I now present to you my interview with author Greg Ahlgren:
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Any other advice for future authors?
That could be its own interview. First and foremost, find someone to edit and proofread your work. Those are two separate functions. And stay away from a spouse or the guy you play racquetball with on Thursday nights who says, "Sure, I'll look at it."
Along this same line is "Don't make mistakes." I really don't think that one has to do a whole lot of historical research to write a history based novel - but the one thing you can't do is screw it up. If you are not sure what time in the afternoon Chamberlain ran out of ammo at the Little Round Top, don't have him checking his watch and noticing that it says 3:30, because someone somewhere is going to say "Aha!"
I'd categorize it more as an interest in any type of history, since I'm a self-confessed history addict. I have only published two other books: Crime of the Century: The Lindbergh Kidnapping Hoax, which is a true-crime analysis, and The Medici Legacy, an international thriller based in part on the Japanese germ warfare experiments of World War II, specifically the notorious Unit 731 actions in, so although perhaps those two books aren't strictly "alternate history," they are both based on actual historical events. Of course, [laughing] detractors of my Crime of the Century analysis might very well characterize that book as alternate history.
What is your novel Prologue about?
But if you join these two versions, Powers' and the professor's, you are left with a theory in which Kennedy's assassination led directly to the demise of World Communism. The logical philosophical contra-positive is that had JFK lived, Communism would have survived and continued expanding. It seemed as though everyone else who has written a what-if-Kennedy-had-lived scenario has been compelled to describe some. And I've always liked challenging conventional wisdom.
How did you come up with the title?
Actually, I didn't. I have only written three books, and all three of my originally selected titles were recommended for change by the publishers. With three strikes aren't I supposed to be out? My original title for Prologue was The Intervention Project, since that is what my characters call their time-travel scheme. However, the publisher thought that title made the book sound like it belonged in the self-help section of a bookstore for addiction recovery. I had a friend who then suggested Prologue to History, or just Prologue. I went with the latter. Hey, who knows, under that theory maybe if I had kept the old title I'd be selling more copies now.
Who designed the cover?
It was designed by the original publisher. They came up with three or four possible covers and I had my friends vote on them. I abstained.
JFK surviving his assassination is a very popular point of divergence. Why do you think that is?
I am 59 years old. To my generation the JFK assassination is what theattack was to my parents, and what the 9/11 terrorist attacks were to my daughter. It is a reference point that benchmarks history. Prior to November 22, 1963 the U.S. was a different place - peaceful, confident, and smug. Assassinations were things that only happened in far away South American juntas, not in OUR obviously superior democracy.
changed all that. It may have been coincidental that racial unrest, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, the student protests, and the decade's social and gender upheaval, all happened after Dallas - but one from my generation will always be tempted to succumb to the nagging suspicion that November 22 was somehow causal - the proverbial watershed in American history - just like WWII and its social aftermath was for our parents.
For those reasons I think those of my generation who experienced that November weekend will always wonder - what if?
If you could have gone back in time at the same date as your characters, would you have tried changing anything?
Sure, why not? I guess after buying all the right lotto tickets (did they have them back then? Maybe not) I go to the Depository and shoot Oswald. Gotta' make sure there are no witnesses and I dummy up a good self-defense claim 'causewas frying people right and left back then and there is no guarantee I could get out of the building and away safely. Although it'd be ironic if Kennedy gets saved, and then got waxed the next year by Goldwater anyway, because Barry would not have pulled out of 'Nam.
Do you have any other projects you are working on?
I'm playing around with the 1960s again as a concept; I lived through it as a student. Maybe a comparison of those who went to fight and those who stayed and fought against the war. In my opinion they both acted honorably, and they both made sacrifices, although in our contemporary world with its polarized political extremes those two sides - those who went and those who refused - tend to be either glorified or vilified, depending on what side of the political spectrum the observer stands. But like I say, it is just a concept at this point.
What are you reading now?
I just finished Unpunished by Grasso and Wolf Hunt by Breit. Believe it or not, I do not own a Kindle or other e-reader, but my daughter has allegedly bought me the Kindle Fire for Christmas that has already shipped. When it arrives I am not sure what I will download first.
Those interested in learning more about Prologue can check out my review of the novel.