Saturday, July 18, 2009

Tanks and other distractions

Today I have been climbing in and out of and all over a World War II vintage tank.
To be specific I have been getting to know a tank like this.

A Russian T-34 produced in various models from 1940 to 1958.
And from inside
I should probably do the right thing and note the photos of the tanks I am using today are not mine. They are from the Wikimedia Commons and are either in the public domain or available for reuse. To check attribution just click on each image.

There now, copyright is sorted out I can go on. So what is an Aussie lad doing mucking around with Soviet military hardware?
Well for a start I should confess, I have not actually been anywhere near a T-34 today. It has all been via my imagination liberally assisted by a number of videos, images, and just as important memoirs and other recollections of real users. It is all about authenticity.

As I have already said on this blog, I am trying to get my first book Veiled in Shadows published. In the meantime I am continuing to work on a sequel (tentatively titled Veiled in Storms). No, Sequel is too strong a word.

Some of the characters of the first book feature in the second, but Storms does not really follow on from Shadows. The two overlap in time with Storms finishing about eight years later. While the first looks at the human impact of the Holocaust and the war in the West, the second looks at the war in the East, but also looks at the nightmare that was Stalinist Russia. I am writing them so it will not matter which book people read first. Each book stands alone but readers will meet characters they already know as they go through whichever they choose to read second.

How did I get onto this? T-34 tanks! One of my characters in Storms will spend some time in the Red Army, so from my point of view I need to know everything I can about that institution and its equipment. Call me picky, but I hate it when I read stuff in fiction that is just plain wrong due to poor research.

When I develop characters, especially an important one, I spend hours, days, sometimes even weeks fleshing them out, and often writing quite involved stories and histories for them. Most of that detail never appears in the final version, or if it does it might be a single sentence in a chapter. For me it helps make a character more authentic, somehow more tangible. If I understand someone’s history before they ever show up in my book I feel I can write them better. That I can “know” what they would do in any given situation.

You'll have to forgive me I've finished with this tank, but I see a stack of rifles over there. See you later.

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