Saturday, November 12, 2011

Keith McArdle: The IAN Interview

My name’s Keith, I love writing, always have, and probably always will I suspect. I’m Australian born, but both my parents are British immigrants, so whilst I’m an avid patriot of Australia, I also have a healthy respect for the UK. I have spent 3 years in the Royal Australian Air Force where I worked with the C-130 Hercules aircraft and in 2004 saw service in the Middle Eastern Area of Operations. Transferring to the Army in 2006 I saw Active Service in East Timor with the 5th Aviation Regiment’s Black Hawk squadron. In 2008 I saw active service in Afghanistan with the 5th Aviation Regiment’s Chinook squadron. I really enjoyed that deployment, it was certainly a once in a lifetime experience that brought my life back in Australia into perspective. Afghanistan showed me just how tough some people in the world really have it, and that I live in a very lucky country indeed. I’m currently a Paramedic with Queensland Ambulance Service and live with my wife in Queensland, Australia. Keith McArdle


IAN. Please tell us about The Forgotten Land.

KM. The Forgotten Land is an action/adventure fiction novel that casts a patrol of Australian SAS soldiers into the desert of Iraq. During their mission they stumble upon a time portal and unwittingly activate it. They find themselves in cold, wet, windswept 10th century Viking Denmark. The story throws the reader in amongst the Australians as they struggle not only for survival but to find their way home.

IAN. How long did it take to write the book?

KM. The book took 4 years to write. 3 years to complete a first draft I was happy with and a further year where I ended up writing a total of 5 drafts (as a result of some very helpful, but tough, critical readers, and I am indebted to them for their help). The 5th draft was then submitted to my editor (Anna Kassulke of Word Story).

IAN. What inspired you to write The Forgotten Land?

KM. I have always had two great passions, the Australian Special Air Service Regiment (SASR), and the Vikings.

The Vikings are a severely misunderstood race of people. Yes, some were violent, yes, some of them did undertake lightning raids on all and sundry. But that time of history was a violent time, a time where tribes, clans and countries were often at war with one another. The Vikings’ mark on our history is tainted mainly by the biased, literate Christian scholars that remember them in their writings. Today, modern historians and archaeologists are working very hard to shed light upon who the Vikings actually were. We know, for instance, that a Viking woman had the right to divorce her husband if she had grounds. We also know that the advice of a warrior’s wife was usually heeded and often sought. Women in some areas of the world in 2011 do not enjoy that level of respect! The Vikings were also very cunning and intelligent traders, so much so, that present day York, which in Viking times was called Jorvik (pronounced Yorvik (from which the present day name is derived)) was, during the Viking reign, the trade centre of the world. The Vikings were a very colourful, sophisticated and rich culture.

The Australian SASR (Special Air Service Regiment) are an elite group of Australian soldiers. When the war in Afghanistan started, people might remember an offensive called Operation Anaconda. When that operation commenced, the American hierarchy had specifically requested the assistance of the Australian SASR. The Aussie SAS moved well forward of the advancing allied troops and set up hides or observation posts (OPs) underneath the noses of the Taliban. They fed back all sorts of information to the American head sheds, including enemy number, weapons, level of morale, locations and so on. When the fighting began, the Australian SASR were in a position to guide in airstrikes and give grid references for artillery and mortar fire missions. In another instance in Afghanistan an Australian SAS soldier was shot by Taliban fire. Rather then bother his mates who were still in heavy contact with the enemy, he managed to make his way to the closest vehicle and knowing that he was losing enough blood that he may lose consciousness, wedged himself between the bulbar and the vehicle’s radiator. He tied himself to the bulbar and then continued to fire at the enemy.

There is something about these incredible soldiers that has always intrigued me. Every country in the world has a small elite group like the Australian SAS. They are for the most part, quiet, easy going, never consider themselves any better than the next bloke, but have the courage of a rabid lion. To date two Australian SAS soldiers have been awarded the Victoria Cross (the VC, which is the Commonwealth’s highest military award) for actions in combat. Both lived to tell the tale.

