Sydney author, Justin Sheedy, and I met in May at the Gloucester Writers’ Festival and hit it off immediately. I particularly like his wicked sense of humour and am thrilled that Justin has taken time out to chat about his latest novel, Nor the Years Condemn.
Lisa: Thanks for popping by, Justin. Tell us about the writing of Nor the Years Condemn.
Justin: Writing is a world of creativity, hard work and fear. When I was writing Nor the Years Condemn I feared, given its subject matter, that it might be considered a “boys’ book”:
It’s an historical fiction based on the true story of the young Australians who flew Spitfires against Nazi Germany in World War II. So it’s to my huge relief that this story of shining young men has proven a story with profound appeal for female readers. And the young men on whom my story is based really were the “shining ones”; to fly the iconic Spitfire they could be nothing less. And what do you get when you write about how the “best & brightest” of a generation ironically picked one of the fastest ways to die of the War? You get a heart-rending read.
My story’s main character is 20-year-old Sydney law student and rugby star, Daniel Quinn. Flanked by the often hilarious young men of his elite ilk, he leaves his peacetime life behind to fight tyranny in my portrait of doomed, brilliant youth. I’m passionate to tell their story as it’s Our story – a story in our great Anzac tradition though which remains untold and which is so exciting, so tragic, in a word so dramatic as to defy belief. Yet it’s true.
Lisa: When you were writing Nor the Years Condemn, what was your inspiration? Your hope for the story?
Justin: My hope with Nor the Years Condemn is to bring to life this stunning chapter of our history by putting readers “in-the-cockpit” with white-knuckle flying sequences based on the things that young Australians actually DID. But more than that.
Nor the Years Condemn is equally a portrait of the mothers cursed to relinquish their wonderful sons to war, of first love, of strategic deception and betrayal, of brotherhood and once-in-a-lifetime friendship on a knife’s edge. As per the title, it’s a story of shining young men destined never to become old, and of those who do: the survivors ‘condemned by the years’, and to their memory of friends who remain forever young.
Lisa: Kathy Mexted, Australian pilot, media presenter, journalist and mother, recently reviewed Nor the Years Condemn. As she began to read it, her own son had just applied for the modern-day Royal Australian Air Force. Kathy writes…
“I scrolled through the first couple of chapters and dissolved into tears when I got to the part about the recently graduated RAAF pilot arriving home for Christmas and greeting his mother. ‘…and in that instant she knew she had lost her Danny.’”
Getting anyone to cry, especially a reviewer, is a huge endorsement.
Justin: I’m delighted that Kathy enjoyed what she calls my story’s “strong female characters”, particularly Daniel Quinn’s mother, a figure I was adamant to include as for every shining young man who flew a Spitfire there was a mother who had to let him go.
I also feature Daniel’s (first) girlfriends, both dominant characters within the story in ways that expose the underlying nature of war itself and its true “pawns”. The sexual aspects of the story also serve to highlight the extreme young age of its key characters, many of whom must go to war, tragically, without ever losing their virginity. Indeed, I intend the story’s sexual angles to highlight what its young characters SHOULD have been doing instead of going to war. (Those with a penchant for a degree of raunch should appreciate my based-on-fact portrait of “life’s-too-short” wartime England.) Though one of my personal favourite characters within the story is Virginie Piquot, a French girl in her early teens whose character serves to portray the nature of injustice, resistance against it, and the plight of the innocent victims of war.
Lisa: There really is something for everyone in your novel.
Justin: I hope so. Nor the Years Condemn is a story of the magic of flight and, in addition to Kathy Mexted’s quite emotional response to it, she calls it “informative, entertaining and fast”, describing it as “moving along like a film”. Her verdict? “What a ripper!”
Lisa: And reader reviews have been positive too, again, not just from male readers but women too?
Justin: Yes, I had one from Rochelle Lancaster, Melbourne who wrote: “Not only for the boys, everyone will take something away from this. Could definitely see this made into a miniseries or movie… very hard to put down.”
Lisa: Though Nor the Years Condemn is an ‘Australian story’, it has also been well-received by international readers too:
Some of the reviews:
Celia Byrnes from Iowa, USA, calls it “A gripping story of war, love, loss and survival.”
Denise Boneham from the UK writes: “I laughed and cried” and pleads for the Sequel.
Lisa: is there a sequel in the works?
Justin: Yes, I am currently working on it!
Lisa: Great to hear.
We’ll let Stephanie Speakman of Cape Cod, USA have the last words: “A war story, a love story and, above all, an historically correct, beautifully crafted novel. The darkest days of 1943 are resurrected by the memorable characters as the plot moves from Sydney to London and the skies above. Five stars!”
All I can say is THANKS, girls. Especially to Lisa Heidke. Who is fabulous.
— Justin Sheedy, July 2012.
Lisa: Thanks Justin!
Nor the Years Condemn is now available at Dymocks, George St, Sydney, also as a print-on-demand paperback at Amazon and in all ebook formats at Smashwords. See all reviews mentioned plus many more at Amazon and at Justin’s blog, Crackernight.com.