The birth of a singleton is a mammoth event in the life of any parent. As for triplets, there’s now a changed and increased expectation, the anxious anticipation of the event, the prolonged delivery and the certainty of ongoing attention. It isn’t surprising if all this results in the emotion of ‘never again. For an author, fledging a trilogy can feel rather the same. Nicholas Rossis has recently discussed the decisions around producing a series.
A Relative Invasion is a coming-of-age trilogy set in the Home Front of WWII. The concept is that the feelings and tensions in Europe (macro scale) are mirrored in micro by this family, and particularly the two cousins in their emerging rivalry. The protagonist, Billy, a sturdy well-meaning boy is manipulated and bested by the frail, artistic Kenneth who is silently envious. There is a secret symbol of power,the shashka, which insidiously permeates the family’s fortunes.
For me, writing in the voice of a young boy, a growing boy who will be a man by the end of the trilogy, was the greatest challenge. I was very aware that if the voice is not right, the reader will not identify with the character. Furthermore, only those scenes that he can directly witness can form the narrative. I had to use devices such as Billy’s reaction to being told information or stories where he had not been present.
BOOK 1. WWII, two boys, a fateful rivalry. In INTRUSION, as the adults worry about the onset of war, Billy’s is already beginning. He so wanted a play-mate but it came in the form of Kenneth. The four parents only see the porcelain looks of Kenneth and not his darker soul. Emotionally neglected or misunderstood by parents and aunt, and bullied by uncle and cousin, Billy imagines owning the precious Cossack sabre of his father’s colleague, a man who champions Billy. This icon sustains him through the invasion of his life by Kenneth, through an evacuation and the shock of war, but can the icon damage as well as protect?
BOOK 2. Two boys, one family, a world at war. INFILTRATION, follows Billy through a second evacuation where he spends the rest of the war while Kenneth is billeted beside Billy’s family.
Kenneth quickly takes the opportunity to invade Billy’s territory further. On the plus side, Billy has settled very happily with a nurturant couple who have a smallholding. He loves the people, the environment and the animals and he can befriend the poor family who first took him in. Then a tragedy enforces a dramatic change in both the boys’ futures. There will be much to face when they return to South London. Meantime, Billy’s growing attachments develop his confidence and capabilities so that he almost becomes like a hero from his precious book. Kenneth’s artistic talent overlays his weaknesses. By VE Day, the boys’ mutual admiration and deep suspicion must be transported back to Wandsworth.
Book 3 is to be published in December 2015, IMPACT, finds the two boys returning to the ruins of London.
As they adjust to their new lives, adolescence and the sharing of emotional space brings the rivalry to a crisis. A dreadful incident follows, darkening the boys’ interaction into adulthood. The outcome is devastating for all members of the family. Billy must find an honourable resolution which will enable his survival, while Kenneth ensures he will always have the last word.
INTRUSION and INFILTRATION are available in ebook and paperback, with IMPACT to follow.
In a much earlier draft, the first three chapters were Highly Commended in the Novel section of the Yeovil Prize 2011, and an extract from Infiltration converted into a short story, was runner up in the Guildford Festival.
Nicholas Rossi has recently blogged about the particular issues around writing a series. It can be found here: http://nicholasrossis.me/2015/07/11/writing-and-promoting-a-series-a-joint-post-with-charles-e-yallowitz/