Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Interview with C. Wayne Dawson, author of Vienna's Last Jihad

Author interviews are one of my favorite things to post which is why I am super excited to welcome author C. Wayne Dawson to Flashlight Commentary to discuss his debut release, Vienna's Last Jihad. 

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Welcome to Flashlight Commentary. To start things off, please tell us a bit about Vienna’s Last Jihad.
Thanks for this opportunity to discuss Vienna’s Last Jihad. In 1683, 20 year old Professor Mathis Zieglar has to make an agonizing choice: when the Muslim Turks surround Vienna and take his family hostage, the invaders tell him he must either spy against his country or lose everyone near and dear to him. How Mathis makes his decision is the story behind Vienna’s Last Jihad.

What inspired you to write this story?  
First and foremost, the history of the event. Only 11,000 men defended one of Europe’s biggest cities against 138,000 jihadists. How a handful of men could overcome such formidable odds is one of the best stories ever told.

The second thing that motivated me was that very few Americans realize how close Europe came to falling into the Islamic orbit.  Vienna’s fate hung by a thread in the last hours of the siege. Had it fallen, the history of Europe , and quite possibly America, would have turned out differently.

What research went into Vienna’s Last Jihad and did you discover anything particularly surprising while investigating the background material for you book?
Even though I wrote a seminar paper in graduate school about the siege of Vienna, it was nothing compared to the sweat I put into looking up the novel’s background. I investigated the type of dress used at the time from the few oils dating back to that era. Finding solid information on the antagonists, the Turks and especially the Tartars, was excruciatingly difficult. I finally discovered a number of scholarly works through Southwestern University’s library, made interlibrary loans, and enlisted the help of  a professor of German.

One of the surprises I uncovered was that Christian Europeans were as much victims of large scale slave trading as the perpetrators of it. Between 1500 – 1700, for example, the Muslim Tartars enslaved 2 million Europeans – and that was just the tip of the iceberg before the Turks are factored in.  In Vienna’s Last Jihad, Mathis Zieglar, the hero, has to struggle against the Tartars to recover his fiancée, Magda. 

As predatory as the Tartars were, it was fun delving into the mindset of a people who perpetuated the murderous methods of Genghis Khan and the Mongols into modern times. 

What drew you to this particular time period?  
The fact the siege of Vienna  was so crucial to shaping our modern world and yet so few know about it. Imagine what would have happened if Germany and Rome had been conquered by the Muslims! I guess it’s the teacher in me that likes to wake people up.

You probably have many, but is there a scene you particularly enjoyed writing?
The scene that stirred my blood was where Mathis Zieglar has just endured devastating personal loss and rides down the mountainside seeking a final reckoning with the Tartars. The outcome is uncertain.

What scene posed the greatest challenge for you as an author?
Mathis’ fiancée, Magda, is unjustly sentenced by the Jesuits to hard labor. While fulfilling her punishment, she is attacked by one of them and has to find a way to resist. I had to role play and rewrite the scene many times to make it work, plus I had to research the type of clothing Magda wore when the sources were vague. It was the toughest section of the novel.

Sometimes fiction takes on a life of its own and forces the author to make sacrifices for the sake of the story. Is there a character or concept you wish you could have spent more time with or expanded on? 
I would have liked to have plumbed the earlier years of Mathis’ psychological development, where the only thing that saved him from the reoccurring effects of PTSD was his rapier-like intelligence and the physical agility that earned him the nickname “Mainspring”. How he used them to stand up to bullies are some of his endearing traits.

Historical novelists frequently have to adjustment facts to make their stories work. Did you have to invent or change anything while writing Vienna’s Last Jihad and if so, what did you alter and why? 
The Tartar’s preoccupation with a deadly form of tetherball informs several important scenes. Historical sources say precious little about how the Tartars played their version of it. They only depict the Tartars striking an enemy’s skull with their sticks. I researched other games they played and their willingness to bet their life on the outcome, so, I incorporated that into the game described in the novel. It required some speculation on my part, but not an outlandish amount.

If you could sit down and talk with one of your characters, maybe meet and discuss things over drinks, who would you choose and why?
Frederick Tannenberg is a jovial Falstaff-like companion to Mathis, and balances off some of some of Mathis’ more extreme tendencies.  I’d enjoy his company a great deal. He’s a fellow professor, who, like Mathis, has been kicked out of the University of Vienna for refusing to take priestly vows. But, no matter how dire the circumstances, he sees the silver lining when Mathis can only obsess over the problems. They combine their strengths to battle Muslim jihadis and Catholic  Jesuits. Sort of a 17th century Butch and Sundance.

What do you hope readers come away with after reading your work?
The pure pleasure of plunging into a different world and learning something unfamiliar. The same feeling I got after reading James Michener’s Alaska and Bernard Cornwell’s books.

And finally, what is next for you? Any new projects waiting in the wings?
I’ve started writing The Treasure of the Raven King, another historical novel where Mathis returns as a captain in the army. In order to rescue hundreds of trafficked women and children, he has to use his wits to unlock a code 200 years old. It involves the historical Vlad Dracula, the warlord, not the vampire! And, like Vienna’s Last Jihad, there’s ample military combat based on historical events. This novel takes the reader into the world of the 17th century Jews, Muslims and Christians. The relationships between the three groups were radically different than those of the 21st century. More terra incognito!

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C. Wayne Dawson writes for The Williamson County Sun, and has written for History Magazine, Focus On Georgetown, The Georgetown Advocate, and SAFVIC Law Enforcement Newsletter. In 2012, he founded Central Texas Authors, an author’s marketing collective.

He was an Adjunct Professor of History for ten years at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, California, where he created the Chautauqua program. There, he enlisted scholars, government officials and activists to discuss and debate social policy before the student body and the media.

In 2009, the students of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society honored him with the Glaux Mentor Teacher Award for bringing the Chautauqua program to Mt. SAC.

He currently lives in Georgetown, TX with his wife and two dogs.

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Format: Paperback
Publication Date: October 20, 2013
Released by: Katy Crossing Press
Length: 330 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1490426341
Genre: Historical Fiction

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Check out all the stops on c. wayne Dawson's Vienna's Last Jihad virtual book tour

Monday, February 24
Spotlight & Giveaway at History & Women
Wednesday, February 26
Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Monday, March 3
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Tuesday, March 4
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Thursday, March 6
Guest Post & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection
Tuesday, March 11
Interview at Layered Pages
Wednesday, March 12
Guest Post at Flashlight Commentary
Thursday, March 13
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Friday, March 14
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Thursday, March 20
Review at Just One More Chapter
Friday, March 21
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee

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