Sunday, 16 September 2012

Spotlight - Robert Craven

Shah Fazli
Robert Craven, Thanks for coming, and thanks everyone for joining Spotlight live event, Robert how would you like to start with this show?

Robert Craven Hello Shah & thank you for having me featured tonight. I'd like to start with the Amazon link to my second novel Zinnman -
In this assured and compelling sequel to 'Get LENIN', it is 1941, and the Allied
intelligence team of Henry Chainbridge, Peter De Witte and Eva Molenaar are tasked by Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden personally with destroying a terrifying new weapon of mass destruction being developed jointly ...

Shah Fazli Thanks, a beautiful cover, tell us something interesting about Zinnman please?

Robert Craven Thanks Shah, I designed it myself to follow the theme of the first novel Get Lenin, I wanted to keep them basic - 3 colors - red, yellow & black with the font and star appearing each time. Zinnman follows Get Lenin 6 months after. The main character, Eva Molenaar returns to track a Swiss scientist who may or may not be working for the Nazi's and their rocket programme. The other characters return in an attempt to thwart a conspiracy. It's again, a page-turner.

Shah Fazli Introduce Eva for us in this book please, what happens to her in this book?

Robert Craven Eva Molenaar has become a spy almost by chance. In Get Lenin she suffers at the hands of the SA in Berlin in 1933 on the night of the book burnings and sets out for revenge - Get Lenin is her first adventure - Zinnman allows her character to develop further, and through this story she uses all her skills and feminine wiles to uncover the truth - she's more confident, assured and we learn not to put her in a corner - she hits back. Hard. Also she falls in love with the enemy captain she met first in Get Lenin and has to wrestle with her duty and her heart.

Shah Fazli Is this based on fact, why did you choose your main character a woman, not a man?

Robert Craven Eva is based on the Australian spy Nancy Wake who fought with the French Resistance in WW2, when I pictured the character I saw the 1940's actress Ava Gardner, both bear a strong resemblance. I did a lot of research into the era and tried to keep everything as authentic as possible. When I finished the first draft of Get Lenin, Eva was a minor character, but then looking at it the readership, wanted to create a character that both men & women would root for and although not an original idea, seeing the war through a female agents eyes, I thought would appeal to all.

Shah Fazli Thanks, what happens when Eva falls in love with the enemy?

Robert Craven The enemy captain Nicklaus Brandt and his team have been exiled out of Germany into Switzerland on a retainer from British intelligence - the hunt for the Zinnman (codename for theweapon) brings Eva and Brandt together unexpectedly and the spark between them ignites - but not without the tensions of jealousy, uncertainty and just how far can you trust someone in wartime. It's passionate but 'hanging' at the same time.Their relationship is interesting to write...

Shah Fazli Describe a scene where Eva is close to be revealed, captured, or even killed please?

Robert Craven I devised a scene in a mansion where the scientist she has be-friended; Manfred Steiger is met by 2 Gestapo agents who believe she is an enemy agent. She's beckoned from the bedroom down to the sitting room by Steiger with the agents waiting for her. They plan to kill her & ship the body out of Switzerland in a portmanteau, she enters to room, sees the men and without hesitation opens fire with a concealed gun. I wrote the piece in very tight sentences - practically a cross-cut where her 6th sense kicks in and gives an idea of how she prepares for battle. She's cold and calculating - & doesn't miss.

Shah Fazli Read a few lines from your book for us please?

