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

The Kirov Saga

Now that Altered States has been out there since Thanksgiving, perhaps we can discuss that book a little further. How does the ship suddenly end up in the Atlantic?

The new control rod does not work as expected. It suspends the ship in a null zone, removed from the present it previously occupied, and then returns it to that same time again.

Did Fedorov make a mistake trying to explain that?

It’s not his fault—this dull headed author put the words in his mouth. It must have been a late night and I fudged my longitude and latitude. The ship remained on the same latitude, or parallel, but now the earth has rotated beneath them while they were suspended in null time, and they appear on a new longitude or meridian. It was a nifty way of getting them to the Atlantic to begin this new Altered States Series, and the failure of the control rod also leads them to a maroon themselves there. They can't take the chance that the same thing would happen again and they might end up on dry land!

Tovey is back again, and Alan Turing as well.

Yes, Tovey takes command of Home Fleet a year early, only this time Admiral Volsky decides to make a friend of the Royal Navy instead of a foe. Kirov already fought the British in the first two books of the series. The one navy they have yet to tangle with is the Kriegsmarine, except a few run ins with U-boats, so now they will soon face down the big ships.

Germany’s lineup is looking much more powerful with the new Plan Z ships.

Not only that, but there is more danger ahead in the next volume as Britain tries to control the French Fleet. Some of those ships end up on the wrong side of the ledger.

The first historical action we get is the engagement with HMS Glorious.

That becomes a nice point of divergence at the outset here, and it also allows me to introduce Lieutenant Commander Christopher Wells, who will be a new character on the British side throughout this series. As you saw in the first volume, he eventually ends up with Admiral Tovey on HMS Invincible, but gets his first command in the second book, Darkest Hour.

This opening volume echoes that gradual discovery by the British when Kirov appears on the scene.

Both sides go through that. Kapitan Hoffmann on Scharnhorst is getting a bad feeling about this mysterious ship, and the British get a close look at Kirov during that initial meeting aboard HMS invincible. Those scenes are largely to warm up what I’m doing with Tovey and Turing as I bring those characters back again. It gets very mysterious in the second book, but we can't go there just yet in this discussion. Volsky sees a man he can reason with in Tovey. The Russians have made their choice to stand with Britain this time, and Volsky has it in his mind to join Soviet Russia and Great Britain in an alliance. Then the last third of the book is the long duel with Lindemann’s task force, leading up to the big battle at the end, which continues on as the first six chapters of Darkest Hour.

It really is Britain's Darkest Hour in 1940. That’s a good title for the second volume in the series.

I’ll have to thank Winston Churchill. I’m stealing some of his WWII Memoir titles for the series. Instead of “Finest Hour” I opted for Darkest Hour here. France has fallen, Italy and Orenburg join the Axis. Then the things get even worse by the end of the second book, as you will see. Britain stands alone in the West, Soviet Russia is isolated in the East. Volsky, Fedorov and Kirov are the bridge between them to unite them in a grand alliance
Readers will be pleased to finally learn the fate of Captain Karpov in Darkest Hour.

Yes, I show Karpov in his own darkest hour, putting you right back on the weather deck after he fires his pistol in frustration and defiance at HMS King Alfred at the end of Armageddon. So I begin there, and then explain why his body was never found, revealing his fate.

There are quite a few revelations in Darkest Hour, lots of discoveries between the characters themselves in these intense scenes where they meet each other.

Those scenes are a joy to write. They simply had to happen, like the meeting with Sergei Kirov. Readers knew that was coming, and it gets three full chapters here in the segment entitled “Homecoming.” Another character that now becomes a real nemesis is Ivan Volkov. He was a minor irritant when first introduced with Inspector General Kapustin  in  Men Of War, but now he has become something much more. And of course he also represents a global threat, because I will eventually get to what is happening along the Volga, which is mentioned as a point of conflict between Kirov’s Soviet state and the Orenburg Federation.

There’s a nice pacing in this one. We open with six action chapters as the Witching Hour resolves, then get these great revelations that are character centered before the action picks up again in the middle innings with Operation Wunderland.

Those six chapters cover a little known naval raid by the Germans to the Arctic Region. Only this time Kirov is in port at Severomorsk, so Volsky gets to show the Russians what he can do.

And then we get the zeppelins! I love what you’ve done with Volkov and the Orenburg Federation.The big meeting at Omsk is also a delight to read.

I’ve always loved airships, and they make perfect sense in the role of an airship navy for Orenburg and the Free Siberian State. I have to also show how that Russian Civil war plays out between all the fractured states, so the airships will let me write it up like a naval duel in keeping with the navy-oriented theme of the books. There’s just a touch of steampunk here, but it is all to be based on plausible technology that allows the airship to survive as a viable force in WWII.

Darkest Hour then gives us yet another battle as the second book wraps up.

Ah, the issue of the French Fleet. It represents an enormous military prize, and also pulls the action south at the end, allowing me to develop my new character Wells from HMS Glorious.

I see you slipped in a couple new ships there too.

Yes, the Alsace Class or Project C French battleship Normandie, and their new fleet carrier design in the Joffre. The Normandie is an awesome ship, and one that will figure prominently in the action ahead for book III in the Altered States series.

Then, my God, the ending of Darkest Hour is a real mind bender! What a riddle!

I’ll have to take that pitch until the readers get there, but yes, it takes Tovey’s inner hunches and misgivings about Kirov and Volsky and then really winds it into a thorny mystery. Turing will have fits with this one. Let’s see if he can decipher what is going on, because that segment is so intense that it spills over for three more chapters at the opening of book III.

You are already writing it?

Of course! When the story is there, you get it on paper, and these scenes become very dynamic when I put certain characters together. It’s almost like chemistry.

What will the third book be called?

Altered States – Volume III: Hinge of Fate. Thank you, Sir Winston! It will be the plan the Germans should have adopted in my opinion, Operation Felix, and Raeder’s Mediterranean strategy.

Does that end the Altered States series?

Not at all. In fact, It took me these first two volumes just to cover the action in 1940, because there was so much to present with these intense character based scenes. The third book takes us to the outset of 1941, completing the opening trilogy. But this series will definitely continue further into 1941. There is no way I can zip through the war in just one more book. It’s going to be an intense struggle, and Kirov and all the characters will have prominent roles in the outcome. But this mysterious thing Turing discovers at the end of Darkest Hour has real implications. It’s going to take the story some amazing places.

I can’t wait! Thanks John, and keep writing!


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