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

The Kirov Saga
Season 1

So the hour has finally come, and readers have written, worried that the series is about to end.

It’s difficult to answer this question without revealing the conclusion of Paradox Hour, but think like a time traveler. We are too prone to think of everything as having a beginning, middle and end. In literature, we look for this satisfying ending as a matter of course, but in my mind, I have concluded the series many times with endings I was very happy with. The ending of the very first volume offered good closure, haunting as it was, as did the conclusion of the first trilogy when Karpov spared Key West. Then the series reached another definite resting point in Armageddon when I took the story back to the bridge of Kirov and it was Zolkov, Nikolin, Tasarov, Rodenko and finally Viktor Samsonov who stood up to oppose Karpov. That was an ending, and one that appeared to take the life of a major character when Karpov vanished. I might have left it there with a “nuff said,” if not for the  clamor from series readers. They voted Kirov back again, overwhelmingly, and so I gave them the Altered States Saga, the last eight books you’ve been reading through.

Yes, and they were all great! Karpov vanished from the story in Altered States, but I was glad he was brought back to the series again
I was too! He’s such a dark, conflicted character. He went through that brief redemption in Book 2, through Men of War, but after the Demon Volcano sends the ship  to 1908, he falls into his old ways again as the world tumbles into world War III in the 9 Days Falling trilogy. That’s what those titles were about, Fallen Angels, Devil’s Garden, all the work of the Lucifer that Karpov became. He returns, broken and defeated, in Darkest Hour, part of the meaning of that title, and he has given us some wild moments ever since.

That’s an understatement. All that great action involving the airships was a fantastic addition.

Thanks. It allowed me to keep Karpov alive, keep a kind of “naval” spin on that action in his plot line, and then push the whole crisis point of Ilanskiy, and the enmity with Ivan Volkov. It was also a way in which I could explicate the fractured states of Russia, and make them real. Readers got a look at the little imperial state that Volkov built in Orenburg. Since the rivalry of the three Russian states is essential to the outcome of this alternate WWII history, I had Karpov, Volkov, and Sergei Kirov as characters through which I could present all of that.

And now Barbarossa has been launched at the end of Crescendo of Doom. Is that the major action of Paradox Hour?

No. We had mostly land action in the last couple novels. Rommel was back in Crescendo of Doom for another try. But aside from the resolution of Volkov’s second raid on Ilanskiy, Paradox Hour is going to be a naval saga. It starts in May of 1941, which was the time of the great hunt for the Bismarck. So it made sense to take the action out of the Med and into the Atlantic to depict that, only this time the action is considerably more involved, as the Germans have most of their capital ships at sea! I give news on what is happening with the German invasion of Russia, but do not follow that action in what I call “living history” here.

I love the naval stuff, but does this mean you are going to leave the land lubbers hanging on the outcome of Barbarossa?

We’ll look at it again later as the series evolves. Kirov’s intervention has catalyzed new weapons development among the warring powers. There will soon be new heavy tanks. The German characters have already referred to what they are calling the “big cats” in Crescendo of Doom. Two we know of, the  Panther and Tiger, but the third is something new, the Lion. It was a competing design in the  development process for the Tiger tank, but in this world it becomes something more. Then we will have accelerated missile development, and new AT weapons. That RPG Fedorov’s team lost will have an effect. There’s a lot of war out there waiting to be retold. 1942 was mostly about Barbarossa in Russia, and of course the action in the Pacific, with Rommel still sparring with the British in North Africa. Then there is all the action from 1943 and 1944 ahead. In these early stages of the war, the presence of Kirov has been decisive, as was Kinlan’s brigade in the relatively small campaigns in North Africa and Syria. There are battles so large coming, that a single ship like Kirov or a single brigade, even as powerful as Kinlan’s troops, simply cannot decide the outcome.

Do you mean to say you will take the series to the conclusion of the war?

We shall see, but it would be a fun and engaging project to do that. It would be difficult to cover everything in the East Front, but I can look in on key action through the Characters I have there. Karpov can be very useful in that, though he faces the same paradox that the ship and crew of Kirov must face.

