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Your Own Bravery And Skill

Iain Stewart Author Interview

Knights of the Air: Rage follows two RFC pilots struggling to survive the dangerous skies during WWI. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

The genesis of the story was to take the main storylines from the legends of King Arthur, Lancelot, and Guinevere and explore how such a story might unfold in a more modern setting. I chose WW1 flying for two reasons. First, I have always been fascinated by it and already knew a lot about it. Second, it was probably the most recent time that still allowed man to man combat and some chivalry. Many of the pilots saw themselves in such terms. Cecil Lewis, WW1 ace and author of Sagittarius Rising, wrote “The light fast single-seater scout was my ambition. To be alone, to have your life in your own hands, to use your own skill, single-handed, against the enemy. It was like the lists of the Middle Ages, the only sphere in modern warfare where a man saw his adversary and faced him in mortal combat, the only sphere where there was still chivalry and honour. If you won, it was your own bravery and skill; if you lost, it was because you had met a better man.” Arthur Gould Lee, another ace in WW1, wrote that the pilots considered themselves “airborne warriors who engaged in single combat, like the nights of mediaeval chivalry, but wielding a winged machine gun in place of Lance and sword.”

Lance and Arthur are intriguing and well developed characters. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

I wanted a number of development arcs for Lance.

In the legends, I always liked Lancelot the most. An idealist who was perpetually falling short of his own ideals, but never became bitter. An outstanding fighter who tried to use his prowess for good. A loyal friend and subject who somehow ended up cuckolding his monarch and friend. A chivalrous romantic whose every relationship ended with disaster. A soldier who held the elite Knights of the Round table together, until his illicit love affair with Guinevere rotted the kingdom from within. So much contradiction in one person.

And then there is the eternal triangle between the three of them, which is never satisfactorily explored in the legends. How does a fundamentally decent man end up betraying his greatest friend?

So I wanted to explore a number of character arcs across the whole series.

First, I had to create circumstances that showed how a normal youngster could be shocked into a world where revenge became his driving force. Then his evolution from a lone killer to a leader who main motivation was winning while looking after his men.

Second, I wanted a love arc where Lance grew from relations driven primarily by sex; then one driving infatuation, before settling for warmth, but then finding much more.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

I wanted to show many facets of war; the way it can bring out the best in some men as well as the worst; the enduring friendships of comrades who face death together; the nobility of fighting for righteous beliefs. But at the same time, I did not want to glorify war. I wanted to paint a picture of men at war and allow the reader to admire the best of them while at the same time showing the terrible pain and destructiveness inherent in every war.

Although I gave Lance a personal experience of brutality, I also wanted to show by the end of the series that both sides, German and British, contained good men and right bastards. That is why I brought in German characters with their own POV, so Lance’s enemies were not as impersonal as they would otherwise be. By the end of the series, Lance ends up realizing he has more in common with young fliers from Germany than he does with many men of his own nation. Although Book 1 shows him hating Germans, that evolves over the series.

Last but not least, I wanted to introduce readers to the incredible men who fought in the air, and their planes, their stresses and strains. I did my best to make the history accurate and to give a feel for what it was really like to be a pilot in WW1.

What can readers expect in Book 2 of your Knight of the Air series?

Book 2: Fire shows Lance’s struggles as he adapts to leadership, forging a squadron with teamwork that can take on and beat Richthofen’s Circus. Events challenge his relationships with his lover, Megan, his father and Arthur. And all the while he is fighting his fear of fire and mental breakdown.

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“Action, loyalty, valor, and blood make Stewart’s series kicker in the Knights of the Air series a remarkable historical novel… A sharp and effective blend of WWI aviation action and adventure, a hefty dose of emotion and human drama, plus a dash of romance keep the pages flying. Finely written and vividly imagined, this is a complex, gritty novel delving into the brutalities of war. Stewart is an author to watch.” BOOKVIEW GOLDBADGEWINNER 2022 INTERNATIONAL IMPACT AWARD FOR MILITARY HISTORY.
WINNER 2022 MAINSTREAM MEDIA FOR MILITARY FICTION.
To survive, Lance Fitch makes the enemy vermin, his friends expendable, and his chivalry more threadbare than a beggar’s cloak.

