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AUTHOR INTERVIEW

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

About Devil’s Garden:

First off, we got some exciting news that there will be an eight book in the Kirov series. We thought the series was ending in Book VII.

That’s the beauty of the digital era—everything is editable!

Tell us about your decision to extend the series.

Well in many ways it was Anton Fedorov’s decision. I can’t say too much without revealing plot elements, but  yes, I initially intended to finish the series in Devil’s Garden, and I appended a note at the end of Fallen Angels about that, and to thank my readers for the support they have given these books. Then I just went about my normal creative process, continuing the story and harvesting the fruit planted in the many story threads. As I got deeper into the novel I could start to see that I was running out of space and time and, while I was resolving many of the story threads, there were things that were going to need more time in the barrel before the end.

How does Fedorov influence this?

Characters do things—sometimes things I did not originally plan when I first plotted this all out in my mind. You put your people in situations, and then they act according to the traits and values you’ve given them, and sometimes they pull the story in a new direction. Orlov was a perfect example of that. His decision to jump ship in the middle of the second book was not something I originally planned for him to do, but that gave birth to the entire 9 Days Falling trilogy, of which Devil’s Garden is the ending volume.

None of that was planned at the outset?

No. In fact the series has two distinct stories. The first is that opening trilogy of Kirov, Cauldron of Fire, and Pacific Storm. That third volume creates a satisfying end to those three books, and then I decided to write Men Of War to tie off loose ends and recount what happened to the ship and crew after they got home as a kind of afterword. In some ways this was to also explore the consequences of their actions on the history. Then that story blossomed and became a prelude to the entire 9 Days Falling trilogy.  Fedorov is researching the history when he discovers that passages in books available at Vladivostok are different from those he had with him aboard Kirov, and that the text is still changing. That is a very, very strong clue that something is still going on in the past that is having an effect in 2021, and he fixates on Orlov as the probable cause. So it was Fedorov’s curiosity and his desire to maintain the integrity of the  history that actually launches the next trilogy, the three books in the 9 Days Falling series.

That has been quite a ride. The plot expanded dramatically, with a good many new characters and story lines.

A good story plot is like a tree. This one has a strong root and trunk in Kirov and the first trilogy, then it begins to branch out in Men of War and it grows further in 9 Days Falling. Each story branch contributes something essential to the overall story as it develops. A few eventually wither and die. Others carry the main life of the tree and bear that final fruit. For example, the Ben Flak plot sequence aboard Platform Medusa on the Caspian Kashagan oil field made its necessary contribution to the story. It allowed me to explain the energy situation the war was focused on in 2021, and to discuss its ramifications, and it grew in tandem with another strong branch of the tree, the Fairchild plot line with the Argos Fire. That line continues into Devil’s Garden and bears some remarkable fruit here, but Ben Flak and Mudman made their last bow in the helicopter ride they got with the Argonauts. They won’t be back.

What about some of the other sub-plots, like the Mironov/Kirov twist and that strange phenomenon on the back stairs at the railway in at Ilanskiy?

That all ties in to the evolution that is coming. It wasn’t just a way to give the young Sergie Kirov a cameo appearance. That stairway, and its effects, lead us quite literally to Tunguska, and of course that event has now been closely associated with the properties of Rod-25. And don’t forget the Russian Naval intelligence officer, Volkov. He’s found himself in quite a stew after leading young Byrne down those stairs. This all gets another little evolution in Devil’s Garden, and this story thread makes a very significant contribution to the evolution I have planned in book VIII.

Was this all anticipated from the outset?

No. That’s the amazing thing about the story. When it grew and developed in the 9 Days Falling trilogy, I had a number of possible endings in mind. One involved Fedorov, Mironov, and the plot lines involving the hunt for Orlov. But in Fallen Angels you get yet another example of a character seizing hold of the  story and  compelling it to take a new direction.

Karpov?

Exactly.  The original conception of 9 Days Falling in my mind was to keep the action mostly centered on the war in 2021. Then I realized that was not what the series was really all about. It was conceived to be an alternate history time travel story, with a focus on military naval fiction, which grew right from the novel that preceded it, Golem 7.

That was the final book in the five volume Meridian Series.

Correct. Golem 7 set the template that became Kirov, and the important thing there was that the ship was visiting other time periods in the history. So as I waded into 9 Days Falling I set that book up to present the big confrontation between the Red Banner Pacific Fleet and Captain Tanner with the US CVBG Washington. This was to showcase the modern naval combat, weapons platforms, and the story of how that war develops in spite of the main characters efforts to avoid it.

And Karpov’s character catalyzes some of that.

Of Course. Karpov made a remarkable rehabilitation after what he did in the first book, but he is still a divided character. On the one hand he experiences a kind of redemption at the end of Kirov III when he controls his impulse to fire on Key West. In that act they all hope to have prevented the first trigger point of the war in 2021, and it also redeems Karpov in the eyes of the other officers and crew.

But he has regressed now—more like the Karpov we met in the first book.

Yes, he has. Power is the elixir that intoxicates him. In the first book it was his resentment of Volsky’s higher authority, but also his vision that the ship represented the power to challenge fate itself. This is Karpov’s great demon, and so I use the real presence of the Demon Volcano to erupt in the middle of that battle with the US Fleet and blow Kirov back into the past with Orlan and Admiral Golovko.

Why the other ships?

For a couple reasons. First, though Kirov itself has a propensity to slip in time, they thought that was entirely attributed to Rod-25. Now they know that massive explosive events release enough energy to rupture the time continuum. This is confirmed when Pavel Kamenski reveals the experiments conducted during the above ground nuclear testing program to Admiral Volsky. The other reason was that I was returning the ship to 1945, and the American Navy there was an awesomely powerful force. So it was a kind of play balancing thing, strengthening the Russian task force to give it some chance of confronting Nimitz, Halsey and Sprague.

