It’s a question I have been asked recently, as ‘Forest Brothers’ sits on the eve of publication. Why have you chosen Estonia for your novel? what is the interest? Have you ever been there?
I first visited Estonia twelve years ago. It was February, minus twenty and the snow was heavy on the ground. The wind was so bitter as to make it painful to look out to the Baltic Sea. The capital felt deserted as I toured the old town with my future wife, moving from warm cafe to warm cafe to restore feeling to my extremities. I felt like the only tourist to appreciate the beauty of the medieval part if the city. I felt privileged.
Since that time, I have visited Estonia on a regular basis, albeit at times when the country is at least forty degrees warmer. I have been enchanted by the medieval fortresses, and long stretches of woodland. I have strolled the rugged northern shores and long sandy beaches of the south. I have enjoyed the tranquil islands and watched meteor showers in the forest glades. I have eaten blood sausage with black bread and washed it down with cold Estonian beer or Poltsamaa wine. I have delighted at the spectacle that is Leigo. Indeed, the bulk of the novel was written in the forest near Märjamaa. (admittedly with one leg in plaster up on a chair)
I cannot profess to be an expert on Estonia and all things Estonian. It is partly why the main character in the novel is British. The other reason is that it helps relive an event long forgotten in the UK and the links that were there long ago. I find most Estonians to be reserved initially, but those I have been privileged to befriend are warm and independent in thought. I see many parallels of this small nation with the psyche of my Welsh homeland. It makes me feel at home, it makes me feel part of the land.