AHF Interviews DF Pellegrino

DF Pellegrino is an alternate history author, who has published two novels to date, as well as writing several short stories, and works in progress:-
Purchase Zhirinovsky's Russian Empire, available in Kindle format.
Purchase The Dawg Pound Dynasty available in paperback and Kindle format.

Thank You DF Pellegrino for your interest in being interviewed. There follows below, the questions and answers:-

1. Zhirinovsky's Russian Empire is an impressive work, how much of it was pre-planned as opposed to made up as you went along?
To be honest, it was almost entirely improvised. I seldom knew where the story was going to take me on any given day and I sort of broke every rule of writing in finishing that book. I never planned ahead and I never had any idea where my story was going to go. But I learned an important lesson from the experience. I always followed the "conventional wisdom" about writing. To plan your story detail and have a well organized outline before you wrote the first word down. I discovered with Zhirinovsky's Russian Empire that, at least for me, the best idea is to sit down, start writing, and then enjoy the ride. It also helped keep me motivated as I became a passenger of my own book, never really knowing what was going to happen next made it more fun for me during the writing process.

2. In Zhirinovsky's Russian Empire how did you keep all the different geo-located storylines straight in your head once the butterflies started to bite?
I won't lie, it was tough. Particularly when I would become motivated to change something in the book based on real world events. When the Arab Spring happened I decided to add a chapter in the book about a similar "Arab Spring" taking place in the world of Zhirinovsky's Russian Empire, which required me to switch gears quite a bit (the pro-democratic movement was originally suppose to have started in Romania and then spread to Ukraine, Armenia and then Tajikistan in the book, but elected to have it start in Iraq). But by in large, the geo-political situation was easier to keep on top of than keeping track of the historic characters, particularly former Soviet politicians. Some were known as conservative (or pro Soviet) while some were seen as liberal (or as pro-Yeltsin and pro-reform). So I had to base their actions on that. But of course Vladimir Putin was a supporter of Yeltsin and yet once in power he has in many ways stifled the reform movement.

3. In Zhirinovsky's Russian Empire, the German embassy siege in Moscow is one of the most emotive parts of the story; was this deliberate or did the powerful emotion just "happen"?
Again it just sort of happened. I originally envisioned having a big "moment" where the UIS (the name of the post-communist Soviet Union in the book) would become a dictatorship under Zhirinovsky, where he would crush internal dissent and seize control of the country from the post-communist reformist movement, not entirely unlike what Lenin did after the fall of the Tsar. But at the time I was writing this the news was full of stories of protests at American embassies all over the world, and I soon envisioned a scenario where something similar happened in Russia. From there the German embassy siege was to be the moment where Zhirinovsky basically crushed his opposition while also losing control of the rabble that his racist and xenophobic political speeches had created. But early in my writing I saw the benefit of a sub-plot where there remained a legitimate question as to who was really in control of what. There was an element of "nobody is in control" which in my mind made things even more frightening. Whereas the German embassy crisis was originally supposed to be a calculated event orchestrated by Zhirinovsky's most extreme followers (much like Kristallacht had been in Nazi Germany) there was something even more frightening about the possibility that it was just "what happens" when you take the lid of the pot that is society. Something that made it hit home even more. When you have modern day Nazis in your book it is easy for a reader to sit back and say, "Yeah, that can never happen here." But when you have a society that has completely broken down, it isn't that hard to envision.

4. In Zhirinovsky's Russian Empire, in amongst real characters you've created some fascinating fictional characters who play a vital role - how did this come about?
Basically, I tried to limit the real people to those who "put themselves out" in the public eye. Politicians, TV hosts, comedians. But some of the characters in the book were everyday people who described life in the dark and dystopian world. These characters were always fictional in the book. I quickly found that some of these stories, of everyday people, were some of the strongest chapters of the book. And obviously if they were fictional that gave me a tremendous amount of leeway in developing them.