As the conflagration of World War 1 spreads around the world, it subsumes Lance. As part of his revenge quest, he joins the British Royal Flying Corps. Arthur Wolsey, his commanding officer, begs him to join 100 Wing — elite pilots tasked with wresting control of the air from Manfred Richthofen’s “Flying Circus.” The Germans are cutting such a bloody swathe across the skies that the average survival time of an RFC pilot in the air is a mere seventeen hours. Lance and Arthur struggle to stay alive, never mind preserving their Wing and their friendship. The latter is further stressed by Arthur’s alluring half-sister, Megan. Lance learns fast, but when Richthofen is the teacher, those lessons are bloody…

In Knights of the Air, Book 1: Rage! by Iain Stewart, we experience the terror of mortal combat in the heavens, while flying flimsy, flammable planes without parachutes. Impeccable history from the dawn of military aviation is woven with characters and themes drawn from the Arthurian myths as two enduring legends intertwine, King Arthur meets the Red Baron.

”Knights of the Air” is Book One of what promises to be a highly enjoyable series and this reviewer, for one, is looking forward to the sequel.” HISTORICAL FICTION COMPANY AWARD, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

“If Rage! is any indicator for the rest of the Knights of the Air series, military history buffs better be making some room on their bookshelves now.” INDEPENDENT BOOK REVIEW

“A rousing yarn that deftly delivers both a wartime adventure and a character study.” KIRKUS REVIEWS

“Author Iain Stewart knows how to throw readers into a scene and keep them enthralled until the end…a rousing and suspenseful military adventure novel that is filled with gritty air combat that sticks close to the WW1 facts but never forgets to entertain the reader.” LITERARY TITAN REVIEW


“Knights of The Air, Book 1: Rage! blends a military story with aviation history to create a thriller story replete with nonstop action.” D. DONOVAN, SENIOR REVIEWER, MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW

“RAGE! is a gripping action story of courage and heroism in the dangerous life of a World War I fighter pilot…Stewart weaves drama, integrity, and conflicting emotions through a captivating story of human spirit.” KRISTINA STANLEY, Best-selling and award-winning author of the Stone Mountain Mystery Series

Knights of the Air, Book 1: RAGE!

In this relentlessly entertaining historical thriller we follow Lance Fitch as he finds himself falling from the highs of drinking bitter lemonade and worrying about flirting with his fiancée in front of their fathers to the lows of worrying about how to survive the next hour while in the trenches of World War I.

Though an unpopular gunner in the air force, Lance is hell bound on getting himself into a plane before the war is over. Thanks to another pilot’s unfortunate hit, Arthur Wolsey became the reason Lance was allowed in the sky. With both men having a known wild streak, they build a surprisingly close friendship that will be tested as they fight to stay alive in the air against all possible odds. And on the home front, Arthur and Lance’s friendship faces another type of stress as Lance discovers Arthur’s beautiful half-sister, Megan.

Author Iain Stewart knows how to throw readers into a scene and keep them enthralled until the end. I loved the vivid sets (as it really did feel like an action movie at times) and reveled in the way they are meticulously constructed. As a lover of military history (specifically the First and Second World Wars), the historical aspect of Knights of the Air: Rage! passes the accuracy-test with flying colors. For example, reading about how and why the “Fokker Menace” came to be was like seeing a celebrity in person; WWI enthusiast will know what I’m talking about. This novel weaves these facts in and around the fiction story, giving the whole book a grounded and realistic feel, even when things get wild. Because of this the story feels like it could be a memoir; a fictional one at least. To keep such an incredible story feeling like it was all first-hand accounts from the war is an impressive talent that I give high praise for.

The beginning of the story is one I can only equate to the Adventures of a Young Naturalist by Sir David Attenborough, because I felt like it had a similar way of noting down critical elements of one’s surroundings and delivering it in a narrative that felt fulfilling and thoughtful and truly allows the reader a sense of each scene and moment. But, again, Iain has a strong understanding of making fiction come to life, and once he’s grounded the story it takes off and we’re in for a whirlwind adventure.

Knights of the Air, Book 1: Rage! is a rousing and suspenseful military adventure novel that is filled with gritty air combat that sticks close to WWI facts but never forgets to entertain the reader.

Pages: 363 | ASIN : B09T2KP5SL

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