Robert Craven The ice swirled lazily in the aged whiskey, pulsing amber and white in the sunlight through the cut-crystal glass. Edward, Duke of Windsor; Governor General of the Bahamas sipped elegantly from it. His sandy hair, piercing blue eyes and deep tan gave him an air of raffish grace mixed with boyish charm, though his cadences carried an air of selfish conceit when he spoke.
‘You see, I understand the English working class; the commoner,’ he took a cigarette from an ebony cigarette box inlaid with ivory and lit it with a solid gold lighter, the smoke drifting over his shoulder on the lazy trade winds.
‘During the depression the churches around London opened up their crypts as shelters for the jobless and I would pay the poor souls a visit. I’d enjoy a cigarette and a chat over an ale with them and they loved me,’ he paused and the man opposite him, de Payen’s contact, Giles Alsopp, quietly prayed the Duke’s mood wasn’t going to suddenly blacken. The Duke broke from his reverie; ‘They were hard times Alsopp, and then before that...’ he trailed and a shadow flashed across his eyes, ‘the horror of the trenches.’
He leaned forward earnestly, his eyes suddenly glittering.
‘The English people don’t want me, but I’m the only one who can save them. England’s lost and Hitler will crush America. I need to find a way to forge an alliance with Germany before it’s too late. I’m the only one Chancellor Hitler will deal with directly. It was never in my desire to be king but abdicating, in hindsight, now seems rather foolish. I may now have to return and save my people.’
Edward’s attention was momentarily distracted. Looking up and across the veranda, he watched his wife, Wallis Simpson, strolling through the perfectly manicured grounds, arm linked with their friend Portuguese banker Ricardo Silva. Ahead of them skipped a pair of Cairns terriers who rushed up to the Duke and licked his fingers greedily with tails whirling. As he watched his wife and the banker wave cheerily to him Edward felt a sudden twinge of jealousy; he brushed imaginary ash from his immaculately pressed jacket and trousers.
The man sitting opposite him Giles Alsopp was in awe of the circles in which he now moved. He studied the two as they joined them; the Portuguese, urbane, the Duchess thin, Chanel and charismatic, magnetic almost, graced with the sinewy poise of a dancer. As one of Chamberlain’s attaches in Munich in 1938, Alsopp had met Hitler and Mussolini in person. They had dazzled him with their authority, power and slick diplomatic machinery; and Ribbentrop, the dashing chap who had stolen the show and ideologically seduced him. Through this connection, Alsopp had met the Royal couple and had since followed every sartorial mode that Edward had created. He sat with the Duke attired in an almost identical double-breasted suit and shirt with matching wide four in hand knot in his tie and felt he had out done the banker. The couple had resided with Silva in Portugal after fleeing first France and then Spain in the face of the German advance; then the humiliating posting here via British warship on Churchill’s orders. Alsopp looked around; to him this was a parochial back-water and no place for a monarch to reside; a monarch who had foresight and clearly understood the future. Wallis kissed the Duke tenderly on the temple and retrieved a cigarette from the box, taking a light from the Duke’s cigarette,
‘Ricardo will be in Switzerland for a few days making arrangements, darling.’ Her voice was cultured, mid-Atlantic and measured, as if every word had been chewed up slowly before being uttered. She looked steadily at Alsopp,
‘We’re always busy, thinking and turning things around in our heads, something
must be done about this whole situation.’ She threw a slow, withering gaze across the gardens, veranda and house as she spoke. She pinched her mouth into a moue as she did it. Edward shifted uncomfortably and attempted a sheepish smile to the two men. Silva’s expression never changed, his eyes fixed on some distant problem he was working on, then glanced up at Alsopp,
‘Have you shown them the list?’ Silva asked as he accepted the proffered cigarette from the Duke. Under the table, the terriers lapped noisily from silver water bowls filled from the pewter jug on the table; Edward topped up his glass from it. Alsopp undid the band on his hat and rolled it flat out onto the table. Undoing a stitch at one end he removed a thin stand of paper and held it up for the Duke and Duchess to read.
‘Your Majesty, these are the people who support your claim and wish you to return and sue for peace with the government of Germany as, not only their representative, but the rightful King of England.’
Their eyes ran quickly down the list and Wallis raised an eyebrow as her smile widened. Edward took the lighter and set the parchment alight,
‘Excellent, yes this is most excellent.’ In moments of excitement Edward’s voice rose to a shrill pitch. As they watched the embers eddy in the ashtray Silva said:
‘Giles will return to England and maintain his cover. I will arrange to meet with some like-minded individuals over the next few weeks and discuss options. In the meantime, I’m advised you are both under surveillance by the FBI and British Intelligence. For your safety, the less your Majesty knows from now on the better.’
Silva rose from the table with Giles following suit. Watching them leave, Edward spun the gold lighter clockwise and anti-clockwise in short sudden bursts and Wallis held her long arms out admiring her new Cartier jewellery.
‘Nice sort of chap that Alsopp.’ murmured Edward pouring another generous measure. He checked his watch, it was 10.15am.
‘Decent sort...’

