The Nature of War Itself

Miles Watson Author Interview

The Very Dead Of Winter follows three men who are engaged in a war over in Europe at the time of The Battle of the Bulge. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

When I started this series in 2019, I was hunting different game than you might expect. I not only wanted to present the war as a study of the moral, psychological and sensory pressures placed on men in combat, and to do so from both sides of the conflict, I wanted the settings to be unfamiliar to the reader; to cover ground that had seldom been seen in war fiction. The first novel in the series, Sinner’s Cross, was therefore set in the Huertgen Forest Campaign, which has gone down a sort of cultural memory hole because it was a bloody disaster and a not a glorious victory. In regards to Very Dead, I understand everyone knows about the Battle of the Bulge, but what people may not know is that the Bulge was actually a campaign, a whole series of battles, and that some of them have been ignored or deliberately forgotten by historians. My characters will be found in the places history has avoided.

What were some of the emotional and moral guidelines you followed when developing your characters?

I always insist that my characters have an internal struggle which they are attempting to resolve even as they are faced with constant external danger. I also insist that each character is sufficiently developed within my own mind that their behavior is consistent and rings true, even as they undergo personality changes due to the nature of war itself. Each character must have a personality and a moral code (or an absence of one) which makes him distinct and realistic.

What kind of research did you do for this novel to ensure you captured the essence of the story’s theme?

Among other things, which included interviewing WW2 vets when I was in college, I read innumerable firsthand accounts of the conflict, and found that while no two people react exactly the same way to war, there is a great deal of commonality in the experiences of men who have been in military service and seen extensive combat. Not only terror and loneliness but also boredom, discomfort, cynicism, frustration and disillusion are all common reactions to war, even from people we might otherwise consider dedicated and heroic. I tried to pick up on those themes and deploy them within each character’s psychology. It was very important to me to avoid both “Greatest Generation” hero-worship (of the Americans) and Hollywood stereotyping (of the Germans), but actually get at the real people behind those photographs in history books, their souls and beating hearts. Ultimately this is a chronicle of men and women, not icons, and I let that be my guiding star.

What is the next book in the Sinner’s Cross series that you are working on and when will it be available?

I am working my way through the third novel, South of Hell, right now, and I hope to release it late in 2023. I foresee this series as having as many as seven books, coming out about once a year from now on.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Website

On the eve of what will be known as The Battle of the Bulge, the survivors of Sinner’s Cross are scattered all over Europe. Halleck, the tough Texan who drives men like cattle, finds himself surrounded in the snow-blanketed forests of the Eifel Mountains riding herd on greenhorn soldiers; Breese, the phony hero with a chip on his shoulder the size of Rushmore, embarks on a bloody mission of redemption behind enemy lines; Cramm, the one-eyed, one-armed German staff officer, tries to balance duty against his lust for vengeance against those who crippled him. Three men separated by war will once again converge…in The Very Dead of Winter.

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Posted on August 31, 2022, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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