Science Fiction Novelist – The Dark Wing series & 1636: The Cardinal Virtues
Walter H. Hunt – Buzzy Exclusive!
· His transformation from Military Science Fiction to Alternate Reality Science Fiction
· On working with Eric Flint
· Keeping characters consistent throughout the 20-book “1632” & “Ring of Fire” series
· Future plans with The American Revolution & the Middle Ages
· Sequels to A Song in Stone, Elements of the Mind + collaborations with Eric Flint & Kevin Anderson
Walter H. Hunt: Well, I have two answers for that. The first answer is, I’m not really a military guy. It just happened that I wound up writing a military science fiction series. It took me 14 years to get my overnight success. But “The Dark Wing” series developed because I had some ideas for a science fiction series. To call it military science fiction, sort of sells it short. It’s more about alien contact and ethics and morality and stuff. It wasn’t difficult to transition to “1632” because I’m a historian by training, that’s what I did in college and I’m a big history buff.
As a result, I had an opportunity to meet Eric Flint. We actually sat at the same autograph table, about six years ago, at a convention in North Carolina. And apparently, I’d been previously pitched to him. And I sat and said, “You know, I’d be interested in writing the “1632” series at some point,” and he said, “I may have a project for you.” And then he took me to lunch, told me what the project was. And by the end of the day, I had a book contract, which was very exciting. So it almost sort of happened by accident, except it clearly wasn’t an accident. But it’s a natural fit.
JMW: How much do you have to worry about minor characters and objects from other books or stories in the series?
Walter H. Hunt: Well, there’s more than 20 novels. There’s somewhere around 10 million words in print. The downside is that there’s an awful lot of material already in place. The upside is that there’s a wonderful editorial board that keeps track of stuff. We have a GEDCOM database for the up-timers, for the people from the 20th century, which means we have genealogical information that’s been created for them. We know about their grandparents and we know about their hobbies, and we know about their children. And in many cases, we know when they’re going to die unless they’re killed off sooner by some writer.
When you wanna use an up-timer, you have to borrow them from the library, essentially. And of course, if the character’s been canonized, you’re obliged to go along with what already exists. For “Cardinal Virtues,” I have two up -timers that I use. One is non-canonized although her father, the character’s father appears in one of the stories, just remotely. But she was brand new, so I get to do with her what I wanted. I had a little brief description of her military experience, of her skills.
The other is Charlotte Maddox who’s been around since the very first book, who’s a member of Harry Lefferts Wrecking Crew. And she was pretty much established, so I had to go back and figure her out and decide what role she could play. The more persistent challenge for “1636: Cardinal Virtues” was dealing with the down-timers, the existing historical characters. I had a chance to portray Richelieu and he was a wonderful character to work with because he has this tendency to be depicted in the traditional villainous, Three Musketeers role. And really, there’s a lot more to Richelieu and a lot more to his panoply of advisers and friends than just the fork beard and the red suit, and it was fun to do him.
JMW: I don’t think we would have France if it weren’t for Richelieu and Mazarin, his successor.
Walter H. Hunt: Without question. And Mazarin is another down-timer who has been well canonized, although he’s not the Jules Mazarin of history. We’ve changed him a considerable amount.
JMW: Well, considering when 1632 happens, it would be natural for a person of those mental gifts to change.
Walter H. Hunt: Certainly. And, of course, 1632 changes history in many fundamental ways. Richelieu and Gustavus Adolphus were secret allies. Of course, that doesn’t come out of the book at all. They become enemies. They become rivals. So as a result, we’ve already changed history in fundamental ways. The further we get from the original, the more different the outcome could conceivably be, but we’re never gonna get to the present. We’re wondering if we’ll get to 1640 in our lifetimes, given the amount of materials being written.
JMW: What was this about the cat?
Walter H. Hunt: Oh, the cat. In the second volume of the series, “1633,” Rebecca Stearns, whose husband is Mike Stearns, who’s one of his principal characters, one of the very big, important characters in the series. Rebecca gives Richelieu a cat, which is nice. But people become very attached to the cat and they wanna know what happened to the cat. And they particularly want to know what happened to the cat when Richelieu is attacked and goes offstage. Now, in the book, without giving too much away, there’s an ambush. And as a result, both the King of France and Richelieu are removed from the scene. Well, there’s this cat, you see. The cats and science fiction.
