What can you tell us about your new book A Tainted Dawn, without spoiling the plot for the readers?
A Tainted Dawn plays on Wordsworth's famous quote about the start of the French Revolution:
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive
But to be young was very heaven!
It was the dawn of an age when utopia seemed there for the taking. Equality of all men and freedom were heady stuff, but the old class systems and national rivalries remained very much in place. England and Spain were ready to go to war over trading rights in the Pacific Northwest , with France likely to side with its old ally Spain against its old enemy England. Then there is the private war between aristocratic English Edward and French law student turned revolutionary Louis, with working class English Jemmy caught in between. Simultaneously, the three struggle to define their manhood and come to grips with what man, manhood, and equality mean. In the end, youthful dreams and idealism clash with reality, threatening to taint the dawn of their young lives—with blood.
This is the first book in a proposed series. What can you tell us about the rest of the series?
The other books in the Great War series will feature more of Edward, Louis, and Jemmy, of the war between England and France, and of battles both on land and sea. The next book in the series, tentatively to be called Army of Citizens, will introduce a new country, the United States, and its merchant marine to the ongoing tale.
The book features characters from both sides of the conflict which is somewhat unique. What made you decide to do this?
I'm a confirmed contrarian. Most historical fiction of this period written in English takes the British side, or perhaps the American, but never the French, and never did anyone try to piece them together. And yet, the three form part of the whole
Can you describe your writing path to naval fiction?
My path to writing naval fiction was a circuitous one. My childhood hero was Lord Nelson. I thrived on Horatio Hornblower, Joseph Conrad, and Herman Melville. Then, pragmatism in the form of having to earn a living set in, and I strayed from my first love. In the end, however, I came back to it and began A Tainted Dawn.
Where did your interest in the sea originate?
Like Edward, the sea seduced me long before I ever saw it, which was not until I was twenty years old. I simply have always been drawn to bodies of water, be it lakes, or rivers, or the sea. I'm happiest when I'm near or on the water.
What intrigues you about the period in which the book is set?
The epic nature the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars intrigues me. The idealism of the slogans contrasted with the cynicism of the politics, the sublime heroism with the sordid reality of war. It always helps that I'm a hopeless romantic.
How did you undertake your research?
I read, and I read, and I read. Then I traveled, and I traveled, and I traveled. More specifically, I began with local libraries, then branched out to university ones. I traveled at home in the United States to places like Newport News, Baltimore, and Boston. I spoke to anyone who sailed or spent time on the sea. I took sailing lessons, and had my family take them with me. I spent much time in England, at Portsmouth, London, and Surrey, frequenting the Public Record Office at Kew, and local historical libraries. I also spent time at English Harbor in Antigua. Many of the minor details in the book, as well as the major ones, were the results of these efforts. For example, Mr. Peris and Daniel Tribe were actual people who were respectively lawyer and clock maker. The nurse in grey at English Harbor was a figure drawn from a conversation with a couple who lived on Hospital Hill there, and who told me about the female ghost in grey, said to have been a nurse, who haunted it. As for future research, I'm learning French so that I will be better able to access French materials.
Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?
I hope they will come away from reading my book , with a feeling of fulfillment and pleasure, and yet are made to think a little, too. There is always another way to look at things, both past and present.
A Tainted Dawn is published by Fireship Press