How did you do research for your book?
I read history books, books by or about artists of the era. In addition to learning context and circumstances, I found you start to ask yourself questions. For instance, jazz was all the rage during Prohibition, Big Band music during the war years, then, in the 1950s, jazz reappeared as the music of rebellion. Why is that? In my research for the novel, I had to revisit the roles of women during the war, and how it must’ve felt for these ladies to work in munitions plants, be single parents in some cases, and then be asked to forfeit their jobs, their first taste of financial freedom, and return to domesticity. I read about the GI Bill, which got veterans back on their feet by subsidizing their education and mortgages, yet the current GI Bill can barely get a young veteran through a community college.
Research helps convey fidelity to the historical period in the writing, provide the accurate detail, but it should provoke questions. I read diary entries and interviews about the men who fought in Europe and the Pacific. The late actor Charles Durning’s accounts of the Battle of the Bulge and D-Day were harrowing. I read about nurses and women spies. In doing the legwork for The Good Man, I got to know the era that my grandparents had lived through. One of the critical lessons I learned is that men who had survived combat did not – for better or worse — talk about their experiences. The prevalence of wartime memoirs that we have today, writing about battle exploits, would have been offensive to them, and, in their view, disrespectful to their lost comrades. You did your duty and you came home. It’s a very macho, a John Wayne, attitude, but that was how they were.
There are many books out there. What makes yours different?
The Good Man is a hybrid of historical fiction and noir crime fiction. The story is set in Vienna as the Cold War is about to begin. A real CIA operation inspired the plot. Where I differ from, say, Phillip Kerr, who has written the Bernie Gunther series, is that my novel involves a team of operatives and not one individual. Kerr’s stories start in 1930s Berlin in the thick of Hitler’s SA and SS and moves incrementally through the war, whereas as The Company Files series is anchored in post-war Europe and moves stateside in the sequels. My writing is, I believe, atmospheric and focuses on the relationships between the characters. I portray the homophobia, racism, and sexism that were engrained in the era in ways that may surprise readers, while maintaining historical accuracy.
Do you ever get writer’s block? What helps you overcome it?
No. That’s not to say I don’t have self-doubts or the experience of writing myself into a corner, or that I don’t struggle with solving plot points. I realized a long time ago that everything has been said or written at least once. Decades of reading should convince you of that fact. The challenge is to say it better, write it better, and challenge yourself as a writer. A library card is a passport for your imagination.
Do you write every day?
On average, I write daily and if I’m not writing, I am editing.
What is your next project?
I have an editing and writing project ahead of me in 2018. I plan to edit the five books I’ve written about a 1970s Boston-based PI. Inspired by Breaking Bad writer Vince Gilligan and his team, I want to edit the long arc for the principle characters. The writing project is to complete books 3 to 5 of my series set in Shanghai.
Bio: Gabriel Valjan is the author of the Roma Series and The Company Files from Winter Goose Publishing as well as numerous short stories. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts, where he enjoys the local restaurants, and his two cats, Squeak and Squawk, keep him honest to the story on the screen.
Purchase link: Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2COa5HY