Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Interview: Lyn Alexander

Let's go behind the scenes of The Officer's Code and find out what inspired this tale of love and devotion amid war and difficult choices. 

1. What was your inspiration for "The Officer's Code?"  Oddly, it was another novel that I had already written, “The English General”, which started off as just another story. The central character, General Erich von Schellendorf, was so compelling that I had to write a second novel to show what happened to him after the end of Hitler’s war. THEN I simply had to write yet another novel to show how he got into such a life in the first place.
The original inspiration, however, when I was very young many years ago, was my friendship with Frau Lucie Rommel, the widow of the famous German field marshal of World War II. Many things she told me stuck in my mind for about 40 years before I sat down to write about a German general who had to fight a war he didn’t want for a leader he despised. (No reflection on Rommel, who was a tiger.)

2. Can you tell us a little about your main character, Eric Foster? Oh gosh. This is a young fellow graced with inherent leadership that he doesn’t recognise in himself – but other people do. He is also easily linfluenced. When he meets Brigitte, she is enough delight for him to change the fundamental course of his life. It’s a conscious choice he makes, which I hope demonstrates a basic strength of character, rather than a momentary weakness.

3. What spurs Eric's decision to abandon what he knew and basically start a new life?
It’s the old father-son conflict. If it were not for the rigid demands of his father, Eric would not have been so driven, and Brigitte might have remained a pleasant episode in his young life.

4. What is it about Brigitte that Eric finds so alluring? First, of course, her spectacular beauty. But Eric is not so superficial as that. Second, her love of horses and ability as a horsewoman, and her almost boyish companionship. Of course her flirtation and taunting get him dancing to her tune in bewildered circles. But most important is her deep loneliness and his ability to fill that vacuum.

5. What influences Eric's decision to seek out connections with his mother's German family? In Germany of that day, the military occupied the highest level of society, just under royalty itself. To attach himself to a celebrated German military family name allows him to court Brigitte’s aristocratic family as an equal. Yes, in that day one had to court first the family, then the daughter.

6. Eric's decision to embrace the German side of his family has far reaching effects. Can you explain a little about this? By using the name of an actual, powerful, historical figure I was thus able to accomplish the story line that I visualised. Eric’s deceased great uncle was Bismarck’s Minister of War, giving Eric equality with Brigitte’s family and making it possible for them to marry. Second, the family name gives Eric both protection in the German army, and an unseen sponsor during the war itself. 

7. Describe the changes Eric undergoes, without giving away too much, as a result of his military association? So many changes. He develops from an English university student to a military officer in the toughest army in the world. He loses his youthful naiveté. He learns how NOT to drink. He gains courage in the fellowship of the army, and pride in the meaning of the uniform. He uncovers deep strengths within himself that he never knew were there. He learns the true meaning of honour.

8. Who are your favorite authors? This is hard. Ernest Hemingway. Erich Maria Remarque. I think the popular writers of today do not reach very deeply for their stories. I don’t mean deep significance, I mean deep inside. This may be unfair of me. I’ve recently discovered the Scandinavian authors, who do reach deep and who write in wonderful active prose, and of course must have extraordinary translators to make it work so well. I’m presently working through Hans Fallada’s novel “Jeder stirbt für sich allein” (Every Man Dies Alone) in the original, which is a tough reading project, but enormously rewarding. Fallada wrote from where he stood, as if it were completely off the cuff. An amazing writer.

9. Do you have any interesting habits or rituals when you write? Not very interesting. I have a large ‘workroom’, with cathedral ceiling, large windows TV, computer/printer, a wall of books, and two small parrots who like to help. I have a touch-screen, and one of the parrots, Rainbow, likes to sit on the monitor to see if she can find with her beak the little red button at the top right corner. Other than that bit of excitement, I just park the old butt in the chair and do my work. And hit Ctrl-S every few words, for insurance. The TV is tuned permanently to the classical music channel.

10. Can you tell us about any upcoming projects? The Schellendorf series of historical novels is on my table until all four are released – probably in the next three years. Until they actually go to the printer, each manuscript will be tweaked and line-edited until it is as letter-perfect as possible. 

The Schellendorf Series
1.  The Officer’s Code - World War I
2.  The Versailles Legacy – The rise of Hitler
3.  The English General – World War II
4.  A Good Soldier – after the most destructive war in history.

Then I have three older manuscripts that I hope to bring to publishing standard. These will all keep me busy for a while.

The Officer's Code is available now from Amazon in Paperback and Kindle, and Barnes and Noble.

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