JMW: Well, it’s all about the cat.
Walter H. Hunt: Apparently. So Tremblay, Père Joseph, the Grey Eminence, Richelieu’s advisor, winds up with custody of the cat. Marie de Medici, the king’s mother, complains about the cat. Apparently, he left cat hair all over the Palais-Cardinal. I didn’t make the cat go away. I’m gonna have to deal with the cat, in the next French book, at some point. I don’t know about the damn cat, but I’ll make sure that people are satisfied, that it is resolved satisfactorily. There’s a lady here who’s a dealer in the dealer room, who told me in no uncertain terms while I was working, we’ve known each other years, that I better make sure I address the cat and I said, “Really?” And she said, “Yes, really, cat.” “Okay, fine.”
JMW: Well, let’s talk about something that is equally controversial.
Walter H. Hunt: Sure.
JMW: You’ve written about Templars and you, yourself, are a mason.
Walter H. Hunt: Yes, I am.
JMW: How much contact was there between those two groups?
Walter H. Hunt: That’s a very interesting and largely mythological question. The Order of the Temple was abolished by the Church between 1307 and 1314 AD. The masonic fraternity doesn’t have tangible, document-able existence, probably prior to 1600, although there are Scots who will tell you differently. There are documents like the “Regis Manuscript” to go back to the 14th century. But the chain of evidence between the Templars between the Order of the Temple and the Freemasons is tenuous. We have John J. Robinson to blame for that and we have Alexander Ramsey to blame for that.
Robinson was a historian or an author, upon whom Nigel Lee drew, upon who Dan Brown drew, who suggests that the Templars that went to Scotland, went into hiding, showed up at Bannockburn, helped Robert the Bruce win Scottish independence in exchange for this. He granted them this perpetual existence and changed their name. Yeah. Alexander Ramsey, who was a knight and who was an orator, developed this presentation in the early 18th century in which he drew a straight line between the Templars and the Masons, and he made it up.
JMW: Well, something that isn’t made up is the prevalence of Masons among the founders of the American revolution.
Walter H. Hunt: Many of them, yes.
JMW: Are you planning to do anything, any work in that area? Eventually.
Walter H. Hunt: Why, yes. I have an alternate history setting which I have been working on. I actually did my reading here at Capclave from that setting. There’s a… There’s no United States in the setting and there are masonic connections. But given that there’s no United States, the Brits stay in Eastern North America and as a result, the Russians get the Pacific coast. So I have a whole series of stories, which my wife is very fond of, which are set in the Russian version of San Francisco. I’ve written five of them, I’ve written about 60,000 words of what I hope to be a braided novel. But there are all kinds of interesting possibilities when you take the United States away, and not have the American Revolution fail, but not have it happen at all.
The roots of the rebellion go back before the Stamp Act and go back before the end of the Seven Years’ War. They go way back in New England. We, New Englanders, went and took the Fortress of Louisbourg from the French in 1745. We took it again in 1758, but only New Englanders took it in 1745 and we were real proud of ourselves. And then, the British government traded it back and we were not happy. So the people that protested against the Stamp Act were second generation, angry at the British for things that they had done. So if you go back far enough, you can undo a lot of that animus and you get a completely different historical path. I’ve been working on this years but I’m determined to get it right, which is why it’s not on a shelf.
JMW: You’ve worked in a lot of periods. Is there any period that you would particularly like to address in your fiction, beyond what you’ve worked in so far?
Walter H. Hunt: Well, sure. I’d like to go back and write more things in Middle Ages. I’d like to write in America in the 18th century. I’d like to write in the 20th century also.
Walter H. Hunt: Maybe. Weimar Germany, is what I’m thinking. I have a novel… I have an alternate Civil War novel, which I submitted with my college application, 40 years ago. You will never see that, but you might see some iteration of it. I also wrote a novel set in 1848 in Germany, which is the year of revolution, which led to me writing my Honors Thesis in college about 1848. So I have a lot of loose knowledge that I haven’t decided what to do with. I’d also like to write 19th century Britain and I’d like to do something in Asia, but I don’t know what, maybe the Sandwich Islands, maybe Hawaii, which I’m very fond of. The world of history is a…provides more stories that are interesting than anything you could make up. You don’t have to have a big fantasy trilogy to have interesting stories.
