M.R. Dowsing lives in London, where he writes for the music magazines R2 and Bucketfull Of Brains, performs original songs under the name Hungry Dog Brand, and puts on a regular music night called Dogfishtrombone. He holds a BA in Studies In Contemporary Writing. By day he works as a bookseller.
The Assassination Of Adolf Hitler is his first novel. He quit his bookselling job in order to have time to research it properly and, luckily, managed to get his job back a year later before starvation set in. He hopes to be able to quit again soon in order to complete a sequel.
His first name is Martin.
Your book has a fascinating premise. How did you come up with the idea?
I don’t actually remember what triggered the idea, but I do remember that around five or six years ago something made me think that it was strange that no-one had used the idea of travelling back in time to kill Hitler as the basis for a novel. It seemed like an obvious winner to me, so I filed it away in my head and kept my mouth shut about it. Every now and again I would give it some thought and, at first, I began to feel that perhaps it was not so strange that it hadn’t been done, because it was quite a problematic concept; it could involve years of research to do it well, and there were so many different directions it could spin off into… Eventually, though, I felt that I was beginning to see a way in which it could be contained somewhat and, three or four years after I first had the idea, I finally talked myself into writing it.
I’ve very recently found out that Stephen Fry used a similar premise in Making History, a book that I was unaware of, but it seems like a completely different approach to mine, so I don’t think it’s a problem.
Time-travel and Hitler is an interesting combination. Does that make your novel a historical fantasy?
I suppose you could call it that. I think of it as a historical thriller which happens to use a science fiction device.
What type of research did you have to do for the novel?
Lots of research about Hitler and the beginnings of the Nazi party, in particular. Quite dark stuff, some of it, and it was a bit of a relief when the book was finished and I could read about other things. Also, quite a bit of general research on the periods in question. Some of the research was quite enjoyable, though – I enjoyed my visits to the British Library to look at old maps and such. I also visited quite a few of the locations used in the novel, which was both interesting and valuable. I had to keep thinking about what would have been there when the story was set and what wouldn’t. One trip was a bit rough though – the weather was brutal and I came down with the worst cold I’ve ever had so that I couldn’t even sleep at nights!
How long did it take you to write it?
Well, I should point out that I left my day job as a bookseller in order to write it. If I’d been working as well, it would have taken much, much longer – if it had have happened at all. I forced myself to write a thousand words a day and, after about three months, I had something like a first draft. I then spent another three months rewriting it over and over again and adding detail. After this, I still occasionally went back into it and changed a few things.
Did you plot the book in advance? If yes, how did you go about it?
I actually just had what might be called the “arc” of the story in my head, and then just worked it out as I went along. I think if I had have planned it all out in advance I would have ended up deviating considerably from the plan anyway. I think in some ways you have to follow the characters and discover what the story is yourself rather than writing characters to fit into a pre-conceived plan.
What was the most difficult aspect of writing the book?
Probably making the time travel aspect work. It gave me headaches and I’m still not satisfied with it! I read a book called How To Build A Time Machine by Paul Davies, which is about how a real time machine might work. I realised that I couldn’t possibly use any of it or I would get bogged down in scientific gobbledegook.
What is your favorite scene in the novel?
I’m not sure I have a favourite scene as such, but I think the section set in Munich is the best part. I have a favourite character, Steiner, who was created on the spur of the moment. I still feel like I want to find out more about him, so I’m hoping to feature him more prominently in a future book.
Tell us about your main character and what makes him compelling.
Michael Lear is a well-intentioned man who has suffered a personal tragedy in the loss of his parents. In some ways he’s very well suited to the task of going in back in time to kill Hitler but, in other ways, he’s completely the wrong kind of person. This means that during the course of the story he has to become a different person, and adapt to strange and unexpected situations very quickly.
I understand you also write for magazines. What is a typical writing day for you and how do you balance your two types of writing?
Well, I’m back working as a bookseller again now and I don’t have time to write every day. I have to steal hours when I can. Reviewing music for a magazine means that I receive a bunch of CDs through the post, often only a week or so before the deadline, and I’ve somehow got to get my head around all this stuff enough to write something intelligent about it. I think you have to listen to an album at least twice before you can do that – more would be better, but it’s not always possible. I’ve actually just spent most of my Saturday banging out reviews for R2 magazine. I’m not complaining though, as the standard of the music has been very high.
Is there a second novel in the works?
There’s a second novel in my head which I have made a few notes for, but it’s not really “in the works” yet.
Where can we find you on the web?
http://www.myspace.com/hungrydogbrand (for my music).
The book, which is eBook only at the moment, is available from Amazon, Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Sony Reader Store and more.