Q&A: The Circumstantial Enemy by John R. Bell

When an author contacts you about reviewing their book, it’s disappointing to have to decline the opportunity because of your already huge review pile.  Such is the case when John R. Bell contacted me about his historical fiction novel, The Circumstantial Enemy.    However, just because my review pile is approaching mountainous proportions doesn’t mean I should hide interesting sounding books from followers of my blog.

I’m pleased to say, John agreed to answer some questions about The Circumstantial Enemy, the inspiration for the book and his own very personal writing journey.   If it sparks your interest, you can find the relevant purchase links below.

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The Circumstantial EnemyAbout the Book

When Croatia becomes a Nazi puppet state in 1941, carefree young pilot Tony Babic finds himself forcibly aligned with Hitler’s Luftwaffe. Unbeknownst to Tony, his sweetheart Katarina and best friend Goran have taken the side of the opposing communist partisans. The threesome are soon to discover that love and friendship will not circumvent this war’s ideals.

Downed by the Allies in the Adriatic Sea, Tony survives a harrowing convalescence in deplorable Italian hospitals and North African detention stockades. His next destination is Camp Graham in Illinois, one of four hundred prisoner of war camps on American soil. But with the demise of the Third Reich, repatriation presents a new challenge. What kind of life awaits Tony under communist rule? Will he be persecuted as an enemy of the state for taking the side of Hitler? And then there is Katarina; in letters she confesses her love, but not her deceit… Does her heart still belong to him?

Format: eBook (326 pp.)                   Publisher: Endeavour Press
Published: 12th October 2017          Genre: Historical Fiction

Purchase Links*
Amazon.co.uk  ǀ  Amazon.com
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find The Circumstantial Enemy on Goodreads

Interview: John R. Bell, author of The Circumstantial Enemy  

Without giving too much away, can you tell me a bit about The Circumstantial Enemy?

The book is a historical fiction thriller set in Croatia, Russia, and America between 1941 and 1953. It chronicles the trials and capers of a young pilot who is forcibly aligned with Hitler’s Luftwaffe. Unbeknownst to him, his sweetheart and best friend have taken the side of the opposing communist partisans. The threesome soon discover that love and friendship cannot circumvent the ideals of this war. I’d summarize the novel as an energetic journey to freedom through minefields of hatred, betrayal, lust, and revenge. A story about the strength of the human spirit, and the power of friendship, love, and forgiveness.

What is the relevance of the book’s title?

The title represents the protagonist’s predicament. By being in the wrong place at the wrong time, he is caught on the wrong side of the war, becoming the enemy of several in his struggle to survive. There is also a twist to the title; The Circumstantial Enemy happens to be written by a circumstantial author.  I characterize myself that way because I’d never felt a burning desire to write a book.

What changed your mind?

One potent statement from my daughter. Seventeen years ago she said, “If you don’t write it, Grandad’s story will be lost forever.” I’ll never forget the yearning in her eyes. Though in good health, Grandad was 80 years old at the time and he wasn’t about to be the first human being to live forever.   The family had heard his tales over and over again – trials and tribulations of a young WWII Croatian pilot.  I also had to admit that preserving Grandad’s captivating story for his descendants was incredibly compelling. So began my journey as an author.

How did you go about your research for the book?

Thrilled by the opportunity, Grandad agreed to a host of interviews. I was no longer a passive listener. Rather, I treated our exchange as might a journalist – probing for details and questioning events that seemed overstated. The most interesting revelation was his frankness. He soon forgot the recorder was on, revealing more than ever before – some of it both shocking and disturbing. Between the sessions, I checked his facts to ensure the timelines were correct and life in POW camps on US soil were as he described. Simultaneously, I was reading relevant non-fiction books to better understand time, place, and prisoner predicament.

I understand you initially chronicled your Grandad’s story in the form of a biography.  What made you decide to transform it into a work of fiction?

When I began writing, I found myself thinking as might a novelist – the notion that fiction hinges on the characters and what they want. Grandad’s motivation was freedom from repression. A year later, I had completed his biography. With enough copies printed for the family and a few generations to come, I thought I was done as an author. Not so. I’d been infected by that burning desire to write.  I went on to compose business-related blogs about leadership, strategy, and branding. Three years and a hundred blogs later, I thought back to Grandad’s story. There was so much to it. So much that had never been told before. I wondered if I could dramatize that fascinating journey to freedom and redemption into a thrilling novel.

What was the biggest challenge you encountered when writing The Circumstantial Enemy?

A couple of thousand words of fiction later, I realized my naivety; I was in over my head, but that didn’t snuff my inspiration. I didn’t write another word for a year – reading every self-help book I could get my hands on regarding the writing of fiction.  Following the conventional process of research, writing, editing, rewriting (ad nauseam), and seeking an agent and/or publisher, The Circumstantial Enemy was released eight years later.

What are you working on next?

I’m already working on the plot for a prequel and a sequel.


John R BellAbout the Author

John Richard Bell was born in Chigwell, UK and now resides in Vancouver, Canada. Before becoming an author of business books and historical fiction, he was the CEO of a Fortune 500 company and a global strategy consultant. A prolific blogger, John’s musings on strategy, leadership and branding have appeared in various journals such as Fortune, Forbes and ceoafterlife.com

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