Today, I welcome author Michael Bolan to my blog. His latest book, The Stone Bridge, the gripping conclusion to the Devil’s Bible Series, was released in November. You can purchase The Stone Bridge on Amazon.
What or who inspired you to start writing?
Irish people seldom answer a question directly. So for me, there were two beginnings. The first was when my brother came to visit me in Prague, bringing my nephews. I had to scramble to come up with an itinerary that was suitable for two teenagers. We had dinner one evening in a medieval restaurant, complete with firebreathers, pipers, dueling swordsmen and buxom wenches. The restaurant was called the King of Brabant and my elder nephew asked why. I then began to make up a story that blended real history with devices from books that I loved with ideas of my own. I kept it going for five days, ad-libbing as I went. It wasn’t until a few months later, when I was visiting my wife’s parents that the writing began. We had a minor (?) argument which resulted in her telling me to “just go and write a book or something”. So I stormed off to the dining table, opened my laptop and wrote 11,000 words in one sitting – by far my most productive day ever.
Please tell us about your current release.
The Stone Bridge is the final volume of the Devil’s Bible Series, which follows the final four years of the Thirty Years War, 1645-1648. Chronologically, the story is accurate, following the battles and intrigue that led to the end of the war. In terms of characters, there’s a mix of real and imaginary, with a few dramatic liberties taken. One of the most surprising things I discovered in my research was that the armies of the time were made up of many nationalities, so you could have Scots fighting for the Bavarians against Scots fighting for the Swedes. Mercenaries came from all over the world, so I cast some of my mercenaries as Fianna – semi-mythical warriors from Ireland, bringing a fantasy element into the story.
Do you outline your books or just start writing?
The Devil’s Bible just happened, which was simultaneously good and bad. I never once suffered from writer’s block during the process – the ideas just flew onto the page. The downside was that the final book needed a fundamental rewrite (11 of 20 chapters) because the loose ends just wouldn’t tie up. It cost me at least six months of writing and editing to fix this, which, given that I have released three books in two years, was a major delay. My next series, (working title Gods & Fighting Men), is being more carefully outlined and planned, although not to an excessive degree…
Did the story turn out the way you planned from the beginning? If not, what change happened that you didn’t expect?
The best laid plans of mice and men gang oft agley. They certainly did with the Devil’s Bible Series. Actually, the book itself is supposed to be cursed, so it’s little wonder that things went off course. First up, it was supposed to be a book. Not three. I was over 100,000 words into the story before I checked how long a book should actually be. To my chagrin, I realized I had gone way over the suggested word limit and was only halfway through the tale I wanted to tell. The other thing that still annoys me is when my characters do their own things. I’ve had characters change sides, suffer horrendous injuries, even pluck out their own eyes – all without my say-so. It seems that the lunatics have taken over the asylum…
Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?
I have found myself wondering what happens next; what my characters (those that survive) do after the earth-shattering events of the trilogy. It’s not like you can just go back to normal life when you are the richest man on the planet, or married to a demi-god and transported to a parallel world slightly out of sync with our own. My next series follows the Fianna warriors and my heroine as they deal with the problem of reuniting the faery realm with our world. While there will still be a strong element of history and politics in this tale, it’s much more of a fantasy than the first series. I don’t want to give too much away (especially as I haven’t even finished the planning), but I’m excited. It’s going to be awesome.
What was the most difficult thing/ scene to write in this story?
I had two challenges with the Devil’s Bible. The first was the way that history ran. 1645 was a year of battles and change, as was 1648, so they were well laid out for me already, whereas not much happened in 1646 and 1647. That’s a simplistic way to look at things, but peace negotiations and trade deals aren’t all that exciting… So I sent my characters off on a quest to keep them busy until the history sped up again. The other challenge I had was with my bad guys. I really don’t like the main evil character – he makes me feel dirty. It’s not that he’s inherently evil: he’s a distillation of how nasty people can be – sociopathic, psychopathic, sadistic and perverted, while maintaining a sense that he is right and everyone else is wrong. I had to write him in short bursts, and I was always in a bad mood after those chapters.
