Today we welcome Chris Coling, a.k.a. Colin Gee.
Book ‘Em: Tell us about you and your life outside of writing.
Colin Gee: I am 60 and feel it. I was 32 years a firefighter and spent 22 years as a junior officer and ended up in command of my own watch. I am married with two kids, three stepkids, and five grandchildren, soon to be six. I now work for the NHS as a night driver taking doctors to visit poorly people in their homes. I am an ardent wargamer and am joint owner of one of the largest private collections of model soldiers and vehicles in the country. I like music from a host of genres, except rap which in my view simply misses off a letter, and used to play the trombone. I love to travel, which goes well with research trips for writing. I enjoy TV and am a committed GOT fan. I have been afflicted by PTSD since 1992, but nowadays it is only rarely an issue.
Book ‘Em: Which books have you written? What are they about and why did you choose to write them? Do your books have a message? Are they fiction or nonfiction?
Colin Gee: I write under the pseudonym of Colin Gee [derived from my surname which people get wrong ALL the time] and have written eight books in one series, each accompanied by a biography book, except the final book, the bio for which is still a WIP. That’s 15 books on sale at the moment. I chose to write as a vehicle for my considerable knowledge about WW2, and to try and deal with a sensitive situation and injustice I has been aware of since as long as I could remember. I can expand on that if required. My books have a message or two. I guess for sure, one would be that there are no bad peoples, just some bad people. I tried to ensure that readers could see good and bad on both sides of the divide, and from the feedback, I achieved that. I saw no reason to write about combat in any way that glorified it. I was determine to write it as the nasty, horrid, bestial thing it is, and drew on my WW2 knowledge and personal experiences of injuries to create, what I am told, is an accurate representation of man’s ultimate game. My genre is alternate history, and I employ factual and fictional characters alongside each other. Red Gambit covers the extended hostilities brought about by a Soviet invasion of Western Europe, from 1945 to 1947.
Book ‘Em: Do you have a work in progress?
Colin Gee: At the moment, the biographies for book#8 Caissa. I’m mapping out two more series on a similar vein.
Book ‘Em: What was the most difficult section/piece you ever wrote? What made it difficult?
Colin Gee: That would undoubtedly be the Auschwitz chapter. Within RG one of the central characters is an ex-Waffen SS tank officer who is pretty much every reader’s favourite character. He serves within the French Foreign Legion in the new war, along with many ex-Waffen SS soldiers. Their unit retakes Auschwitz from the retreating Soviets. I was determined to confront the issues that raised, and to deal head on with the excuse of following orders. I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau twice and developed as much understanding of the awful place as I could. I wrote the chapter in one hit, and only corrected spelling and grammar. The difficulty with such a subject matter is that everyone has an opinion, few of which are informed and most of which are fuelled by or based upon years of prejudice and misinformation. It was important to properly represent that most hideous piece of history, but I wanted to make people think about it more than might have done before. Comments would suggest that I achieved my aim with more than a few readers. I might add that I cannot excuse those that ruled there under any circumstances.
Book ‘Em: What sort of research do you do for your work?
Colin Gee: I read reference books, use online research, and go walkabout around Europe to visit potential battle sites and locations, to get a better feel of them for when I write them into the books. I also draw on many conversations with those who fought in combat, both WW2 and subsequent actions. My research for RG was exhaustive, and I received one piece of criticism for factual research in eight large volumes, that being that I placed the wrong aircraft in a Royal Naval air squadron. I had simply transposed the aircraft wrongly. I took that as a bonus.
Book ‘Em: Which books and authors do you read for pleasure? Is there an author that inspires you?
Colin Gee: Lord of the Rings, Tom Clancy [the early books], fictional books on the Roman conquests.
Book ‘Em: Was there a person who encouraged you to write?
Colin Gee: Other than myself, no.
Book ‘Em: What would you say are your strengths as an author?
Colin Gee: Attention to factual detail and research. I have a vivid imagination, plus what seems to be a fortunate ability to bring the strings together at the right time. I am also extremely lucky.
Book ‘Em: How often do you write, and do you write using a strict routine?
Colin Gee: Three or four times a week, occasionally more if I am on a roll or on a deadline. I have no routine whatsoever, and will only write when I feel I can produce good stuff.
Book ‘Em: Five years from now, where do you see yourself as a writer?
Colin Gee: I would very much like to have a second equally successful series on people’s bookshelves. I should be retired by then, so hopefully a little more productive than the one book a year I presently produce. Paying less than the 40% tax I presently pay on my royalties too! Dream position would be if the books were picked up for a tv show or film. Many of my fans hope that HBO will take RG for their very own, but I think it’s too much for them. They might cherry-pick a character or two.
Book ‘Em: If you could offer one piece of advice to a novice writer, what would it be?
Colin Gee: Not to be dissuaded from your path. To listen to advice but make your own decisions based on your gut feeling.
Book ‘Em: What would you consider the best compliment a reader could give your book?
Colin Gee: I had it on more than one occasion. Given what I set out to do, reader’s regard for the ex SS soldiers was very satisfying, but a message I received from a US serviceman made me understand that I had achieved my primary aim. He messaged me asking how I could write a piece of combat in which he, as a former US Army officer, could possibly be rooting for the Soviet soldiers in a fight with his compatriots. He was the first of a number of similar messages. I simply thought ‘my work here is done’.
Book ‘Em: Provide an excerpt of your writing that you would like to share with our members.
Colin Gee: The Red Gambit series of books is dedicated to my grandfather, the boss-fellah, Jack ‘Chalky’ White, Chief Petty Officer [Engine Room] RN, my de facto father until his untimely death from cancer in 1983, and a man who, along with many millions of others, participated in the epic of history that we know as World War Two.Thank you, for everything.
Their efforts and sacrifices made it possible for us to read of it, in freedom, today.
I could put a number of things that I love here, but I choose to place this, the dedication for my series. Thank you for asking me to do this and I hope it is of use.
My website is www.redgambitseries.com
I have an author’s page on Facebook as Colin Gee, and numerous FB groups that deal specifically with the series, starting at the main group, Red Gambit.
My books are available through Amazon and Createspace, under Colin Gee.