John Wilcox – on Starshine
Q. The novel is set at the time of World War 1. What sparked your interest in the Great War?
My father and all his (older) six brothers all served throughout what was later called the Great War. They were all rifle and bayonet infantrymen and amazingly they all survived, albeit with various wounds. Uncle Ernest won the D.C.M., Uncle Bernard won the Military medal, but lost an eye, and Uncle Alf won the Victoria Cross , the highest award for valour. My father – the youngest of the family – went over the top as an infantry sergeant at the Somme and was severely wounded. With a background like that, how could I not write about it (“Starshine”), although it took me years to pluck up courage to do it.
Q. Your protagonists seem to be able to survive everything except jealousy. Do you think this is true for most relationships?
I am not sure that Polly, Jim and Bertie were jealous. They sincerely loved each other, all each to one. But yes, jealousy is a rotten vice and I think it certainly can destroy relationships.
Q. You go into a lot of detail throughout the novel with dates and locations- how much research did you have to do?
With the sort of work I do – building a fictional framework upon a vertebrae of fact – it is absolutely vital that you get the facts right. So yes, I do a hell of a lot of reading and, where I can, visiting the sites of the battles in which I set my characters. So I tramped over the killing fields of the Ypres Salient and know the back streets of Birmingham where my three protagonists lived. I hope this attention to detail comes through in “Starshine.”
Q. There are many novels about World Wars I and II. Were there any particular books that inspired you to write Starshine?
No, because of my answers to Question one, I grew up with “The Great War” hanging over me like a great storm cloud. But if there had to be two books that lived with me after reading them, they would have to be “All Quiet on the Western Front” and “Birdsong.”
Q. Do you believe that Polly was being fair in the way she treated Jim and Bertie?
Actually, given that she was in a turmoil about her love for them both – and with them both away, she couldn’t sort it out, of course, face to face, which is what would have ensued if there was no war – I think she was scrupulously fair, bedding them both!