Q&A with Steven Pressfield discussion

Is Rommel a SafeTopic?

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message 1: by Hotspur (new)

Hotspur (hotspurot) | 7 comments Question: I was surprised that you chose this topic for your next novel (NOT displeased, mind you, just surprised, given the historical subjects of other novels).

Do you consider Rommel to be a safer topic, than, say, making Guderian or Manstein the subjects of an assassination plot?

I know, at least I seem to recall, that such a plan actually did exist, but it has always puzzled me why the British would consider it. North Africa was a sideshow compared to the events on the Eastern Front of WW2. Killing Rommel in 43 would change the course of the war in North Africa, but I wonder what the impact would have been on the rest of the war?

Killing a Guderian, a Von Rundstedt, or Manstein, now that might have changed things drastically on the Eastern Front.

is Rommel just more well known? Safer, because of the connection to the Hitler assassination plot?

message 2: by Steven (new)

Steven (stevenpressfield) | 47 comments Mod
Hotspur, I never pick a topic because it's safe (what writer does?) and I'm more than a little pissed off that you would even suggest that. Tell me, what's so daring about replacing Rommel with Guderian or Von Runstedt or Manstein in a novel? They were all basically strategic generals, behind the lines in staff postings, except Guderian who was out of action after France -- unlike Rommel who was in the forefront of every action. What kind of a story would we get out of going after a staff general? Are you a frustrated writer, Hotspur? Please don't take it out on me.

message 3: by Hotspur (new)

Hotspur (hotspurot) | 7 comments Ouch! Mr. Pressfield, I apologize if I sounded in ANY way snarky, know-it-allish or holier than thou with that comment. It was NOT meant the way you are taking it. I'm not a frustrated writer-- but I admit to the guilty shame of being a fan of alternative history genres from time to time. So my ponderings on Von R, Manstein and Guderian were more of a what-if rambling than speculation that I could come up with a better idea. Heaven forfend.

As for Rommel being "safe". I suspect he gets better treatment in the history books because he was a West Front/Med Front general, and primarily fought English and American foes that tended to romanticize him more so than the other generals I mentioned above. To the point of adulation at times. Ergo, more name recognition, more historical source material, etc.

I was trying to get an idea of how a writer arrives at a decision about the subject of the next thing he's going to write, honest. I hope that explains it somewhat better.

(back to hiding behind the potted ferns)


message 4: by Steven (new)

Steven (stevenpressfield) | 47 comments Mod
Come out from behind the ferns, H. To answer your question seriously, I think most writers struggle between picking topics that seem "commercial," as opposed to going strictly with their hearts and zinging off into some ridiculously obscure area. For my own money, I find that I have to really LOVE a topic because I'm going to be spending two years or more working on it. Sometimes one can look back on a book or a topic that succeeded and think, "Oh sure, that was a slam dunk from Day One." But often the writer, alone and shoving off into the unknown, is wracked with doubts and is certain he's absolutely nuts to pursue the topic he's pursuing. When I originally wrote "Gates of Fire," I thought that absolutely no one would be interested in the subject matter except me. I thought, "Americans can't even spell Thermopylae, let alone pronounce it, let alone care about what happened to some foreigners they've never heard of twenty-five hundred years ago." But I was just SEIZED by the story, so I went ahead. I was absolutely amazed when Americans responded to it, and even more so when Greeks did because I was sure they would rip a Yank to shreds for daring to trespass on their history. On the other hand, I've taken topics that I thought were absolutely "sure things" commercially and had them fizzle completely. So you never know. My conclusion is to go with what I love and try not to second-guess the marketplace. Every time I do, I'm wrong.

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