17 March 2013

Guest Blog: Leo Salter

This week, we're welcoming author Leo Salterwhose latest title is Molot, Book 3 of the Pathways to Revenge series.  The author will offer a free copy of the book to a lucky blog visitor. Here's the blurb:                  

Molot was born in Siberia in 1922 and brought up by Sofiya and Alexei in Moscow during the Stalinist terror.  He is an honest man who sacrifices his humanity to survive.  He fought in Mongolia, lived amongst the Mongolian tribes, took part in the slaughter of the Winter War in Finland, faced the German invasion in the Ukraine and was with the Russian delegation at Nuremberg.  His first love was a shaman and his wife was a whore; when he left her he fell in love again and forever.

Molot’s story is interwoven with that of his grandson Gunther who leads Sofiya’s criminal empire into the 21st century.  As befits the young Achilles, Gunther’s story is full of lust and killing as he travels from the Crimea to Tokyo, Berlin, Paris, and Chechnya.

Molot fights in the Russo-Japanese war in 1939 and it is here that he makes his first contact with the Mongolian tribe who parallel the Myrmidons – the men who followed Aeacus's grandson Achilles in the Trojan War and who have been described as the 'Special Forces' of the Greek Army.

The Pathways series is set in the 20th and 21st centuries and although it isn't important to know anything about the Trojan War to read it, knowing about the original story adds a lot to the reading experience.  Readers unfamiliar with the Trojan War may like to check out www.leosalter.com and see how the Pathways Series uses the characters and actions in it.

**Q&A with Leo Salter**
Why do you write?

This is a complex question.  I could say it’s because I enjoy it (which I do) or that it gives freedom to imagine (which it does) but I guess in the last analysis I like telling stories.

When they were small my sons told me I was good at story-telling and although this is a different kind making from writing, I felt the urge to try my hand at being an author.

I’ve spent most my life as a physical chemist investigating chemical reactions in the environment and the human body, but I’ve always immersed myself in literature.  Writing a novel offers a freedom of style and content which is hard to realise in science.

What was your first novel?

I wrote a novel in Africa back in the eighties which didn’t get published.  Looking back on it I guess it was a typical post-colonial story full of the codes and language of Europeans in Africa, but it was also full of truth; and since it was set in the time of the Rhodesian War there was plenty about that too.

I was a little disappointed when one publisher wrote back and said, “We don’t believe Africa is like that.” and I was also surprised when a novel was published a year or so later set in Rhodesia with a main character who had the same name as mine.  Considering the time I gave to naming the chief protagonist this seemed an unlikely coincidence but not impossible of course.

I didn’t write again until after my retirement . . . .

What is your series about?

The series is called “Pathways to Revenge” and it’s a modern version of the Trojan War.  Book One (Golden Boy) is about Helen and Paris (aka Nomea and Christian) which in one way is where it all kicks off.  When I read the opening paragraph to my son (now an adult) he said “At this stage I would read on.”  Looking at Amazon, some people loved it but others did not.  It does require the reader to come to it and read through the temporal and point-of-view shifts.  (I’m a big fan of “The Alexandria Quartet”.)

Book Two (Sofiya) is set in Russia during the post-revolutionary years – compared to Book One, some people said it was much better but others preferred Book One.  I didn’t purposefully change the style but I did write in a way which I thought better fitted Sofiya’s story.

Book Three (Molot) carries on the historical narrative from Sofiya through the Russo-Japanese War, the Winter War, WWII and Nuremberg, and since Molot is the son of Sofiya and the Grandfather of Gunther (aka Achilles) his story parallels the myth; there are some pretty powerful women involved too.

I’m writing Book Four now and it’s based on the story of Thetis and Peleus, the parents of Achilles.         

Why the Greek Myths?

They’re full of everything that humans do today.  Love, war, trickery, politics, tragedy . . . I find it both amazing and reassuring that the way the myths frame the human predicament has been exactly true over the last three thousand years, though sometimes the magic is a bit hard to explain away in a 21st century version.    

How do you write?

I’m quite structured in my writing.  Having the Trojan War as a template gives me plot lines but over the last three thousand years there’s been an awful lot written about it and researching that and then trying to fit it all into contemporary events is exciting but difficult.

I live in Cornwall, a part of England hidden behind a Celtic Mist which is lovely, and it’s also much warmer than anywhere else in the UK which is even lovelier.  It’s not a difficult place to live and allows plenty of space for reflection and contemplation.  I write in my study which has a view over woods and green hills and sometimes the muse visits and sometimes she does not.  When she doesn’t sit on my shoulder writing is slow.

When I begin a new book I think about the ‘who’ and ‘what’ of the large scale plot and then begin to write a little, then read the myths (again) and research contemporary history, then write a bit more and get some basic timelines going, sketch out the chapters and then I find there’s always something that calls me back to write more or in one of those moments of self-critical clarity says “Delete.”

There’s lots of coffee involved in this process.

What’s your ambition?

I’d like to see the stories made into film.  Like many people in the 21st century I cannot think without my interior vision being filmic and so it’s there in the way I write.

I’d like to be able to spend more time in the places I write about and
I’d like to live in a warm dry place (but not too warm or too dry) with excellent food and without violence . . . (thinks rural Italy).

But seeing as ‘Pathways to Revenge’ is about the start of the (Trojan) war and the actual war will be the basis of the next series (‘Revenge’) I draw great contentment from the fact that there is enough material to last me well into my dotage and beyond. 

About Leo Salter

I am a retired academic with a PhD in Physical Chemistry and an MA in English Literature, and have published papers in both disciplines.  In 2011 I gave the D H Lawrence birthday lecture in Eastwood and was invited by the British Council to speak on air pollution at the Café Scientifique in Madrid.

I spent the late seventies and eighties in Africa and now live in Cornwall where my wife is a GP and where I sail dinghies and surf and where, since my retirement, I’m busy writing “Pathways to Revenge” a contemporary version of the Homeric Cycle; “Molot is the third book of the series and more are underway.

Website:  www.leosalter.com