That was a truly riveting sequence in the entire story. Great historical characterizations there!

Thanks. It was also an important way of returning the story to its roots as an alternate history naval thriller. So Karpov really takes center stage in Fallen Angels, and the Angels are, of course, the officers and crew of Kirov. They have fallen back into the Second World War again, and that sixth book recaptures the tone and character of the first Kirov trilogy.

So the war in 2021 then become back story.

It always was meant to be the ominous “problem” the main characters were trying to prevent or solve in the story. I continued to update readers with what was happening there in scenes involving Admiral Ghortney, White House Chief of Staff Leyman and Reed and Lane. Through that story branch you get the  escalation of development through those first 9 days of the war. At one point I contemplated doing the actual Chinese invasion of Taiwan opposed by the reconsolidated American carrier groups. Then I realized I would need at least 9 chapters or more to do that justice, and that it also would not be action involving or centered on any of my primary characters. So I made the decision to allow the main characters like Karpov, Fedorov and Orlov to drive the story forward instead.

I agree with that choice. There are lots of books depicting that Taiwan scenario in modern military fiction.

Right, and keeping the story with the main characters was also keeping it in the genres that made it popular in the first place—alternate history and time travel.

Alright. A lot gets resolved in Devil’s Garden, but  I can see why you needed more time to really develop everything.

Karpov…That man has again pulled the story to a new place. The connection to 1908 was seeded in the story very early on when Fedorov first goes down those back stairs at the railway inn. That pulled in many of the other story threads: Sergei Kirov, Kapustin and Volkov, Pavel Kamenski, Rod-25… They are all now growing in the ominous glow of the Tunguska event in 1908.

It’s as if Time has been slowly pulling the ship and crew to that point in history.

Yes. Listen to Pavel Kamenski closely in his conversations with Admiral Volsky. Tunguska was a major event, an impact that ruptured time as well as space, and rifts in time still remain as a result of that impact. The stairway at Ilanskiy is one such rift, as Fedorov deduces, and there are more.

This gets really eerie. Particularly in that Delphi segment in Devil’s Garden with Elena Fairchild and Gordon MacRae.

It does. It also slowly begins to merge with a development at the very end of my Meridian Time Travel series. The entire story thread involving the Duke of Elvington is basically joining the Meridian Series and Kirov Series and bringing both of those long stories to the edge of the same mysterious cliff where time travel is concerned.

Will this get more development in the next book? Do we get to go over that cliff?

Certainly. I’m basically planting seeds at Lindisfarne and Delphi, and they become places I can go as I continue to explore this fascinating genre in the future. And we’ll see where the characters of Kirov take us. There could be some more surprises there too.

Yet now we have Karpov in a most interesting situation.

We do indeed, much to Fedorov’s chagrin. This is going to get very intense before it all finishes in the next book. I have to make some very difficult choices here as I contemplate ending this enormous tale.

Do you have it all worked out in your mind yet?

I’m writing book VIII now. It wasn’t the ending I had originally planned, because of what Karpov does, and then what Fedorov decides here in Devil’s Garden. To be  honest, this is an entirely new ending to the story that I literally dreamed up one night.

Sitting at your writing desk and working out the plot?

No! Literally dreaming it in my sleep! I took the whole story to bed one night, thinking intensely about it and how I might end it. The following morning my unconscious mind presented me with a vivid dream of the whole final action. I woke up and knew that this was just perfect. It’s how the book needed to conclude this segment, and I’m going with it. This is why I need that next volume to finish this all off.

When will we get Book Eight?

That will be ready for the holiday season. For now, I’m happy with the work I’ve done to resolve a lot of the story branches in Devil’s Garden, but there’s a great deal more digging to do. I’ve come to love this story, and these characters, a great deal. I hope the readers have too.

No question about that. I’d love to see this whole thing done up in a series of  movies or episodic TV dramas!

Hey, then I’d get my Tom Clancy moment in the sun! Well, I’m grateful enough for the modest success I’ve had with this story. When I wrote that note of thanks to the readers at the end of Fallen Angels, I truly meant it. Without readers out there waiting for the next book, none of these volumes would have been written. It take s an enormous commitment of time and research to do one of these books right. I literally write full time now, from as early as six AM and sometimes I’m still at my desk at nine PM! I might spend a whole day just researching and digging up the historical data and facts that I use to construct a scene set in the past—things like ships, officers, crewmen aboard that are all historically accurate. Virtually every person there, all those minor characters, were right there in the times and places presented when Kirov comes along. That’s a lot of work in the research, but it’s what you have to do to get the historical scenes to ring true. Knowing people were out there waiting for the next book was a tremendous motivator.

When can they get their hands on Devil’s Garden?

The book was released August 15 in the Amazon kindle store and the paperback is available from Createspace here.

THE INTERVIEW CONTINUES - PART 8
 

The Kirov Saga

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      Kirov Saga: Book VII

      Devil’s Garden

      9 Days Falling ~ Vol. III

      By

      John Schettler

      Day Seven
      Part I – D-Day
      Part II – The Eagle
      Part III – Invincible
      Part IV – Changes

      Day Eight
      Part V – Delphi
      Part VI – Escape
      Part VII – Tatsu Maru
      Part VIII –Togo

      Day Nine
      Part IX – Shortwave
      Part X – Lindisfarne
      Part XI – Lessons Of War
      Part XII – The 9th Circle

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