Tell Us About the Tetralogy
Q: How far along are you in the tetralogy?
Duncan: The first three books are published: End Times, Bad Company, and Descending Spiral, which came out August 10. The final installment, Collateral Damage, will be published on the 25th anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing, April 19, 2020.
Q: Can you summarize each of them—briefly?
Duncan: I’ll try. End Times introduces the main and secondary characters and has the precipitating action for the overall story, another historical event, which people will recognize, though, again, I’ve changed names and location; Bad Company portrays the rising action of the story; Descending Spiral has more rising action and the set-up for the denouement; and Collateral Damage will contain the denouement and the “fall off” into the conclusion of the story.
What Were the Challenges?
Q: What was most challenging about writing A Perfect Hatred?
Duncan: A few things. First, blending the factual with the fictional so they were seamless, i.e., so the reader believes it’s all fiction but also knows what historical event I’ve modeled, was difficult. It was hard at times not to do a data dump because I am an historian. A lot of that got cut, thank goodness. The other was I opened so many threads and introduced so many characters in book one, End Times, I had to make certain I closed those threads and dealt with all the characters by the end of book four, Collateral Damage. Thank goodness for a great editor who has pointed out when I’ve slipped up on that. Last, the topics touched on in A Perfect Hatred—“patriot” militias, paramilitary groups, anti-Semitism, white supremacy, neo-Nazism, perversion of religion—are dark and scary and resonate to present day. The darkness would pull me down sometimes, often to the point where I debated with myself whether I should even publish the books.
Q: That’s amazing for an author to admit that. Give us an example of something in one of the books you debated about publishing.
Duncan: Bad Company, the second book, was in final prep late last year when eleven people were killed at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, by an alleged gunman who’d expressed anti-Semitic beliefs. There are two key scenes in Bad Company where a self-ordained “preacher” gives a sermon to his followers that encompasses not only anti-Semitism but also white supremacy and misogyny and advocates murder. I held up production of the book while I debated whether or not to cut those scenes. I ultimately decided to leave them in.
Duncan: Because the fictional sermon was based on actual sermons given by real people, and I wanted readers to understand the attitudes expressed in my fiction are based in real life; that people do believe this way; and that we can’t look the other way when we hear it or see it. We had a horrific example of what can happen when we do in Charlottesville, in my home state, in 2017. However, I changed the dedication in Bad Company to acknowledge those killed in that hate crime in Pittsburg and another hate crime in Kentucky a few days later.
Q: So, the upcoming book, Descending Spiral, what distinguishes it from the others, since you said it was more rising action?
Duncan: I wanted to show how messed up things can get if you interject the personal into a situation where you know you should be objective, where you put oneupsmanship over how you know things are supposed to work. In other words, it was the point in the story where it was time to throw a wrench in the works of the smooth professional relationship between my two protagonists. And that has overarching effects on the characters’ future actions and ultimately the conclusion of the story.
Historical Fiction or Alternative History?
Q: Have you ever been tempted to change the outcome of an historical event?
Duncan: I may take dramatic license with minor aspects of an historical event, but I could never change the outcome. That goes against my every instinct as an historian, and, remember, I write to teach a lesson. To me, if I’d altered the story to where my characters save the day, I’d not only cheapen the story but I’d cheapen the history. I can’t do that. If I did, it wouldn’t be historical fiction; it would fall under speculative fiction’s subgenre, alternative history.
Q: So, what you’re saying is we already know how A Perfect Hatred will end?
Duncan: Yes, but what you don’t know is how we get there and the fallout from it. I can only hope that’s compelling enough.
Is That All There is?
Q: So, once book four comes out, that’s it for that story arc?
Duncan: [Laughing] Well, no. I’ve drafted a trilogy sequel to A Perfect Hatred that brings the events and characters essentially to present day. The working title for the trilogy is Enemies Domestic, and the three books–again working titles–are Mine to Kill, A Die Cast, and A Squalid Procession of Vain Fools.
Q: Intriguing titles. The third one sounds familiar.
Duncan: It’s from a line in John le Carre’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, which happens to be my all-time favorite espionage novel. I love that line, where le Carre’s flawed protagonist describes what spies really are. I knew I had to work it into something I wrote.
Q: When can we hope to see that trilogy?
Duncan: It’s scheduled for publication in the spring of 2021, and it’ll be what’s called flash-published: the ebooks will come out as a boxed set after the three paperbacks are published in three consecutive months.
Q: Where can we find the three books–so far–in A Perfect Hatred?
Duncan: Amazon was kind enough to offer a series page, and you can find that HERE.
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