So in The Forgotten Land, I bring together the Australian SASR and the Vikings, my two greatest interests.

IAN. Talk about the writing process. Do you write at night or in the morning?

MK. I often listen to music while I write (a huge range, anything from Enya to Metallica or Tool). Music helps me delve into my own world. There is no specific time I like to write.

IAN. Did you use an outline or do you just wing the first draft?

MK. I definitely have an outline overall of where I want to go with the story as a whole. This outline is wedged firm and remains unchanged. The characters, however, are fluid and flexible as they negotiate their way through that outline. As long as the characters don’t stray too far from the path and into elements where their actions or dialogue detract from the progression of the story, I tend to just follow them on their merry way.

IAN. How is The Forgotten Land different from others in your genre?

MK. My book is different in some ways from the others in the genre. My soldiers are Australian, which is usually not the norm. I have tried to respect both the SASR and the Vikings, so in saying that, I have attempted to portray them in the most realistic way possible. They carry the actual weapons that today’s SASR carry (although that is in the process of change at the moment as a new weapon system is being brought in to replace the M4). I have tried to remain as parallel as possible to what we know today about the Vikings. I am not, however, a professional historian, so there will be elements where I may have deviated, but not by far I think.

IAN. Is your The Forgotten Land published in print, e-book or both?

MK. The Forgotten Land is currently in e-book format, but will be in paperback format before Christmas 2011.

IAN. What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?

MK. I won’t give too much away, but an important element of the book is that family is everything.

IAN. Where can we go to buy your The Forgotten Land?

MK. Amazon (.com, .co.uk, .fr, .de), Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Diesel E-books, Apple iBooks. It will also be available on Kobo shortly.

IAN. Tell us about your next book or a work in progress. Is it a sequel or a stand alone?

MK. The Reckoning is a stand-alone novel unrelated to The Forgotten Land. Indonesia’s airlines (Garuda) is a government owned company, and having said that, it would be very easy for them to fly in Kapassus (Indonesia’s special forces) soldiers into every Australian capital city at the same time. This allows Indonesia to gain a foothold on Australian soil, where they can very quickly fly in more troops and equipment to begin the invasion proper. The Reckoning is about the struggle for survival of every day Australians and it may well see a fight to the death for the Australian Defence Force.

IAN. Any other links or info you'd like to share?

MK. If you’d like to keep up to date with The Forgotten Land or how The Reckoning is coming along, please feel free to visit either my website, or The Forgotten Land’s Facebook page, listed below respectively:


http://www.forgottenland.com.au/

https://www.facebook.com/theforgottenland

An Australian SAS patrol find themselves in 10th century Viking Denmark

The Forgotten Land by Keith McArdle

352 pages

Fiction (action & adventure)

A Sample of The Forgotten Land Amazon.com



Prologue


It was a disaster! An utter shambles that served only to tear a country apart. Following the terrorist attacks on America on that fateful day in September 2001, the United States military was determined to capture the mastermind behind it all. A man whose name the world would never forget. Osama Bin Laden.

Somalia, Afghanistan and Pakistan saw large numbers of U.S. troops deployed in search of the rogue. The President’s advisers had under their employ a veritable army of faceless, nameless men and women who fed them information and advice from around the world. Within ten days of the atrocity at the Twin Towers, the President’s advisers were convinced that it was possible Bin Laden may have fled to Iraq. Seven hours later Iraq was under increasing scrutiny and within twelve, the President had given the go ahead to begin operations.

Rather than send more troops into Iraq, the American Department of Defense began injecting enormous funds into the Kurdish community, asking them to hunt for Bin Laden. If they ceased their search, even for a day, the funds would be cut off. Kurdish Peshmerga Forces began purchasing high-tech weapons from America in large quantities. That was when the trouble started.

