10 March 2018

Guest Post by John Bell, Author of The Circumstantial Enemy: An astounding, based-on-true-events WW2 thriller

Available on Amazon UK, Amazon US

On the wrong side of war, there is more than one enemy… When Croatia becomes a Nazi puppet state in 1941, carefree young pilot Tony Babic finds himself forcibly aligned with Hitler’s Luftwaffe. Unbeknownst to Tony, his sweetheart Katarina and best friend Goran have taken the side of the opposing communist partisans. The threesome are soon to discover that love and friendship will not circumvent this war’s ideals.

“If you don’t write it, Grandad’s story will be lost forever.” My daughter had said this to me almost 20 years ago. I still remember the yearning in her eyes. Grandad was 80 at the time. The family had heard his war stories repeatedly. Harrowing tales of tribulations. As a young air force pilot, he was coerced onto the wrong side of WWII with the German invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941. 

The Germans dispatched him to the Russian front – from there to scouting the Adriatic Sea where he would parachute into the frigid waters with 3 bullets lodged in his body – after that, unsanitary Italian hospitals, North African detention centers, and finally POW camps in Illinois and Louisiana where he would spend the rest of the war. His troubles were far from over. Upon repatriation, he became an enemy of the state in Tito’s newly-created communist regime. 

The circumstance for nodding to my daughter’s request for a biography was compelling. Following months of research and interviews with Grandad, I self-published enough copies for the family and a few generations to come. I thought I was done with writing. But then another circumstance hit me in the solar plexus. My career as a corporate CEO of a Fortune 500 organization came to a sudden end with the sale of the company. 

On my back as I bailed from the corner office was another type of parachute, a golden one. Though financially secure, I was too young to retire; I decided to reinvent myself as a corporate strategy consultant. With that career shift came plenty of travel and lonely nights in hotel rooms.

How would I use all of that down-time? I began blogging about leadership, strategy, and branding on my website CEOafterlife.com – pumping out weekly blogs. Three years and 150 blogs later, I thought back to Grandad’s story. Could I fictionalize it into a thrilling novel? Maybe. After penning a few chapters of what would become The Circumstantial Enemy

I was struck by my naivety. I knew zilch about fiction-writing. I didn’t write another word for a year having thrown myself into self-help books on how to write fiction. My next mistake was penning a manuscript of 225k words. People said it was too long; I cut it back to 180k. Then another 200 pages went into landfill before literary agent Eric Nelson agreed to help.

Though Eric loved the story, he thought I needed better structure and focus. He also said he was shifting his own focus to the lucrative business book market. I said that I could write a business book for him. Nine months later, Do Less Better: ThePower of Strategic Sacrifice in a Complex World was released by Palgrave Macmillan USA.

Do Less Better was an easy transition from blogging. Writing fiction was not. Composing historical fiction was to become the biggest challenge of my professional life. I had the first draft of The Circumstantial Enemy complete in 2 years. I needed another 3 years for rewriting and editing as well as checking the historical facts and all those little details of the 1940s that had to be error-free. And then there was another 3 years of fine-tuning while I tried to persuade bona-fide publishers to take on the project. In the end, my persistence paid off.

Twenty-four years have passed since I left the corner office. It seems like half that long. Much has changed, including me. Somehow, I reinvented myself. Transformation is never easy. Reinvention never happens without passion, determination and hard work. At 71, I am a rookie historical novelist. More importantly, I’m just another an everyday guy getting out of life what he’s putting into it.

John Bell
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About the Author
John R. Bell was born in Chigwell, UK and now resides in British Columbia, Canada. Before becoming an author of business books and historical fiction, he was a CEO, global strategy consultant, and a director of several private, public, and not-for-profit organizations. A prolific blogger, John's musings on strategy, leadership, and branding have appeared in various journals such as Fortune, Forbes and ceoafterlife.com. His business book, Do Less Better. The Power of Strategic Sacrifice in a Complex World was published in 2014 by Palgrave Macmillan USA. His historical novel, The Circumstantial Enemy was released by Endeavour Press UK in 2017. Find out more at John's website www.ceoafterlife.com and find him on Facebook and Twitter @JohnRichardBell

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