How so?

He has returned to 1941, and yet he is aboard the ship destined to arrive on July 28th. That’s a problem for him, and he’s already realized it. The fireworks that happen with Tunguska are one means he has of escaping that fate, though he had better pray for bad weather come Paradox Hour if he plans to avoid the trap that way.

So things don’t really end here in Book 16?
In one respect, yes, I’m looking for another satisfying end to this second segment of the series. But again, don’t think beginning-middle-end. Open your horizon and think in terms of cycles. Think of a circle. Touch any point of a circle and you touch the beginning and end at the same time. This is the mentality that I bring to Paradox Hour, and the way the second saga, or “season” as the Writing Shop has been calling it, concludes.

But do we say goodbye to Fedorov, Volsky, Karpov and the others? Do they survive the  Paradox?

I can’t say yet. I can only say that the series will evolve, just like life evolves. It will change and grow, as you do with different seasons of your life. I still see the entire Kirov Series as “episodic” in many ways, like the many episodes of the Star Trek universe. This is much the same, only I have chosen to link each episode in a chain that also tells a single, long running story.  Star Trek spawned over 800 individual stories, comics, and novels, arranged into at least twelve novel series, and by many different authors. Yet between those different series, there is still continuity, and events in one series may profoundly affect story lines in another trek novel series. Think of the Kirov Series in this way. I’ve created a group of linked novels here, but also a set of linked trilogies with their corresponding “bridge novels” that join one to another. Paradox Hour resolves the action leading up to July 28 of 1941. Whether it says goodbye to these major characters, or hello, remains to be seen.

Does it reveal what happens to Kirov on that day?

The ship itself? You will have to read it and see.

Alright, I suppose that is only fair. We can’t very well discuss the ending of that book here. But tell me more about how your other time travel universe comes into play in the story.

You mean the Meridian Series? Yes, I have dropped a few hints through the Kirov Series that refer to Professor Dorland’s theories on time travel, and I have also used terms from his lexicon, like the word “Meridian” to describe a time line, or the concept of a Nexus Point where events of altered Meridians intersect or change course. Yet in Paradox Hour, there are more than subtle references. I actually reprise a couple scenes from the final Meridian Series novel, Golem 7, revised for the Kirov audience.  I do this to reveal that the Meridian Universe characters have finally taken notice of the time variations caused by the accident that sent Kirov to the past, an accident that occurred after their final time mission in Golem 7. I could have kept the two worlds, and stories, completely separate, but there was this big unanswered question at the end of Golem 7, and it has also become the big unanswered question here in the Kirov Series.

You are referring to the “Grand Finality” Elena Fairchild talks about.

Yes, and it is the same dark “event” that stilled the voices from the future at the end of the Meridian Series. So, to answer this for both groups of readers, I decided to merge the two universes, with new scenes involving the Meridian characters as a sub-plot to continuing Kirov Series novels. In fact, series readers will meet a member of the Meridian team in Paradox Hour, and learn of that project.

Ah! I like that. It does bring everything full circle.

It does, and like the circle I mentioned earlier, what seems like an ending is also a beginning. So there is another  evolution coming to the Kirov Series. Readers and fans can expect to get more of the fiction they liked in 2015, though I also have some other irons in the fire, other stories to tell.

Can you talk about them?

Well, I’m quietly plotting out, and writing another story, but that is all I can say about that at the moment. I have not been able to work on it full time,  but it is slowly taking shape in my mind. I would also like to give all the Kirov Series novels one last look, and use a little sandpaper here and there. I’m continually frustrated by my inability to type well. I type quite fast, but not accurately, and I never seem to find all my typos, as they hide as real legal words for the most part—“an” where I wanted “and,” or just a missing article or open quotation mark, things like that. So I’ve found a great text-to-speech program, and a wonderful reading voice that is better than any I have ever heard. What I do now is have that read aloud to me as I edit, and the manuscripts have been much cleaner since I started using this. I catch the silly things I miss. So I’ll slowly work through all the books and tighten everything down, then release each trilogy as a single file book at a promotional price for new readers. The first was released January 1st, and it will comprise the first three books in the series as one continuous file to help introduce new readers to the series. Then I am also considering both a series reader’s guide, and an audio book version for Kirov, the opening novel. I’m looking for voice talent now.

