way the story develops is, to an extent, based on our own experiences but not completely, otherwise the tale would be very tame indeed!
Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?
I had some idea of the plot before sitting down to write the book but the climax, including the build-up, really only came to me as the project went along.
Q: Your book is set in “legal” London. Can you tell us why you chose this ara in particular?
Charles’ professional life revolves around “legal London” – an attractive area of that great city which stretches from Temple Gardens to the south of Fleet Street, to the quiet squares of Lincoln’s Inn to the north. I lived, studied and worked in this area for upwards of 20 years and it provided the perfect backdrop for my tale of legal intrigue.
Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?
Yes, because the tradition and history of this area underpins the whole story and gives it, I hope, a flavor of authenticity. More than anything else, I wanted to convey what being a young barrister in the 1970s actually felt like.
Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?
A good example of a dramatic incident in the book. Charles is undergoing the bruising experience of appearing before an intimidating judge, who knows so much more about the cases in hand than he does – and Charles has been found wanting!
The judge’s eyes, hard as pieces of coal, goggled at me…Now, I knew exactly how a wretched rodent must feel when a hawk is about to pounce from the sky.
Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?
Perhaps the part where I describe the extraordinary sensations that only an advocate experiences when addressing a jury (P.111)
The next day I stood up in front of the jury positioning myself as near to their box as I could. I was nervous and only too aware of the rows of fellow barristers beside me, and the members of the public, staring from their gallery upstairs. Poised to start the speech, my hands trembled just a fraction. It wasn’t just the nerves – I had a slight hangover as well caused by too many glasses of red wine the night before. But then that would give it an added vibrancy; a spontaneity which only jangling nerves can bestow.
By this time, all my senses were heightened. I could smell the mustiness of my gown and feel the sweat prickling the forehead under my wig. The leather aroma of the court furniture filled my nostrils. The judge, jury and the whole court became like a formal photograph of old; frozen and fixed in time.
The wig and gown acting as a kind of armor, I drew comfort from their physicality by pushing the wig firmly down over my head and drawing the gown close to my body.
Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Robert. We wish you much success!
Thanks for the interview. It’s been a pleasure.