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AUTHOR INTERVIEW

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

The Kirov Saga

We were left with quite a mystery at the end of Darkest Hour.
A mystery indeed, and one that Tovey takes with him to the conference with Volsky and Fedorov at the opening of Hinge of Fate.  In fact, he literally hands that mystery to the Russians by producing an envelope with photographs from that intelligence cache Turing discovered.

Volsky and Fedorov will certainly have some explaining to do!
Well, they are as shocked to see this material as Tovey was, and it will lead to some rather dramatic revelations at the outset of this eleventh book.

And this meeting is to cement the alliance between Russia and England?
Yes. Volsky is empowered by Sergei Kirov to make the first overture, but the news he delivers to Tovey in this meeting is rather earthshaking, at least from Tovey’s perspective. On the one hand, England has gained a powerful new ally, yet their situation remains grave.

Then we get Fedorov’s latest brainstorm with this mission to Ilanskiy.
He’s working through the threat of that back stairway still existing. The discovery that Karpov was alive and in power within the Free Siberian State was as chilling as it was shocking to them. He realizes that if Karpov ever discovers that stairway he could change all history again, and of course the readers already know that Karpov had taken one trip up those stairs. Now he realizes he can also go down, and that has dark implications.
 
So he turns to Sergeant Troyak and his Marines with a nice little search and destroy mission.

Battle time. I think we all enjoy Troyak, even though he is a minor character. But there’s more to this segment than the ground operation. I use it as a way to showcase the zeppelins, and so there’s going to be a bit of a squabble here. The readers already know that Volkov has dispatched a pair of zeppelins to Ilanskiy, so things take a dramatic turn when they show up, and that confrontation is resolved here.

It’s a great way to open this volume, as the zeppelin duels are almost like the submarine battles we had in Armageddon.
That’s a good way of thinking about it. Instead of depth we get limits of altitude with the zeppelins, but the one thing they lack is the equivalent of a torpedo. They have to rely on recoilless rifles. Even normal artillery mounted on a zep would produce a recoil so dramatic that they would careen all over the  place. I discussed it with an avid series reader and veteran WWII researcher, Don Ursem, and we concluded that recoilless rifles were the way to go. Yet they have very limited range. If Karpov ever figures a way to get missiles on his airships, watch out!


The Royal Navy has a tall order to fill now that France has joined the Axis.
Very true. They beat back the first challenge from the revitalized Kriegsmarine, with Kirov’s considerable help, and now they intend to try and demilitarize the French Navy. With Vichy France an active combatant after the attack on the French Fleet fleeing Mers-el-kebir, the control of the Mediterranean is now jeopardized, as the combined weight of the Italian and French navies will prove to be a difficult foe, if they can coordinate their efforts.

I thought Volsky and Kirov were going to swing down there and raise hell, but they seem to be sitting on the sidelines at the moment
.
I don’t want to put Kirov at the center of every battle, and make it the decisive element in all these actions. Some battles must be fought by the men of this era, otherwise Kirov becomes a guardian angel, or a genie in the bottle that solves everything. Yes, Volsky has been cautious at the outset, conserving ammunition, working on the  diplomatic front to unite Soviet Russia and Great Britain.He also realizes there are limits to the power he has. But the war has a gravity that will pull any major player to the center, and Kirov is certainly a major force. This ‘quiet time’ for the ship will end soon, as they realize they must take a more active role. That said, I managed to load this volume up with a lot of action sequences, on land, air and sea.

You show us the battle off Dakar through the eyes of Captain Christopher Wells on HMS Glorious.
Yes. Wells has moved on after his brief internship with Tovey, and he now has his first command aboard Glorious. So, as I develop this character, he gets into the thick of things in the Mers-el-Kebir incident in Darkest Hour. You always need a character to anchor the Point of View in these battles. Otherwise they become dry narrative.

Wells thinks he’s caused a whole lot of trouble when Vichy France joins the Axis.
He does, which is part of his burden as he starts to see the darker side of what war will demand of him. Somerville tried to console him, but he is still a bit conflicted. In a way this is a shadow of the same conflict going on inside Fedorov. He continues to try and control the damage they have caused to the history with missions like the raid on Ilanskiy, while the British move on to their next immediate challenge. They want to eliminate the French outpost at Dakar, which sits right astride the convoy routes to Freetown and South Africa. This time the French also put out to sea, but they have come to fight, and not run. Wells will be in the thick of this one too.

