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AUTHOR INTERVIEW

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A continuing Interview with John Schettler - Author Of the Kirov series novels.

The Saga Continues...

9 Days Falling continues the Kirov Saga while also beginning a new trilogy.

Yes. You can think of Men Of War as a kind of bridge novel between the first three volumes of the series and this second triad. It’s also a perfect prelude to the 9 Days Falling trilogy, as I used Men Of War to set up all the major plot lines that will now move forward.

What does the title mean?

It’s from Dante’s Inferno where Lucifer fell for 9 days after being cast out of heaven. He descends through the 9 levels of hell, so it was a nice metaphor for the gradual descent into chaos and war depicted in these books.

So the war finally begins in this fifth installment! Tell us about it.

Well, first off, the initial actions have both political and economic focal points. You saw both in Men of War, with China and Japan taking a political argument to sea in a naval engagement. Yet that was actually a fight over oil and gas rights on the ocean floor around those islands. In effect, that was a mini preview of the larger war, because it is fought as much for oil and gas as anything else. China’s bid for Taiwan is all about extending its influence to the island chains off its shores, and it has both economic and political roots.

The new plot line with Fairchild is all about that as well.

Yes. That story line allowed me to show what was happening in the Persian Gulf, and in the other major oil and gas regions in Central Asia. In the world I create, the Tengiz and Kashagan oil fields of the North Caspian have become the world’s new Saudi Arabia after Gahwar goes into steep decline. This is right in Russia’s back yard, and Kazakhstan has a foot in each camp. The Russians are preparing a land invasion, but I wanted to find a way to get a naval spin on it, and the few patrol boats in the Kazakh navy just wouldn’t fill the bill. Enter Fairchild Inc. Bringing that situation to life through these characters and on ships like Argos Fire was a much better way to present this material than a dry narrative, and it keeps the story in the naval fiction zone. Fairchild also has other roots in the story, as readers will soon find out.

I love Ben Flack and Mudman.

They were fun to create. “Flackie” was a Wilfred Brimley kind of character I had in my mind for that role, and he puts a personal point of view on the pressure to deliver energy to the West.  We turn on the electricity and drive our cars without a second thought, but before this series ends the effects of this war will hit home hard. Stay tuned.

The structure of this novel is a bit different than the previous ones.

Not really. I still shoot for a twelve part novel, with each part holding three chapters. All I did here was group those twelve parts into three sections--the first three days of the war-with each day comprised of twelve chapters.

The early action in this novel is now between evenly matched foes.

It is, and I found that depicting modern warfare is much more challenging here. The war fighting skills of Captain Vladimir Karpov are now put to the test once again, and first into the ring this time is Captain Tanner and the heart of the US 7th Fleet. Yet the modern warfare presented here is more complex than engagements against WWII adversaries, largely  due to the dizzying array of new weapons platforms, ships, plane types and missiles today.While most readers have heard of the Aegis cruiser, for example, they may have no idea how it achieves its designed purpose or how it performs in battle.

How do you handle that in the story?

That’s a good question. The research involved added hours of writing time to the modern warfare scenes, but you can’t just dump all that information on readers in a narrative. While some series readers will be well informed on the weapons of modern war, there are a lot of new weapons and technologies that the average person knows little about. In many instances the outcome of these battles hinges entirely on the razor thin edge that various weapons and radar systems provide one side or another, and to understand the battle’s outcome you will need to know something of the weapons that fight it.

I have no idea what a Standard ERAM is or how it works.

Exactly--and most readers won’t either. There are literally hundreds of missile types involved in modern warfare. So what I try to do is give you a sense of their purpose and their strengths and capabilities without it becoming burdensome. Yes, you have to name the damn things, and this does introduce some jargon to the narrative, but often the virtues of a particular weapon or missile are revealed through character dialogue instead a raw narrative information dump, which make the read more compelling.

How do you determine the outcomes of the combat scenes?

Well, I was a former military simulation game designer for a number of board game and computer game companies., so I have some idea how to quantify these capabilities and run simulations. There’s also great software out there that allows you to simulate these engagements. Beyond that, there’s research, technical papers from the naval schools. I spent a good deal of time reading kill chain analysis on fleet battlegroups defending against anti-ship cruise missiles. In the end it all comes down to probabilities. None of these weapons have ever really been tested in live ship-to-ship warfare since the late 1980s.

The outcomes seem convincing and plausible to me. Exciting too!

That’s a relief! What I try to do is consider it all from from the point of view of fictional interest, not just in a technical sense. I try to explain how Karpov fights his battle against Tanner, for example, and in that engagement you see how the Russians have compensated for their lack of long range carrier based air power. The  strategy and tactics involved depends on the actual capabilities of the forces engaged. This book isn’t a naval/air combat training manual, but I think the encounters are well explained in a way the average person can easily grasp what’s happening, and why.

The plot twists in this one were surprising!

One was well foreshadowed in Men Of War, but yes, some of the events Fedorov experiences may seem pretty bizarre. They all tie in to the mystery of Rod-25. Those scenes are very significant to the outcome of the story. As for Karpov, he’s going to start feeling like Michael Corleone in Godfather III-- “Just when I think I’m out, they pull me back in!”  There are quite a few surprises in this opener to 9 Days Falling, but I can’t say much more than that.

Does this volume cover the entire war?

By the end of this volume the war is well underway, but it can’t be adequately presented in this single book. At least two more books are planned to show how it progresses, three days of the war in each book, but the series isn’t really about the blow by blow depiction of the war itself. These 9 days show how the Great War starts, a series of falling dominoes that lead to a great cataclysm. It begins on the conventional battlefields, but it won’t end there, and the main characters from Kirov know this all too well. So the real story is mostly about the characters and their struggle to prevent that war from ever happening. A lot of that is now taking place in the 1940s, and this is a tale that has grown in the telling. All the main characters are caught up in the dilemma. They are “Men of War,” struggling to preserve the peace. Yet what they find is that they are forced into situations where they must either fight or die. It’s a real moral conundrum, and every action they take in the past has implications for the future.

Karpov also faces some real challenges here.

He does. Of all the characters, Karpov is the most conflicted. We saw his darker side in Kirov I, his redemption and growth in the next two books. Yet now that the Red Banner Fleet has put to sea he is on his own, without the countervailing influence and balance of either Volsky or Fedorov. So he confronts his own inner demons again, just as he faces a challenge from the big outer demons in both the US Navy and the wrath of nature. In many ways, his journey has now just begun, and Karpov faces his toughest challenge ever.

And when can we expect the next volume?

I’ve been writing this story since Kirov was first introduced, so you can expect a new release every 60 days until it concludes. This first volume of 9 Days Falling releases in May, the next book comes out this summer, and the third part of that trilogy is scheduled for this fall, 2013.

Great news! It’s going to be just a little more interesting this year, and we’re all looking forward.
Thank’s John.

THE INTERVIEW CONTINUES - PART 6

 

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