Pauline Edwards Hi Robert, from a dark and chilly UK. Are3 the rockets in your story real, or did you create them yourself?

Shah Fazli Thanks, after you wrote Get Lenin, what motivated you write Zinnman, any particular reason?

Robert Craven Hi Pauline Edwards, yes the rockets were real, Germany developed the V1 'Doodlebug' and V2 Rockets, when creating the Zinnman, I looked into this & created a 'possible' modified V1.

Robert Craven Thanks Shah Fazli, the motivation for Zinnman was that when I finished Get Lenin, I had numerous plots sketched out and loved two characters I had created - General Metzger and Eva and I thought - this could develop into a series and began to plot out a conspiracy that she gradually uncovers during the course of the war. I wanted to give these two characters in particular another run out!

Pauline Edwards I loved the scene in the mountain where the rockets were stored. Ideal movie scene!

Ben Manning hi robert! what are your main influences? for me reading your work is very special in that - though i love many spy thrillers like "tinker tailor" they can be hard to read and your style is natural and easy to digest. i often think of the old bbc series "secret army" for instance when reading get lenin...

Robert Craven thanks Pauline Edwards, yes I tend to visualise chapters and I think we're all from the cinema blockbuster generation - it was JAWS, Star Wars and Indiana Jones during my childhood!

Shah Fazli What makes your book stand out among similar genres, anything that the readers point out, or you can think of please?

Robert Craven thanks Ben Manning, my main influences are Stephen King, Ian Fleming, Alastair Maclean and Fredrick Forsyth - like the films I've quoted, I grew up reading those. I also love James Herbert - Irish writers Frank O'Connor, John McGahern and John Banville.

Robert Craven thanks Shah Fazli - what I think makes my books stand out from the others is Eva - I love her and I try to write from her view point, also I try to make her adventures glamourous in the sense that she moves in very elite circles where the war is more of a distraction than a daily occurrence.

Shah Fazli What were the most horrific things that your main character had to go through, just name a few please?

Robert Craven Eva's beaten in the early chapters of Get Lenin by 2 SA, she witnesses the murder of her fiancé too. Her best friend Ella Edelstein is forced into hard labour on the streets of Berlin and she witnesses the invasion of her homeland, Poland while trying to smuggle her family out. In Zinnman she is hunted down in New York by enemy agents and has to flee and is nearly killed in Steiger's mansion.

Ben Manning can i ask - how did the idea for "get lenin" come about? it is very original...

Robert Craven Hi Ben Manning, the idea came about when I read a Sunday Times review of a book named 'Lenin's embalmers' by Ilya Zbarsky and the book has a chapter about the mausoleum moved alongwith Russian Industry 1000 miles to the Urals - and I thought what if the German's send a team in to snatch the sarcophagus & display it in Berlin? and from there I started writing.

Shah Fazli Robert, it has been a pleasure, you may want to also give us your tips on writing at the end of this interview please?

Robert Craven thank you very much for interviewing me and toBen Manning and Pauline Edwards for their questions. My main writing tip is read - read everything as well as write. The great Jazz bassist Steve Swallow once remarked - My skill is based on 50/50 - 50% listening to all kinds of music & 50% playing.

Shah Fazli Visit:

ShahSight Literary Book Shop: Zinnman - Robert

Robert Craven Slán.

Shah Fazli To book your own interview join,

Edouard Spyk Gheur, Great to see you, this is your special event on Spotlight, y...See More

Lorraine Arndell Thanks Robert and Shah :)

Ben Manning thanks really enjoyed the interview Robert Craven - i LOVE the sequel with get lenin . it is a real clincher...

Robert Craven cheers Ben Manning & Lorraine Arndell - have a great weekend!

Reggie Jables Jones Apologies Rob for not being here. I made time for it but was caught up in a bit of a drink. I hope I'm forgiven mate.

Shah Fazli Thanks everyone for joining, hope you enjoyed this event with Robert and I.

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