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.
Stephanie: Hello, Wayne! It is s pleasure to be chatting with you today. Your book, Vienna’s Last Jihad looks intriguing. Please tell me about your book.
Wayne: Hello Stephanie, thank you for this opportunity to talk to you about “Vienna’s Last Jihad”.
Brash and brilliant, twenty year old Mathis Zieglar, Professor of Languages, faces an agonizing choice: should he fight the Turks who take his family hostage and move to destroy Vienna? Or should he betray his army to save his kin? Vienna’s Last Jihad is an historical novel of intrigue set against the 1683 siege of Vienna.
Europe is balanced on a knife’s edge while Mathis, the man who holds its fate in his hands, struggles against powerful enemies: Father Sistini, a Jesuit who brands him a heretic and drags Mathis’ fiancée off to the Inquisition; a xenophobic city mob, who wants him dead for protecting a Hungarian soldier; but most dangerous of all, Captain Tyrek, a Muslim chieftain who will kill Mathis’ family unless he spies against his own army. One by one, Tyrek’s agents murder Mathis’ closest associates in an attempt to isolate him. As 138,000 Turks grind down Vienna’s 11,000 defenders with no relief in sight, Mathis’ only chance to save family and country is to use his wits, the ability to speak Tartar and the knack he learned as a child to leap, whirl, and strike.
Stephanie: One can see you must have done extensive research for your story. Could you tell me a little bit about that and was there any challenges?
Wayne: I could write a novella about how I overcame the various obstacles, but I’ll try to limit it: I laid the foundation for the story when I wrote a paper in graduate school mainly from secondary sources about the siege of Vienna, but I needed more to write a historical novel.
One challenge was that the best sources for the event are in old German, which I am not proficient in. Fortunately, I made contact with several German speakers who assisted in translation of older texts, including a professor’s wife, Heidi Bohon and a local professor of German, Erika Berroth.
Another obstacle was researching the clothing worn in 1683, because uniforms didn’t become widespread until circa 1700. I contacted a military writer in Germany named Robert Hall and also the War Museum in Vienna. They helped a lot, but the real boost came when I located a nearby professional stage costumer, Kaye Brown, who not only assisted researching, but tailored the appropriate dress for me to wear. Now, I wear 1683 garb at book fairs and speaking engagements!
Women’s clothing was even harder. It took me months to locate an oil of two late 17th century Austrian women. That enabled me to describe Magda, the hero’s fiancée.
Stephanie: What are some of the fictional aspects of your story? And how long did it take to write this book?
Wayne: Mathis Zieglar, the hero, is fictional, though most of the notable figures, such as the Muslim grand vizier Kara Mustafa and Vienna’s commander, Count Starhemberg, were real. Sometimes I reconstructed the conversations of these people based upon the actions they took, so some of this, but not all, is fictionalized.
Stephanie: Tell me about Mathis, what are his weaknesses and strengths?
Wayne: A professor of languages, Mathis Zieglar is bold and intelligent, but these traits get him in trouble with the Church and later, his commanding officers. He instinctively grasps how to extract information from prisoners, while others resort to torture, which repels him.
But for all his ability, Mathis is haunted by an incident when the women in his house were assaulted by Muslim slavers. He cannot shake off that trauma of that memory, or the bouts of depression it triggers. He has to come to terms with his guilt to function in the present and save his family after they are taken hostage.
Stephanie: What do you find most rewarding about writing and how long have you been a writer?
Wayne: Comparing the rough draft to the final product gives me deep satisfaction. Like an artist who remembers how the blank surface looked before he filled it with color and images. And when someone reads the story and responds to the emotion and intensity I wanted them to see, well, nothing is sweeter!
I switched from writing academically to popular writing about 4 years ago. The two are very different animals.
Stephanie: What is an average writing day like for you?
Wayne: It’s hard work! I re-write sentences over and over, plodding along at a snail’s pace. I have a learning disability, so it takes me much longer than others.
And researching is even slower. Trying to find the details and setting for scenes can sometimes take days, or months because I like to weave the narrative around known facts. It would go a lot faster if I would make more of it up, but that goes against my grain as a historian.
Stephanie: Where in your home do you write?
Wayne: In my study, with two faithful hounds nearby fast asleep on the carpet. A tranquil writing environment works best.
Stephanie: Who are your influences when it comes to your own work?
Wayne: Bernard Corwell and James Michener. And of course, the many critique groups I belong to.
Stephanie: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Wayne: Two somewhat contradictory things:
As painful as it may be, subject your work to as much critiquing as possible. Unless you can bankroll a team of professional editors, it’s the most reliable way to detect the blind spots every writer has.
The other thing to keep in mind is to know when not to listen to your critique group. There are a few things only the writer can know about his or her story and when they should not be ripped out. That’s why it’s not good to rely on just one critique group or they will end up writing your novel for you. You have to trust your instincts to know when to do this.
Stephanie Where can readers purchase your book?
Wayne: At Amazon
It’s available as a paperback or on Kindle.
Thank you for this interview, Stephanie!
Link to Tour Page: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/viennaslastjihadtour
Tour Hashtag: #ViennasLastJihadVirtualTour
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Tuesday, March 4
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