What would be in the Reader’s Guide?

A character index, for starters. I would list each character, including all the historical figures, and then indicate where and when they appeared by book and chapter, and what they contributed to the story. A listing of the opponents and outcome of each battle fought in the series would also be useful. And I could also do a brief plot synopsis on each novel, or track character appearance by chapter in the series, which gets quite complex over 16 novels. I often have to go back into the earlier books myself to verify what has happened somewhere, who knows about it, and things like that. I have notes I keep as I write each book, and a big spreadsheet that lists the  action presented in each chapter of the series. So when I need to know something, I use that to find it quickly. A tool like that might be good for the Reader’s Guide.

The Audio Book Project sounds fantastic. I’d love to hear it come to life, like a movie .

Yes, but unfortunately, Hollywood isn’t likely to pick the series up.

Because it has no vampires!

Yes, someone once said that you know you’ve exhausted your creative energy as a writer when the first Vampire appears in your story. (With all due respect to writers like Ann Rice, who really defined that genre.) That said, there will be no vampires, girls wielding bow and arrow, or kinky sex in the Kirov Series. My “50 shades of grey” are subtle variations in the history of WWII. There is only a small, well educated group out there who appreciates what I’m doing here, and so Kirov may never be destined to sell the million books needed to attract a Hollywood movie studio’s interest.

Hunt For Red October did, and I think the Kirov books are even better!

Thanks for that, but perhaps the audio book will be a logical next step. And don’t forget, Red October got a plug from Ronald Reagan! That certainly helped launch Tom Clancy.

How do you do all this and still find time to write a new Kirov Series novel every 60 days?

Good question! Well, this is my day job, as I’ve said before. I do this full time. Yet I may have to go to a 90-day release schedule in 2015 to get some of these projects out, particularly the new story I’m working on. In the short run, readers can look forward to three things. First I’m releasing the newly edited version of Golem 7, where my effort was to assure it as a good standalone read. It does stand as a prelude to Paradox Hour in many ways, and there will be some promotional pricing for Kirov Series readers who haven’t picked that book up yet. If they do, then Paradox Hour will be a much more satisfying read for them. That book is available now, and I re-edited the file with the aim of achieving clarity for a Kirov Series reader who had not read the first four Meridian titles. Golem 7 is a stand alone read that is very approachable--one of my best--and the new file is on Amazon now.

Secondly, the opening trilogy was just released as one continuous file all freshly edited, and at a reduced promotional price intended to attract new series readers. Lastly, Paradox Hour will wind up the second  8 book saga in the Kirov Series, so it will a busy release schedule the next 30 days.

I hope you are getting rich with all these books coming out.

Don’t I wish! You forget how small the Alternate History of WWII genre is, and I don’t ask big publishing house prices for my stories. My books are fairly inexpensive on Kindle at $4.99 for a 300 plus page novel. Have a look at any Starbucks drink menu. You can pick up one of my books for  the price of a cup of coffee. Yes, the readers have kept me fed, and for that I am very grateful. I can be this productive because of their continued support,  but I think I would need that Hollywood movie to get rich. I don’t do this for the money in any case. I write because that’s what I do, and I wrote Kirov not knowing anyone would ever read it. I just had faith that some might, and that faith paid off to give me this wonderful opportunity to do what I love most--write!

“When the author feeds the reader reads!”

How true. Well, as long as the readers stay with my stories, I’ll give them more, and these other projects will come to life as well.

And the next saga?

As I have said, things change, but they seldom ever really end. Seasons turn. The series will continue, though the events of Paradox Hour will affect what happens next. Stay tuned. I won't leave you standing on the dock yet. Anyone who signs on to the crew gets to take the voyage.


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The Kirov Saga
Season 2

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