Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fire Season by VH Folland

For Matt, owner of the Brooke's Vale crop sprayer airstrip, and his flying club, accepting the unusual chance to fly fire prevention missions is simply being good neighbours. It's also beyond his skill. Deviating from his assigned fire prevention duties to try to stop a tragedy as it unfolds, the result leaves him devastated.

Now the nearer towns are threatened and Brooke's Vale itself is at risk. Jim, a transport pilot on leave, takes on the fire prevention flying to buy them time while Matt, grounded and in shock, is left to organise the community. With no power, no communications, one crop sprayer, thirty stranded residents and the fire closing in they'll have to find a miracle - or fly one.


VH Folland is a British author with a lifelong interest in aviation and engineering. On a school trip to Kew Gardens most of the class were looking at the plants, and one small child was staring up at the planes on Heathrow approach. A career spanning media, defence and engineering gave this interest plenty of time to grow.

What will readers like about your book? 

Hopefully the story. In particular, most reviewers have commented on strong characterisation, so when things start going wrong you feel for the characters. Another point often mentioned was the aviation detail.

Why did you self publish? 
Fire Season was published by Ragged Angel Ltd, an indie RPG publisher, so although indie it isn't strictly self-published. After Fire Season's initial publication deal fell through, I asked them to take a look since I already had connections to the company. I knew the manuscript was strong - after all, it had sold once already - and it seemed a waste to let it languish. Fortunately the team liked it and agreed to take up publication. As they are a games company, it's left me doing a lot of the support work and I think mainstream book publishing had a steep learning curve for both of us, but it is working out.

What is your writing process? 
Usually I make notes and write out sections in longhand first. Then I type it up, giving it a quick revision as I go. Then it gets put to one side, and I come back to it a few months later. Usually I'll end up rewriting half of it for flow, tone, and filling in any plot holes.

How long does it take you to write your first draft? 
It depends. I've got one unfinished after eighteen months, while Fire Season had the draft done in six weeks, but took three months of research and corrections before I was happy with it.

What inspired you to write this particular story? 
 The Shackleton gate guardian and its caretaker were from an earlier manuscript, which frankly wasn't very good, but they were intriguing enough for me to wonder what the home life at an airstrip would be like when you have one of these grounded and imposing bombers at the gate. Simply by its size it is going to cause a few changes to normal operations - and then you have the issue of what the neigbours think about it...

The main plot was inspired by stories from friends in Australia and the US and their personal experiences in their respective fire seasons. One commented that she'd left the house while driving passed an airfield where the cropsprayers were still present and wanted to know why they wouldn't use cropsprayers against the fire. It gave me an idea, and when I started looking into it, the story took shape.


“What happened?” Jim asked, worried. He put a hand on his brother’s shoulder, and Jake straightened, shaking him off.
“Stupid blasted kids. Mind if I grab a chair?” Without waiting for an answer he walked across, a little more slowly than usual, and took the seat that Matt gestured to. Pouring himself a mug of strong black coffee he downed most of it and paused, obviously collecting his thoughts. The others did not press him, and once he had recovered slightly he began.
“Nick’s refugees. The kids got bored and decided to amuse themselves.” He took a breath obviously struggling to keep his tone level. “Starting fires with a magnifying glass on that field out the back. Don’t worry, Nick caught them early and between his hose and my tender we’ve put everything out and soaked the field down.”
“No.” Rose shook her head in disbelief. In this climate the sheer stupidity of the action was hard to believe.
“Yep. They were lighting bits of paper to watch them burn. Of course when the wind took them they didn’t bother to chase them down. I’ve just spent the last two hours walking round Nick’s field making sure the fire they started is out, and nothing’s quietly smoldering. Even with Nick’s help that’s a big job.”
“I’ve some whisky in the house,” Matt volunteered, but Jake shook his head.
“I’d rather keep my head clear until they’re gone. Just in case they do it again.”
“Nick must be livid,” Jill remarked, looking across the valley to the field.
“Absolutely furious. They’ve been politely invited to get their stuff and leave, refugees or no.”
“I’m surprised he’s not pressing charges.” Rose shook her head again, still stunned that anyone would light a fire in the middle of a fire ban.
“If he doesn’t, and they don’t leave, I will. One way or another I want them out. You’ve got me to mind the whole valley on my own, and those kids just became a fire risk.” Jake had calmed down slightly. “Their parents were appalled, so they were relieved when I gave them the option to get out instead of pressing charges. They’ll be gone as soon as they’re packed.”
As Jake finished Jill pushed a plate of sandwiches at him and he grabbed one. It was gone in two bites.
“Help yourself to the rest. I‘m afraid you missed dinner.”


Fire Season eBook on Amazon
Fire Season Paperback on Amazon

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