As I have done with my other fiction, I thought I would formally introduce The Flames of a Potemkin Kingdom in a personal manner, not just via the book jacket copy. There is no spoiler alert here, so sit back and enjoy. Honestly, I am hoping that you enjoy this post so much that you go ahead and read the book, if you haven’t already done so.
Potemkin Kingdom was wonderful to write, as it hits on so many interests of mine. It is truly a study in absolute power corrupting absolutely, and megalomania. It explores unique geography and provides insight into diplomatic channels, all while espousing Canadian resolve and discreet posturing. It explores the undeniable truth of Realpolitik international relations. We sleep in the bed of our foreign policy. The world is not a kind place, and other countries do not have as high of a moral standard as Canada does.
I came up with the idea for the novel shortly after visiting Saint Pierre and Miquelon, and being fascinated with the fact that those islands are part of France, despite being off the coast of Newfoundland. I wanted to explore the relationship of Saint Pierre to the rest of the world, and the ideas started churning.
The name of the book is a play on the term ‘Potemkin Village,’ which is used to describe a fancy façade with a hollow inside. The ‘flames’ part has a few interpretations, but I’ll let the reader decide. My rough outline of the novel originally had the story touching more on the realm of science fiction, borrowing themes from Dune. Wolfgang was to morph into a god-like figure, but upon the commencement of writing, I abandoned that idea in part. I wanted to keep it realistic and grounded. I made the would-be infallible antagonist into a vulnerable man.
As is my writing style, I discover much of the storyline as I compose. My novels are organic and change as they progress, which means that I do not force storylines that no longer work, once the characters come alive. Besides a vague guidance of where I am going, I never have a predetermined outcome. I introduce characters and see how they interact with each other, and I decide how their personalities can drive the story forward.
Wolfgang is presented as very religious. I did not initially intend to emphasize this character trait, but it seemed to suit the story, and so I highlighted it in effort to explain his motivations. After completing the novel in draft, I realized that I was missing a strong protagonist, and so I combed through the prose to give Amelia a more pronounced role. I recognize that there is an unconventional narrative, as much of its development resulted from interesting characters colliding. I decided that it was a strength of this story, and so, near the end (again: not a spoiler), I chose to make Wolfgang a recluse from the day-to-day setting of the island administration altogether, and only having him influence the story via other characters referencing his decrees. My intention was really to explore the reactions of sane individuals in insane environments, the risky clandestine nature of covert operations embedded in foreign governments, and the processes of decision making in the upper echelons of dictatorial regimes.
I had fun including references to North Korea and Idi Amin. I enjoyed highlighting Canada and giving a special mention to the Atlantic Provinces and the Royal Canadian Navy. I paid tribute to Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four, in the beautiful North Atlantic setting of Saint Pierre and Miquelon.
As with much of my writing, a broad theme present in this novel is the impact of big government on small people. Amelia and her clan were definitely subjected to an alteration in lifestyle that they could’ve never predicted. Wolfgang changed many lives. While creating much life, he destroyed more.
Potemkin Kingdom explores the farcical nature of decision making in real governments and how regimes, like people, interact with other regimes, and sometimes rub norms. It looks at all the various aspects required for a society to function, from resources to commerce to security to propaganda to demographics.
I chose to make this novel long in order for the reader to note the gradual change in characters. It is meant to be epic, but I am not sure if an author can dub their own work ‘epic,’ much like it’s taboo to give oneself a nickname. I leave it to the reader to decide. If you haven’t already read it, I hope you do, and I hope you enjoy it. I love it.
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If you liked this, please also consider reading one of my other novels. I write on a variety of topics. The broad themes of my fiction include individualism versus collective thought, and the importance of culture and identity in society. I sometimes use humour as a tool. I sometimes use pity. Sit back, click, and enjoy.