5. The cover art for Zhirinovsky's Russian Empire is amazing and powerfully depicts a scene from the book; where did the concept come from and who was the artist?
I found it online from a website called Fotolia, where you can purchase the rights to photos and other artwork. The artist is Artyom Belozyorov and I never had the pleasure of talking with him. But I agree, he is an amazing artist and the picture fit with a very gripping scene from the book. I was very lucky to have found it. I was preparing a cover of my own and had purchased a Russian imperial flag on eBay and was planning to set it up somewhere in the desert and hope that I could get a good photo out of it. But I knew that was something unoriginal and it ran the risk of being terrible.

6. Regarding The Dawg Pound Dynasty, are you a particular fan of the Cleveland Browns or did you choose them for alternate history potential?
I lived in Ohio for awhile and Cleveland Browns fans are probably the most loyal and dedicated fans in football, and if there was ever a fan base that deserved a winning team it was Browns fans. Plus, it worked for the story since the Browns had a very unique history that worked with the flow of the book. They were one of the oldest teams in the NFL and had a long history before the owner of the Browns moved the team to Baltimore in 1995. That left Cleveland without a team, which prompted the NFL to give them an expansion team in 1999. By picking the Browns I could literally work from scratch on putting together a NFL dynasty.

7. I'm not a fan of American Football, but I found The Dawg Pound Dynasty very approachable and easy to read; how did you do this?
I think that at the end of the day it was just a great underdog story. And the Cleveland Browns are great underdogs. You don't have to be boxing fan to enjoy Rocky and you don't have to be an American Football fan to enjoy the Dawg Pound Dynasty. It's a fun story about a team that beats all the odds to end up on top, something that anyone can enjoy.

8. Your characterisation in the narrative sections of The Dawg Pound Dynasty are very evocative; how much were they based on the real personalities of the individuals, and how much did you have to fictionalise these?
(Laughing) Well, if you ask some of the players they may say it is nothing like them. And they may be right. Football players and coaches are sort of like politicians, you only see them in front of the camera and sometimes you don't see their real selves. But I tried to base it as best I could on their real personalities.

9. How much was the long term plot in The Dawg Pound Dynasty worked out in advance and how much developed naturally?
Again, much of it just flowed. But at the end of the day I knew they would win a lot of Super Bowls and that Tom Brady would be the quarterback. And I knew they would have some "lean" years as well. But at the end of the day, much like with Zhirinovsky's Russian Empire, it involved a fair amount of "shooting from the hip."

10. In The Dawg Pound Dynasty you reference contemporary culture quite a lot with skits and vignettes; how well do you think this worked?
I don't know. Some of the references were pretty easy to pick up on, like the episode of South Park or the T-Mobile commercial. Some were more obscure and maybe revealed my nerdy side (the reference to Leeroy Jenkins might have flown over the head of a lot of NFL fans). However, I think that even if someone didn't quite get the reference, they got the overall message it was conveying.

11. Where did the idea for your short story The Frozen Flag come from and how did you come to write it from the point of view that you did?
I'm on a Facebook group and we sort of did this writing challenge where we wrote a story about a unusual colonial empire. I had recently read a story about how the Antarctic Peninsula recently hit 15-degrees (Celsius) and it really stuck with me. Then I read about the early expeditions to Antarctica and in particular the early Russian expedition in 1820. I struck me how multi-ethnic the Russian expedition was. You had a German Capitan and a British midshipman on a Russian ship. That also stuck with me and I just decided to go with a story about "what if the Russians actually landed on Antarctica."

12. You have intimated that you are writing a timeline about Liberia at the moment; how is this going and do you have any other works in the pipeline?
I have actually got three projects going right now. Two alternate history novels, one about Liberia and one about Central America. Both are coming along, I realize my alternate history books tend to be more obscure, but that's what I love about AH. You can really write about anything. I realize most AH books are about the American Civil War or World War II, but I think there is certainly a place in this genre about a Liberia that turns into the economic powerhouse of Africa.

Zhirinovsky's Russian Empire
Alternate History by D.F. Pellegrino
ASIN (Kindle) : B00JBSI0UY

The Dawg Pound Dynasty
Alternate History by D.F. Pellegrino
ASIN (Kindle) : B00T0VRLTS
ISBN (Paperback) : 978-1507540527

DF Pellegrino's profile can be found on AHF at www.alternate-history-fiction.com/d-f-pellegrino.html