This summer Novel2Screen introduces a selection of books through three interviews with up-and-coming authors. Our first author, Shreyans Zaveri, takes readers on a perilous and dark rescue operation into a Russian bunker during the last days of WWII.
As a photographer and visual effects artist, Shreyans Zaveri is always searching for the story behind the apparent, whether that’s the subject of a captured moment on film or the truth buried between the lines of research. His debut novel The Fuehrer’s Blood breathes life into the elusive anti-Nazi group, “Blood Moon.” The novel is based on over 37,000 pages of research and 1,700 cups of coffee, as he claims. It follows a small group of German soldiers from “Blood Moon,” who infiltrate a Russian extermination camp at the end of WWII to rescue a notorious sniper, take down the ruthless Russian warlord, and discover the buried past of Hitler along the way.
Chris: How much research did you do for The Fuehrer’s Blood?
Shreyans: The research for Fuehrer’s Blood was the best part in my writing experience. To last count, I remember reading close to 300,000 pages of history. One intriguing topic led to another and I was caught up in an endless and fascinating web of information. The history of that era is so rich and intense that I couldn’t leave any book half way. I had to consciously stop reading and digging deeper into more WWII topics in order to concentrate on my novel.
Chris: How much of the story is factual vs. historical fiction?
Shreyans: A lot of the story is based on real life incidents [and] experiences, and what remains (which is still a substantial chunk) is fiction. The historically significant characters like Adolf Hitler, Himmler, etc. are all based on real life characters. The chronology of the events too is based on facts. Around these I have spun my web of imagination and instilled my characters into existence.
Chris: In many ways this is Theodor’s journey, his story. It was a wise choice to have him be the outsider in a band of soldiers so readers can follow, learning with him. How did his character evolve as you wrote?
Shreyans: Theodor changed and adapted with every page I wrote. He goes from becoming a mere spectator to being the hero of the story in a definite arc. He has real fears, problems, insecurities, and issues with himself. He adapted, changed, and evolved as a much stronger person by the end of the book. Theodor’s evolution was very close to me because in him I see a reflection of human values. As a character, he remains mired in trouble, but when he goes through the most difficult time in his life, his resolve kicks in and brings out the best in him.
Chris: Although there aren’t many locations, there are numerous characters. Who was your favorite to write and why?
Shreyans: I enjoyed learning and looking into the life of Adolf Hitler. While everyone is focused on accusing him (which is fair), I shifted focus to finding out the incidents in his life that made him a menacing dictator. Hitler evolved from a small farm boy to a dictator. There had to be a chain of events that would lead him to turn cold and ruthless. For that reason I dug deep into his past to find them. So, it was interesting to write about him. My favorite though is Han. He was a treat to work on. I loved the way his courage and more importantly his ability to love stood out in the face of the worst adversity known to mankind.
Chris: Who was the hardest and why?
Shreyans: Traugott was the hardest. He has such a deep sense of sorrow within him but he masks it efficiently. As he goes through the many ups and downs in his struggle, he remains balanced and focused on the one mission that he has set out for. Masking his sorrow with a sarcastic sense of humor was difficult. I was bursting to write about and reveal his true side, but just like his character I was forced to wait till the opportune moment to do so.
Chris: You make readers sympathize with Theodor by introducing his character searching for his lost love in war-ravaged Berlin. How challenging was it to construct a story where the major protagonists were Nazi soldiers, who readers are used to seeing as the villains?
Shreyans: I wrote this book with a will to narrate the German side of the war. It is a rarity to see that side of the war being spoken about freely. So, from the start I was convinced that I wanted to portray a perspective that I connected with. For that matter it was important to detach Theodor from any of the known forces. People usually polarize with respect to the perspective they have. For that reason, I decided to introduce Theodor in a very different setting. The challenges were many because people have a lot of biases based on their knowledge. I had to craft him carefully and make sure he captured the hearts of people.
Chris: The honeycomb bunker is a fascinating location and potential for a limited location film. Do you have plans to adapt the novel to a screenplay?
Shreyans: Absolutely! The Fuehrer’s Blood is a ready script in my head. It started off as a visual experience for me. That is how I think and function. If I listen to music, in my head a visual is always playing. Similarly, [The Fuehrer’s Blood] was initially a visual in my head that I have converted to words and hence a novel. So, I am definitely working towards taking my novel to the screen.
Chris: What do you hope readers take away from the book?
Shreyans: Readers will definitely find a new and fresh perspective to WWII in this novel. They will take away the German perspective to war and also learn a lot about the adolescent Adolf Hitler. That in turn shows them the real reasons behind what made him. But overall, they will take away a feeling of hope and the age old adage that love triumphs over everything else.
Chris: What’s next for you as an author?
Shreyans: I am always thinking, writing, and creating. I have an unresolved hunger to tell beautiful stories. Coming up next is my second novel titled Aarya. It is a fiction novel based in the heartland of India, my home country. It has a blend of political drama and fiction. I am currently working on it and am hoping for a mid-2018 release. Apart from that I am toying with ideas for my third and fourth novel. One of them revolves around life after death and the other around the story of a sailor. They are both still in their nascent stages and will take form once the second novel is out.