A Bookish Conversation with C.S. Taylor
C.S. Taylor is a former Marine and avid fencer (saber for the most part, foil and epee are tolerable). He enjoys all things WWII, especially perfecting his dogfighting skills inside virtual cockpits, and will gladly accept any P-38 Lightnings anyone might wish to bestow upon him. He’s also been known to run a kayak through whitewater now and again, as well give people a run for their money in trap and skeet.
His latest book is the historical fiction, Nadya’s War.
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Welcome to Literarily Speaking, C.S. Can we begin by telling us how you got started writing historical fiction?
C.S.: Thanks for the invite! I wish I could point to one specific instance in life that made me take the historical track, but there wasn’t a defining moment. I’ve always liked reading (and trying my hand at writing) a variety of genres, and as I did both, what I really realized was I was more wanting a fantastic story than anything else. A large part of the appeal to historical fiction to me is that it can transport a reader to a different world with characters that can have completely different opinions about the historical events around them than I have reading about said events. In a sense, a great historical novel doesn’t just offer you a time machine, but it gives you a new set of glasses for you to wear and see the world with.
Did you have any influences or influencers who helped you become a writer/published author?
C.S.: My dad and wife are hands down the two biggest influences. I wasn’t the most avid reader when he started pushing me to read at an early age, but it did eventually take. I really enjoyed The Hobbit (one of the first I can remember being thrust upon me that I didn’t slog through) and when he realized I needed a little more action and world building to the books I’d read, he tailored my assigned list to that. With that as a backdrop, when I decided to try my hand at writing my first story (and later book attempts), he was graciously my first beta reader, always encouraging me to keep writing.
This brings me to my fantastic wife, who has read through more of my garbage than I care to admit, but being the awesome spouse she is, kept my dream alive and gave me the motivation to “tell one more story.”
Did you read a lot of historical fiction to help you learn the craft?
C.S.: As I mentioned above, I ended up reading a lot growing up, historical fiction included, but I wasn’t a diehard in the sense that was all I read (or even mostly read). Reading a lot in a particular genre certainly helps one writing for that genre (mystery novels are a great example of this), but with historical fiction, I think a lot of it is just having a good story to tell and telling it well. That said, there are some particulars about historical fiction I was aware of before getting into it, most notably, I had to do my homework and really nail down the details of the setting for Nadya’s War. My second-biggest nightmare (aside from bombing reviews) was to have someone point out plot breaking flaws when it came to historical accuracy. For better or worse, I got to the point where I was trying to find out exactly how the heater core worked in the cockpit of the Yak-1 fighter (or if it even had one).
I’d like to talk about your recent release, Nadya’s War. Can you tell us a little about Nadezdah “Little Boar” Buzina?
C.S.: Nadya is a junior lieutenant with the 586th all-female fighter regiment of the Red Army Air. She flies a Yak-1 fighter, which was a plane that was on par with the German’s Messerschmitt 109, one of the best fighter planes of World War II. When the story starts, Nadya hasn’t been there long, and only has a few combat sorties under her belt. Her best friend is Klara Rudneva, and despite their short time together, they’re quite close. I’ll let the pages speak to what follows in terms of plot, but I don’t mind talking about Nadya more as a whole.
Nadya started off as a sketch of a character when I began. I knew I wanted her to be a new pilot that wanted to become an ace, so I show her growth in the unit, and I knew I wanted a few personality traits like being hot-headed, as well as a Cossack and deeply spiritual (to add some tension with the Reds), but that was about it.
As pages were written, she really took off on her own, and by that I mean, all the plot point I’d carefully laid out beforehand got scrambled when she started acting out in ways I hadn’t anticipated thanks to her stubborn nature, longing for revenge, and eventual romance she dives into.
And while I love all that about her and more, her thoughts also started to delve into “The Big Questions” that humanity has struggled with since the dawn of time: why do bad things happen? Why is there suffering? Is there any sense to any of this? I found her wrestling with these thoughts every bit as exciting as her fighting for her life in dogfights with the Luftwaffe as she doesn’t approach these questions lightly or come to answers (if any) easily. Hopefully readers will enjoy those parts, too.
They say all books of fiction have at least one pivotal point where the reader can’t put the book down. Can you give us one of those pivotal points in Nadya’s War?
C.S.: Can I cop out and say page one? Ha! In all seriousness, however, there are a number of twists that different people would probably use to answer this question, but I’ll give one of my favorites that happened out of the blue when writing. There’s an argument that gets really heated in the first act of the book where Nadya mouths off to a superior officer—and not in a small, insubordinate way. She really lets her temper get the better of her and gets very insulting. The consequences of her action result in her getting knocked out and thrown in the brig. From that point, Nadya runs the very real danger of not only never flying again, but also being exiled in disgrace (or flat out killed).
I didn’t know how Nadya would survive this when I first wrote it, but I couldn’t deny that how she reacted to the situation was 100% her character and the consequences of her action were 100% authentic, too. How does she “survive” and continue on? That’s what I asked myself a great deal before managing to get more on paper, so hopefully, the reader will want to read “just one more chapter.” And then when that’s resolved, there’s plenty more being thrown at Nadya to keep turning the page.
What’s next for you?
C.S.: I’m still toying with ideas in between all this post-launch fun. I could always follow up with more dealing with the 586th since those brave women fought through the entire war. There’s also the natural answer about going to one of the other all-female sister regiments, which I’ve thought about. That said, I think if I did, I’d write about the 587th which was a bomber regiment that flew the Pe-2 (a very prestigious bomber at the time). The 588th already has a few books out now about them—the famous Night Witches—and as such, I’d rather go with a less-known-but-equally-amazing group. But who knows? Maybe I’ll end up jumping back a thousand years and across the globe.
About the Book:
Title: NADYA’S WAR
Author: C.S. Taylor
Publisher: Tiny Fox Press
Genre: Historical Fiction
Nadezdah “Little Boar” Buzina, a young pilot with the Red Army’s 586th all-female fighter regiment, dreams of becoming an ace. Those dreams shatter when a dogfight leaves her severely burned and the sole survivor from her flight.
For the latter half of 1942, she struggles against crack Luftwaffe pilots, a vengeful political commissar, and a new addiction to morphine, all the while questioning her worth and purpose in a world beyond her control. It’s not until the Soviet counter-offensive at Stalingrad that she finds her unlikely answers, and they only come after she’s saved the life of her mortal enemy and fallen in love with the one who nearly kills her.
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