My guest today is debut author Melvyn Fickling. Chatting to us about his first novel, Bluebirds : A Battle of Britain Novel we’ll be finding out about his inspiration, research and much more. As well as reading this today, I recommend you read about this story’s interesting journey from pen to publisher on Melvyn Fickling’s website.
Melvyn Fickling was born in Wells-Next-The-Sea on the North Norfolk coast. He later moved to London and spent many years working variously in import and distribution, purchasing, company administration, interior design and project management. After developing skills in internet marketing and search-engine-optimisation, he took advantage of work-from-home technology and lived in the picturesque medieval town of Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire. Melvyn returned to Wells-Next-The-Sea in early 2015 and completed his first novel, based on the life and times of a local war-hero. Besides continuing the series, Melvyn hopes to establish his own micro-brewery in the town in 2018.
Connect with Melvyn Fickling
Welcome to Jera’s Jamboree,
What was the idea/inspiration for Bluebirds?
Bluebirds is based on the true stories of two RAF pilots who fought side by side in the Battle of Britain. One was from my own home-town of Wells-Next-The-Sea in Norfolk. The other was the first American to fire guns in anger against the Nazis. They both flew Spitfires with 64 Squadron out of Kenley in the summer months of 1940.
Did you do any research? What resources did you use?
Originally it was not my intention to write the novel, I was simply researching the life and times of a local war-hero. Once I’d finished the research I knew it was a story that would fictionalise really well. My research took me to such wonderful places as the British Library and The Public Records Office, and I met the daughter of the British fighter pilot I was researching.
Together with this specific research, historical fiction requires you to know your era, so it’s very important to do a lot of general background reading.
If you could choose to be one of your characters in your book Melvyn, which would you be?
My third main protagonist, Bryan Hale, is a fictional character based ever-so-slightly on me. So it would be easy to step into his shoes.
What scene did you enjoy writing the most?
One of my favourite scenes happens between the squadron’s Intelligence Officer and the Adjutant. Faced with imminent destruction by an oncoming bomber force they crack open a bottle of whisky and sit waiting for their fate.
… and the hardest?
There are a lot of aerial battle scenes in the book and it’s quite difficult to portray the lightning-fast nature of fighter combat. I used as my guide the many real-life memoirs left behind by the men who actually fought in the battle and many of my battle scenes are based upon the real events they lived through.
Do you have a theme for your book covers?
The cover of Bluebirds is actually a screen-shot from an online simulator run by the Air Combat Group.
We know Bluebirds is part of a series Melvyn, what’s in the future?
Bluebirds is the first in a trilogy, importantly it is a stand-alone read so I’m not trapping you into buying the next book to get a story resolution. But hopefully readers will want to follow Bryan Hale into the second book, Blackbirds, where he transfers to night-fighters to fly against the planes blitzing London where his newly-found lover lives and works. The third book will see Bryan heading to the Med and getting embroiled in the battle over the island of Malta. The working title for this is Falcons. There are two further titles that may be added which will focus on other characters from Bluebirds.
Panster or plotter?
I am very much a plotter, although much of the plot in Bluebirds is woven around the framework of actual events.
Do you have a most creative time of day?
I am definitely not a morning person. My best creative time is mid-afternoon although I do often work late into the night.
Do you have a favourite book Melvyn?
My favourite book is The Face Of Battle: A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo and the Somme by John Keegan. It looks at the personal experience of the foot soldiers who fought in those iconic battles and gives a unique perspective into the changing horrors of warfare.
Worst part of your writing journey so far?
I got rejected by 38 agents before Endeavour Press picked up my manuscript. This included three of the six agents that Endeavour Press listed on their website as preferred partners.
… and the best?
The best part is when you realise your characters are helping you write their story and will very often call a committee meeting in your head at which you’re required to explain yourself. ( 🙂 )
Finally Melvyn, are there any tips you could share with new writers?
Above all other things be honest about your own abilities. Wanting to be a writer is not enough, you have to learn the ‘rules’ involved in writing and play by them. Eradicate passive voice and filter words wherever you can. Compile a list of lazy words (such as was, were, would, now, then, and everything that ends in -ly) and hunt them down relentlessly in your re-writes and edits. Self-publishing has removed the gate-keeper, so it’s no-one else’s job to maintain the quality of published material. Is your book of publishable quality? Answer honestly and re-work as required, rinse and repeat…
Thank you for being my guest today Melvyn.
Wishing you success with your trilogy.
Four ordinary young men are thrown together as Hitler plunges Europe into its darkest hours. Their fates will be decided in the most cruel and extraordinary way.
Andrew Francis and Gerry Donaldson were born on different sides of the Atlantic just before The Great War. Together with the mildly psychotic Bryan Hale, they fly Spitfires through the summer of 1940.
Invasion is imminent and England faces almost certain defeat after Hitler’s unstoppable armies slice through France to the Channel coast. Fighter Command risks total destruction as they rise to meet the Fuhrer’s Luftwaffe hordes in what would become The Battle of Britain.
Based on true stories and events, Melvyn Fickling’s impressive debut novel Bluebirds recasts Winston Churchill’s ‘Few’ in the darker shadow of their desperate times, fighting against terrifying odds with the ever-present expectation of violent, murderous death.
Gerry, the first American to fire guns in anger against the Nazis, fights in spite of American isolationism, relinquishing his US citizenship and becoming a reluctant propaganda tool for the Air Ministry along the way.
Newly-married Andrew fights to protect his pregnant wife.
Bryan fights for the simple pleasure of the kill.
Vincent Drew, broken by childhood abuse, tumbles into their world and tears it apart…
The first in a series of historical novels, Bluebirds is meticulously researched and faithfully evokes the terrifying and often heart-rending experiences both in the air and on the ground during the crucial first year of the Second World War as Britain strove to keep the German wolves from the door.