Writing a novel with war as one of the themes was a long time coming for me. I have been studying war fiction for some time now, my exam thesis was on WW1 fiction and I have been reading and watching anything I could get my hands on. The fact that I chose a modern war has more to do with my other theme. I wanted both main characters to be a gay couple, but I never meant for it to be the main focus. As I was growing up I was missing those books which simply had an LGBT character not because it was something special but because it was one tiny part of their personality and life. LGBT books, at least the ones I could get my hands on, were about coming out or struggling with HIV. It seemed LGBT characters could only be used in conjunction with these topics, but never simply because they were LGBT, and a teacher, a soldier, a mother, an accountant, someone struggling with their job or family life or a dragon in a medieval castle. Fiction is slowly changing, and partly I wanted something I would read myself and partly I wanted to be a part of that change. I wanted to write a couple, which was gay, yes, but which was mainly a normal couple that would struggle with the hardships that had been thrown their way.
Like a lot of other writers, I used to write a lot of fanfiction, so naturally, the idea came out of that and I took inspiration from shows and films that played in the Afghanistan war of the 2000s. There are many difficult conversations to be had around that topic, and one that often gets shunned to the side is the psychological struggle soldiers have once they return home, whether they are injured or not. Will comes home with severe injuries which intensifies the struggle, of course, and forces him to adopt not just one new perspective but several.
Coming back to normality after having had such an experience must be difficult, but other than the families nobody really notices or talks much about it. My thesis was about the psychological trauma that WW1 soldiers suffered and how they were treated both during the war and after. Because of that, this topic has always been very close to my heart and I have wanted to write about these struggles for quite some time. The difference between 1918 and the 2000s is that perception of war has changed and not everyone appreciates soldiers risking their lives in a war that perhaps no one wanted to be fought. I touch a little bit on that as well because I think those are conversations that come up and infiltrate a soldier’s life. It’s that question of justifying it – for the outside world and yourself.
Ultimately, at the heart of my novel is the relationship between Alex and Will; what they used to have and what they will have after the war. And a little bit that question of ‘why fight a war?’ and ‘why be a soldier?’.
Marén Klement grew up in Germany but very early on became an anglophile, studying English Language and Literature as well as Philosophy at University. For her day job she works as a teacher, but has been writing since she was six and dreamed of becoming a published author since then. Writing both German and English fiction, she has delved into short stories, poetry and of course novels. Her first novel ‘Insight’, orginal language English, was published in August 2018 with New Generation Publishing and she hopes to continue down this path.
Returning home from deployment in Afghanistan, Will has to come to terms with lung damage, one blind eye, and going back to a life that’s not quite the same anymore. So does Alex, his partner.