JMW: This is true, this is very true. What are you working on now?
Walter H. Hunt: I have a couple of things in the hopper. I have this alternate history thing, the Russian. I have a sequel to “A Song in Stone,” which is a Templar book, which is mostly done. I have a second book for “Elements of Mind” that I’m going to have rights back and I’m going to try and pitch it and the new one, which is set in Paris in 1885, which is also about Mesmerism. It has Sigmund Freud in it and Charles Dickens’ son, lots of other interesting things. And I’m working on a novel with Eric Flint, set in a new shared universe with Kevin Anderson and a couple other people.
JMW: How very cool. And then, there’s a sequel to “The Cardinal Virtues,” I believe?
Walter H. Hunt: I’m under contract for a second of the “1632” book, in addition to the one set in North America, which we’ve shelved because of continuity issues. But there is a second… There’s, what is it, 1637, France goes completely to hell or, you know…
JMW: [inaudible 00:12:35]
Walter H. Hunt: There’ll probably be a better title by the time we get there, but obviously we’ve left things at a particular juncture. The thing about a series, particularly this series, is that books have to start and stop in a defined realm. People complained, “Well, “Cardinal Virtues” doesn’t end.” Well, yes, it does. It just doesn’t end where you want it to end. You don’t get all of the story because you can’t. “1636: the Vatican Sanction” is the next book, it’s chronologically…sequentially, and until Chuck Gannon finishes it and puts it to bed, it’s not going to happen that I get to get my second French book out. But we’re already plotting it. I have some ideas and some things I wanna do. But we haven’t figured out where that ends, we’ve only figured out where it begins and it can’t begin until something else ends. That’s the nature of the series.
JMW: Okay, very cool. We’re really close to the end. Is there anything you’d like to add?
Walter H. Hunt: All of my books are dedicated to my wife. Other people appear in the dedications, but every book I have ever gotten published has my wife in the dedication. I would not be where I am, nor would I be the person I am if it weren’t for the longstanding support, affection, and respect that my wife holds for me, and I for her. We’ve tried to communicate that to our daughter who will be 20 in a week. But my wife, Lisa, and I have been partners for a long time, 35 years, and she’s supported me all the way through. When I was despairing of how I was doing, she said, “Shut up and write.” And I’ve always taken that admonition.
1636 - the Cardinal Virtues
Eric Flint, Walter H. Hunt,
A new volume in the multiple New York Times best-selling Ring of Fire series. After carving a free state for itself in war-torn seventeenth century Europe, citizens of the modern town of Grantville, West Virginia, must contend with France's infamous Cardinal Richelieu, who is determined to keep his grip on power no matter what history says. France, 1636. It has been twenty years since King Louis took Aña Maria Mauricia, daughter of Spain's King Philip III, as his wife, and their union has not yet produced an heir. Under the guidance of his chief minister, Cardinal Richelieu, a plan is developed to remedy that situation. Once she is with child, Queen Anne goes into seclusion to guard her health and protect her from those who would prefer that the child is never born--France's foreign enemies as well as schemers such as Monsieur Gaston d'Orleans, the King's younger brother and heir. When the Crown's opponents make their move, factions inside and outside France must choose sides and help determine the future and fate of the Kingdom. About 1636: The Devil's Opera: "Another engaging alternate history from a master of the genre."--Booklist ". . . an old-style police-procedural mystery, set in 17th century Germany. . . . the threads . . . spin together . . . to weave an addictively entertaining story. . . . a strong addition to a fun series."--Daily News of Galveston County About Eric Flint's Ring of Fire series: "This alternate history series is ... a landmark..."--Booklist "[Eric] Flint's 1632 universe seems to be inspiring a whole new crop of gifted alternate historians."--Booklist "...reads like a technothriller set in the age of the Medicis..."--Publishers Weekly
Jean Marie Ward writes fiction, nonfiction and everything in between, including art books, novels (2008 Indie Book double-finalist With Nine You Get Vanyr), and short stories such as WSFA Small Press Award finalist “Lord Bai’s Discovery” and “Personal Demons” in the award-winning anthology Hellebore and Rue. Her videos include author interviews and tutorials.