The Kurds had been persecuted by the Iraqi government ever since Iraq had become a country in its own right. Saddam Hussein was unrelenting in keeping with this historical “tradition”. During the Iran-Iraq war thousands of Kurds, including women and children, had been gassed under Hussein’s orders. The Kurdish people wanted revenge and it came in the form of US greenbacks.

Fierce urban warfare erupted in the streets of every major town and city. The Iraqi Army fought well, but was on the back foot from the beginning. In almost every fire fight they were forced to withdraw from the ceaseless Kurdish onslaught. Within four weeks the Iraqi Army was no longer a cohesive force. Pockets of Iraqi soldiers continued to fight doggedly, but they were quickly overwhelmed. Iraqi civilians were persistently slaughtered and that was when the fleeing began. Tens of thousands of people streamed from the cities, piled onto trucks, walking, travelling any way they could to escape the new threat. Some of these convoys were ambushed and people were slaughtered without mercy.

The country was beginning to fall apart. The UN announced it would restore peace and stability (or the little peace and stability Iraq had before the fighting), but they knew if they moved in they would not be a peace-keeping force. They would be a peace-making force and that went against everything for which the United Nations had been created.

However it was the only way to regain some semblance of order in Iraq.

Chapter 1

Geneva

“What can America offer this peace-keeping force?” the chairman of the UN spat, looking at the representative for the United States of America. The chairman’s voice was easily identified, with its heavy French accent.

“Unfortunately, we have our carrier groups tied up in support of our troops in Afghanistan and Somalia. 130,000 regular troops, 80,000 support personnel, 27 land based helicopter squadrons and 9,000 Special Forces soldiers are involved in the effort. We are way beyond our budget as it is, so unfortunately we cannot offer any assistance in this matter.”

The American representative leaned back in her chair. It was obvious America did not want to help, however they wanted Bin Laden and by stopping the Kurdish uprising, they would be working against themselves. After all, the Kurds had promised they would be on constant lookout for him.

Cameron Eves, a well-spoken Australian, almost smirked as he watched the chairman hold back a rebuttal. A tall, stocky man, Eves was clean shaven with dark curly hair, his eyes glinted with intelligence but his face gave away nothing. He wore a black business suit, a mobile phone resting near his left hand and a glass full of water stood by his right. In plain clothes, enjoying his weekend with his wife, he looked like a typical surfie. Very few people picked up on the fact that he frequently attended United Nations meetings, representing a well-established western country. Even fewer would think that someone who preferred to wear board shorts and old shirts on his days off could have that many letters after his name. Cameron knew as well as any of the representatives there, that America’s military budget was a bottomless pit. To them, 290,000 defense personnel, a carrier task group and 27 helicopter squadrons was a Sunday stroll in the park.

The Americans had managed to put half a million defense personnel and thousands of strike planes and attack helicopters into Iraq in the early 90s. The cost was probably somewhere in the vicinity of several hundred billion dollars.

“So far we have several very generous contributions, but we need more ground troops, specifically specialist soldiers,” the chairman turned towards a mahogany lectern. A well-built soldier was making his way up the dais as the chairman continued, “I shall leave that up to General Billiar to explain.”

“Good morning,” the General began, his accent one of a well-educated Englishman. What was also immediately recognizable, however, were the medals worn on his jacket, there was enough of them to sink a small battle ship.

“My name is General Billiar. Now, we have a situation here in Iraq and a very serious one I might add. A minority group, the Kurds, heavily persecuted for many generations have been given state-of-the-art weaponry… a lot of it.” The General’s eyes rested on the American representative for a moment before he looked away. “The Iraqi Army has been annihilated, and the Kurds, who are being trained and led by the Kurdish Peshmerga Forces, are now killing or shooting at any Iraqi person they come across. Not a good situation, the whole country has become destabilized and the civilian death toll has been estimated at 50,000 and rising by the day, in fact by the hour.”

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