Why set an epic at the time of the Cold War?
I always wanted to write best fiction story I could: Real, gritty, expansive and ever more complex, like a great tree – but with roots going deep into dark places. I wanted it to be big, bold and something completely different than what was on offer, breaking the boundaries across different genres. I had never conceived this kind of story would be set during the cold war. It was simply never my intention to do so. Then, as the story developed, the need to review events farther back in time meant relating story to the memory of those involved in momentous events – being both the first and second world wars, the ideology that lead nations into conflict on an unprecedented scale. The cutting off point for that memory to function in a story involving conflict in the present is the mid to late eighties. Then it was possible to have a young man of 21 in 1917 still be around to tell the tale of what he discovered at the end of his life in 1987, before being too old to recall…
So was born the story background where Europe is moving towards a final confrontation, except, none of the ruling elite can now see it coming. The world, also today, has changed. No longer are enemies known – or seen. They become a part of the shadow-world, a dark backdrop where people just disappear for no reason. In this world, the fall of the Berlin Wall is not anticipated, the powers behind the scenes busy building evermore intricate webs of deception. There are also invisible forces working behind the scenes in a race to maintain a balance of power. Except, none of the lethal and manipulative game of puppet masters is understood by the agents out in the cold, caught within an intricate web of intrigue and deception. Caught in the game, to find the way out, they have to discover the past the powers will go to any length to keep hidden.
This kind of dark, almost dystopian backdrop is the feel I wanted for the elements – a tale of stepping forward on a twisting road leading to the truth, picking up discoveries along the trail. I also wanted a younger cast, those who were born years after such great events, step forth on the journey. With youthful vitality and often humor, they question what it is all about, so the journey itself becomes irrelevant to them, compared to the importance of the discoveries made and those people who make it all worth while. The story thus becomes like a puzzle. Not all the young are the innocent, and it becomes clear that there are those who, despite being born into another age, are capable of deeds of violence to equal of those of the previous generation, but caught within a cynical world that simply doesn’t give a damn who they are. Thus were the various story-pieces in the game of deceptions formed.
Turning the puzzle into a code
I love making puzzles, I love visualizing them and I love teasing the mind with greater perspectives: So finally, I have arrived at the sort of project I would love to buy but can’t find. (I did say The Elements was going to be something quite unique.) It has surprised me though, just how useful it has been to take a step beyond any book and look at the entire project. The ‘coding exercise’ as such, has been to come up with simply identifiable motifs that visually provide a quick reference to The Element.
What I hadn’t expected was that the concept for the whole project would take ALSO take a big step forwards, snapping the whole into sharper focus:
For the first time since starting I can see everything now and how it all fits together. The process of grow and divide by organic development has meant that The Elements will now also play a direct role in terms of plot. Each element is a code name, for the powers that be, doing what they do, in line with their objectives. Which is all core back plot material. So each element, while being a thematic filter on the nature of the story, also relates to a particular deception being made by the puppet-masters.
The deception aspect had been written into the stories, it’s only now I can see that each book can illustrate its own deception, so The Elements as a whole have three levels of meaning:
– Thematically (thematic play)
– Figuratively (meaning)
– Strategically (plot and structure)