Q) What is the book about?
A) In a sentence – One man’s struggle to fulfil his destiny. It’s a combination of action, adventure and a flavour of romance
Q) Where is it set?
A) It is set in war-torn Estonia in 1944. The German Army is in retreat and the Red army is advancing to fill the void.
Q) Why Forest brothers?
A) It is the name given to those who escaped to the forest to avoid capture by either side. Some of them were escaping being forced to join a foreign army. Some were avoiding deportation to places like Siberia. Some wanted to fight to retain their independence. Many groups formed in various parts of the country, with various successes. The term originated from the revolution in Russia in 1905.
Q) So, only men allowed?
A) No, but the name seems to stick as Forest Brothers. Women were deported also.
Q) Were they partisans?
A) There were acts of rebellion reported – 773 between 1944 and 1947, but many i think just wanted to hide and escape. To be honest, these people were on their own. Nobody supplied them with means to fight or communicate, so it was not an effective network of cells in terms of a resistance movement. But then resistance doesn’t have to be violent.
Q) How long did they last?
A) It was estimated anything up to 15,000 were active up to 1953, although the KGB were successful in infiltrating many cells leading to arrests and deportations. Following an amnesty most left the forest, but some remained. The last Metsavend was found in 1978, August Sabbe drowned himself to avoid capture by the KGB.
Q) Why choose this historical setting?
A) My wife and daughter are Estonian and I quickly became interested in their history. I find many similarities in psyche between Estonia and Wales even if they have led very different lives. My main character, Huw, is Welsh, rediscovering a land he once knew.
Q) How did that happen?
A) At the end of the first world war, Estonia declared its independence from Russia. By 1919, Russia had regrouped and began to look to reclaim land it had lost. Also, a German army was still in Latvia and South Estonia, where its commander was looking to set up a new Reich. The UK elected to send a squadron of Navy ships to Estonia and Latvia to assist the fledgling republics.
Q) To protect them?
A) To watch their backs. Estonia and its people earned their own independence, but the Royal Navy kept the Soviet Navy away.
Q) So why does this man come back?
A) In 1944 British intelligence send Huw to go to ground and feed back information to London. In 1919, he had jumped ship to stay with a woman in Estonia, only to be captured many years later and returned to prison in the UK. His soul is seeking closure.
A) It’s in the book 😉
Q) So there is a love interest?
A) Yes, Maarja, a strong-willed Estonian girl. From my experience, there isn’t any other type!
Q) Any other major characters?
A) Yes. There are 2 Forest Brothers. Märt was the baker in Huw’s Estonian village. He went to Finland to fight and returned to the forest. He is hiding a secret that affects everyone.
Juhan is a happy-go-lucky young man who seems to fall on his feet, even in such desperate times.
There is also a Russian officer, Oleg. He is chasing Huw, but there is more going on there than just duty.
Q) So, how much is true?
A) I have researched the historical background for the story, individual actions however are fiction. I have tried not to use real characters in direct dialogue. Where characters needed to be traceable eg officers of a Navy ship, they have not been named and are not based on real personalities. The fictional characters supplant the real ones. All the characters are fictional and any resemblance with real people either past or present is purely coincidental.
Q) What does the novel give you the chance to do?
A) It gives me the chance to bring to life a period and a history that is little known in the UK. There is limited knowledge of what our Navy did and there is a lot of ignorance about what Estonia went through in its turbulent first republic. In 1944, Soviet Russia was an ally, Germany was the enemy. All the Baltic states got swallowed up in the black hole the conflict created and the West stood by and watched.
Over here, we seem to be ignorant of anything that happened in Eastern Europe outside of larger countries. It would be nice to change that a tiny bit.
Also, it is the story of a man’s chance to redeem himself – that’s worth writing about!
Q) When do you expect it to be released?
A) Circaidy Gregory press and myself are looking to Christmas for the e-book and next year for the paperback.