Q: A new Estonian novel – is it availableto buy?
A: Yes, The new novel is called Finnish Boys and is available online via my website and Amazon at present. Amazon also provides an e-book option.
Q: It’s a prequel to Forest Brothers. Why did you choose to do it this way?
A: It sort of fell that way. Forest Brothers was a standalone story, but in writing it, I felt there was a rich back story for the Estonian protagonists that needed telling in its own right.
Q: What made you choose Estonia as a setting for your novels?
A: I was interested in the history of my wife’s land. Estonia has similarities to Wales in its love of music, language and culture. Both, of course, evolved in different ways with the ‘help’ of neighbours. When I found that the UK was involved in Estonia’s independence, I wanted to know more and write about it.
Q: In what way was the UK involved?
A: After the first world war, the UK was in conflict with the new Russian republic. Many countries were. At the same time, Estonia had declared its independence. The UK sent the Navy to protect the Estonian shoreline, leaving the Estonians to fight for their independence against both Russia and Germany, which they succeeded in 1920.
Q: I didn’t know that..
A:No, the Baltic nations were airbrushed out of our history lessons. Forest Brothers focussed on a Welsh sailor who returns to Estonia in 1944 to spy. A land where he had found and lost love. Finnish Boys takes the story back three years to the time of Soviet occupation from the East and German invasion from the North.
Q: What is the significance of the title?
A: The Estonian men were conscripted by both armies during the war. Those who didn’t, either fled to the Forest or to Finland. In Finland, they formed the 200th batallion in the Finnish Army. The Erna group, also known as Finnish Boys.
Q: So did they come over to fight?
A: They came over to fight on the side of the Germans. Estonia was caught between Scylla and Charybdis, as a review once said of Forest Brothers. Germany offered a more ‘independent’ Estonia to Stalin.
Q: Do you not find it strange that they would so willingly side with such an evil regime?
A: It really was the best of two bad options. Neither side covered themselves in glory with human rights but they had already seen what Stalin would do to their land. Finland has always had a special bond with Estonia by language and the men refused to swear allegiance to Hitler -only to Finland and Estonia. The story is not about the country anyway. It’s about people and how they adapt to interesting times
Q. Do we know any of the characters from reading Forest Brothers?
A. Yes, Märt is a baker in Soviet occupied Estonia. In 1941, he learns that his name is on a list for deportation. He is asked to take a British spy out of the country and agrees, but first he wants to make sure that his estranged wife, Maarja, and son, Juhan are safe.
The story also introduces some minor characters who appear in Forest Brothers – and some who don’t, like Liisbet!
Q. Does this mean Huw doesn’t appear in this?
A. No, Huw’s story starts with Forest Brothers and continues through to the sequel. Yes, there is a final book, to compete the cycle! Harry, is a British agent, who has a mission that becomes clearer as the story moves on.
Q: Why didn’t you release the sequel before the prequel?
A: Yes, that was a difficult one. Forest Brothers was popular being set in Estonia, using its history as a background. Finnish Boys is also set in Estonia and does the same thing, whilst broadening the story of the Estonian family. The sequel takes it on from Forest Brothers, so it is more a story about Estonians, without the Estonian backdrop. But it is still utilising some interesting end of war events. it is just by then, Estonia was closed to the West. it’s one of the problems with starting in the middle. I will try to make sure future projects don’t!
Q: What side would you have taken?
A: There is so much depending on where you are at the time. Where is your background, what has happened beforehand. War mashes things up and spits it all back out. The protagonists are ethnic Estonians, they lived in the country of Estonia that was invaded. They had their opinions and different views as to what to do about it. It is so easy to look back today with the benefit of hindsight and say ‘oh, they should have done that, that, that…’ When your up at the coal face, you don’t tend to get 360 vision.
Q: So you say you can get the book via this website or Amazon?
A: Yes, for non-UK readers, the Amazon option is helpful, as if you order the book via your local Amazon website, the book will be sent from there i.e. if your are in the USA, and order it from Amazon.com, it will be posted to you from inside America and you don’t pay international postage for it, which saves a ton of money!
I think the nearest amazon sites to Estonia are Germany and Sweden, so the postage would be within the EU, not from the UK if you use Amazon.
The e-book is also available via Amazon.