Roy Blomstrom, left, author of SILENCES: A NOVEL OF THE 1918 FINNISH CIVIL WAR, has answered some questions about his novel, his research methods, how he became interested in the Finnish Civil War, and the "rules" he set for himself when he began writing.
To see the PDF, click here.
Here's an excerpt in response to the question, "How did you research Finland and Canada for this novel?"
I kept examining the war until I understood its basics. Why was it fought? What helped the White side win? What unexpected things happened, and how were they handled? How did it connect to World War I? What happened when the war was 'over'?"
Only when I thought I understood these things, more or less, did I begin to structure the novel--not on paper yet, but in my head.
One key to understanding why things happened as they did was that the Finnish Civil War was a railroad war. Armoured trains battled each other and were used to get into the heart of an enemy village or city and strafe the occupiers. Another key was that one side, the White, was led by experienced generals and commanders, and the other, the Reds, chose they commanders by election. A third key was that at the start of the war the Whites had no weapons and needed to get some really fast.
Fourth, (and the key to the novel's final structure) was that the main battlefield--a triangular chunk of land about the size of Southern Ontario--had pinch points. For example, the railway system had places where a track that ran east-west met a track that ran north-south. The Whites were north of the east-west track. For the Reds, who were primarily in the south of Finland, to get at them, they needed to go up the north-south track, then either east or west. The junction of the two tracks was a pinch point. The Whites had to hold the T intersection or be overrun; the Reds had to take it or be unable to advance.
Conclusion? I could take my main characters--three White brothers plus a friend and the friend's father--and, on a map, plot their journey from home to hell and back.
The journey, of course, wouldn't be just a physical one. It would be an emotional one as well. The reader would be, at least for a while, an ill-prepared soldier in a senseless war.