As the French Navy was neutral during the war, we have no historical data to reach for on battle outcomes. How do you resolve these combats?
The capabilities of the ships themselves are one factor. We do have one engagement at Dakar in the real operation Menace where Resolution and Barham faced down Richelieu. The French were fighting with one hand tied behind their back, as Richelieu was damaged and anchored in place at the  harbor. Yet the ship gave a good account of itself, putting damage on Resolution and offering enough of a fight to force the British to call off the raid. In my story the French take a more active role, and put to sea to challenge the British, and a major naval action results.

It becomes a real eye opener for the British.
Yes. They send a pair of WWI era battleships against two modern French designs. They have their experience, seamanship, and the confidence born of a long history of war at sea. The French are raw, untried, but have some remarkable new ships, particularly the Alsace class ship Normandie, which would have been a very powerful ship with those twelve 15-inch guns.

Great action there. But then you set up yet another naval engagement with the Kriegsmarine.

That’s the naval covering operation for the real thunder. The segment called Fimbulwinter and the Wolf is yet another battle brewing, but the ending here is really dramatic.

Operation Felix. Yes, it is one of the great “what ifs” of the Second World War. Was the fortress impregnable?
You will find out here as I recreate the German attack in exacting detail.

That was rather nifty the way you handle the Franco-Hitler meeting at Hendaye.
History turns at the whim of little things. This concept is at the heart of my theory of time travel, which was first expounded in the five book Meridian Series. The incident in the train car with Juan Alfonso is a perfect example of what I call a “Push Point” in the Meridian Series—a small, seemingly insignificant thing that catalyzes and sets greater events in motion.

Does it ever! Then we transition right into that fateful battle for the Rock. But again, we see it all  through the eyes of a new character, Lieutenant Dawes.
Correct. Dawes is my P.O.V. to humanize that battle. He there from the opening rounds when the  elite Brandenburger commandos begin the attack, to the very end. And the Sergeant he meets along the way, Sergeant Hobson, well he will make an interesting discovery as well.

I can see one of those hidden gems in that last scene of the epilogue.
Things are going to get very interesting, particularly in the opening to the next volume.

So the Altered States Trilogy continues?
I move to the next Bridge Novel and now I’ll be taking you to 1941. There will be a nice surprise in the opening, and the British must continue to struggle for naval supremacy while determining how they can possible continue to prosecute the war.

They need the Americans and Soviets to get involved.

Desperately. Volsky and Fedorov have a discussion about it, and Tovey has probed for guidance. America’s decision and entry may be affected by what happens in the Med, as the war has shifted dramatically to that theater with the attack on Gibraltar. There is action in Iraq, the Balkans and Greece are soon targeted for occupation, which will leave only neutral Turkey preventing the overland union of Germany with Volkov’s Orenburg Federation. 1941 brings Rommel and his Africa Korps to the stage, and places like Sidi Barani, Tobruk and others are seared into the history books. New men emerge to lead the war effort, among them an up and coming general named Montgomery. And the Axis forces also set the spotlight of their ire on another vital bastion of British power in the Med—Malta. Beyond this, we will see the outbreak of hostilities in Russia, on multiple fronts, but all that lies ahead on the vast canvas of this war.

The odds seem overwhelming now. How can Britain survive without a unified Russia to stand against Hitler in the East?
That remains to be seen. Remember, there is a ‘Great equalizer’ at large in the world in the battlecruiser Kirov, and dramatic events will soon move the ship into the center of this conflict. They cannot remain on the sidelines in this war, as too much is at stake. And something is going to happen right at the beginning of the next book that weighs heavily on the scales. Stay tuned.

And the title for the next book?
Three Kings - It will have several references in the book, but one is that there are three kings Hitler must slay to defeat Great Britain and win the war: Gibraltar, Malta and Suez. It also refers to the three Russian leaders, Kirov, Volkov and now Karpov. There are other references as well, but they reveal plot so I cant speak further.

 

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