Do you have an all time favorite book?
I have a gazillion favourite books, for different reasons, but the most important book for me isn’t viewed as a classic, except to a very small niche. I was a precocious reader, devouring Lord of the Rings, etc. as a young child. And then I went through the most middle-class teenage rebellion in history – I stopped reading – I think just to annoy my parents. From a handful of books a week to nothing, I simply didn’t read anymore. After a year, my mother made me a deal – any book I wanted to read, she would buy. I was in the local bookstore and saw Raymond Feist’s Magician. After admiring the cover art, and reading the blurb on the back, I asked if she would buy it. She did, I read it, and the rest is history. I recently read the final book of the series that Feist set in that world, thirty years after setting out on that journey.
What book are you reading right now?
I’m reading the coolest series at the moment – The Desolate Empire series by Christina Ochs. Christina is the funkiest author I know – she writes in the back of the cab while her husband drives a long-distance truck. Her series is also based on the Thirty Years War (that’s how we got to know one another) but takes the whole period and rewrites it as a realistic fantasy, changing the names of the countries, noblemen, etc. but covering what actually happened. I have almost finished Valley of the Shadow, the second of her planned six books in the series, and I’m hooked.
If you could meet two authors, who would you pick and why?
People are talking about how many famous people died in 2016 – David Bowie, Prince, Castro, Zsa Zsa Gabor – but I’m most saddened by the loss of Umberto Eco. His mind was like the Garden of Eden, capable of taking the smallest of ideas and growing from it an entire ecosystem, a beautiful jungle of words that twist and captivate. I loved his stories, but most of all I would want to ask him about an essay he wrote, called How to Travel with a Salmon. You see, I have done the same, flying from Vancouver to Ireland in the company of a dead fish…
From the living, it would have to be Neil Gaiman. The man is immense: prolific, varied, crazy. His ideas are as close to creation as I have ever experienced and he remains grounded. Or at least as grounded as anyone can or should be. I can only imagine that a conversation with him would not end up where one might think…
The Rapture continues to wreak havoc across Europe in its quest to acquire the elemental Seals, the only thing preventing the Devil’s Bible from purging the world in fire. Brought to Prague by the Fianna, the Seals’ only protection lies in the secrecy that shrouds them.
Reinald, leader of the Rapture, enlists the world’s greatest minds to free the Devil’s Bible from the depths of Prague Castle, where it has languished under lock and key for centuries. Meanwhile, the plans of the Four Horsemen unfold, wreaking havoc and misery across the entire continent.
Not content with forcing his siblings from their ancestral home, Reinald sends a vast army to harry and persecute them, forcing them to flee ever eastwards. Taking shelter with their friends, Willem, Leo and Isabella commit to one last act of bravery, making a final stand to defend the city of Prague.
As each nation commits its final resources into the conflict, all roads lead to the Stone Bridge that divides Prague, where the Sons of Brabant and their Fianna allies will face the ultimate test of their strength.
About the Author
It took Michael Bolan over two decades of running in the corporate ratrace to realize that all he actually did was tell stories.
There was no Damascene revelation for Bolan which caused him to pen his first work of fiction, “The Sons of Brabant”. An avid reader, he simply felt that he could do as good a job as many of the authors he read and decided to put his money where his mouth was.
Living and working in many countries left him with smatterings of a dozen languages and their stories, and his love for history focused his ideas on the Thirty Years War, the most destructive conflict that the continent has ever seen.
Now living in Prague (again), Michael brings alive the twisted alleys of the 17th century and recreates the brooding darkness of a fractured Europe, where no-one was entirely sure who was fighting whom.
Michael writes while liberally soused in gin, a testament to Franz de le Boë, who was mixing oil of juniper with neat spirit while the thirty Years War raged around him.
You can purchase The Stone Bridge on Amazon.