An Interview With Declan Finn – Part 1

"A Pius Man" by Declan Finn
“A Pius Man” by Declan Finn

When I started reading Declan Finn’s early novel A Pius Man, I reached out to him and asked if he was interested in doing a blog interview. He graciously accepted. As before, this interview will be in three parts, posted over three days. I hope to have my review of the novel up next week. This first part focuses on the books – particularly on The Pius Trilogy. The second part focuses on his experiences with writing and publishing. The third part focuses on Mr. Finn himself.

You can find out more about Mr. Finn’s works at his web site.

Bold text is my questions. The rest is Mr. Finn’s response, presented without editing unless noted.

Where did the inspiration for The Pius Trilogy come from?

Back when I was a history major, I did a paper on Pope Pius XII, who was, back then, often slandered as “Hitler’s Pope.” I read through it, banged my head against a wall a few million times, and moved on to the next course.

A few months later, a novel that used historical events as a background to the primary action. Premise… nothing new, really. Evil Nazi Catholic church, blah blah, snore. Okay, so what? Big deal…. But, hmm, wait, I know that character’s name. It’s historical. I know that name too. Hmm….

I skipped to the back of the book to read the author’s note and the works cited page. I had normally assumed that this author had read one side of the argument, and wrote another evil Catholic church story based on that. But, no, I had read these books. All of them. He had done his homework, and had completely and utterly twisted and warped what was in his research. He directly contradicted details that both sides agreed on, then saying it was true. I could take it if he had just said “I’m writing fiction, not commenting on a historical debate.” But he took a side and lied about facts that everyone agreed on.

Dominoes fell in my brain. People not only read this crap, they believed this crap. Most readers would have almost no intellectual background to separate the wheat from the chaff (seriously, how many people have history degrees focusing on the religious and cultural activities of Europe in World War II?)

by reaction was somewhere akin to the quote of the eminent physician and research scientist, Doctor Bruce Banner. Hulk smash.

Fine. Simple. Easy. Two could play at this game. If people got their history from entertainment, I would take up the strangest project ever imagined. I would write a thriller that was (a) thrilling, (b) factually accurate about the Catholic Church in the Holocaust.

Then I had to write it. That was fun.

Which works and authors would you say influenced the series?

When you want to read about books that take history and science and make a good modern story out of it, who comes to mind? Brad Thor and James Rollins, of course. Granted, Thor’s gone a little off the rails lately (“assassinate Trump”? Really Brad?), but Rollins has always been solid.

What was your favorite moment of the series to write?

Of the entire series? It comes between some of the character moments between Scott and Manana in A Pius Man, the covering of the kidnap victims in A Pius Legacy, or perhaps the latter half of A Pius Stand. Because all out war has been interesting, especially since I had to throw out everything I really knew about warfare to write it (FYI: Everything I ever knew about infantry warfare comes from either John Ringo or Bernard Cornwell). Perhaps the end of A Pius Stand, mostly because I knew it was over.

What was the hardest part of the series for you to write?

Trying to balance the action versus the talking in A Pius Man. Considering how much history, characters, and data I had, I wanted to make sure no one fell asleep.

The series is explicitly referred to as a trilogy. Any plans to revisit this series and/or these characters at a later date?

The characters will be coming back. No question … okay, the characters who survive will come back. In fact, when I had first written The Pius Trilogy, most of these characters were minor side characters in other works. Which became a problem when they started dying off. Why? Because the works they had appeared in hadn’t been published yet. Oops.

In fact, Sean A.P. Ryan and his cadre of mercenaries will be the stars of a comedy-thriller called Set to Kill. It’s set at WyvernCon in Atlanta, GA, and Sean has to keep the Puppy Punters “safe” from the “Tearful” and “Hydrophobic” Puppies. Because I’m subtle.

We don’t even go into the anthology of Pius Tales.

Of all the books you’ve written, which one is your personal favorite as a reader?

Of all the books I’ve written? Yikes. The Pius books are great just because it was so epic in scope. Though otherwise, it might be a tossup between Codename: Winterborn or Honor At Stake, mostly because it was so heavy on character.

Which one was the most fun to write?

Of the Trilogy? A Pius Stand. Of everything I’ve written, probably Set to Kill. I was laughing my tuchas off as I wrote it.

Which one was the most difficult to write?

Definitely A Pius Man, mostly because I was going to use it as a teaching tool while people were having fun. It wasn’t actually that hard to write, but a bear to edit … but for the record, my first draft just made my graduate paper into dialogue. I brought data dump to a whole new level of boring. Toning that back was tough.

Tune in tomorrow for part 2.

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