When creating the outline for Hero of the Republic, I knew I wanted to start the main character in OTS, or Officer Training School. Garrett Heskan was already a full lieutenant (and ship captain to boot) at the start of This Corner of the Universe and I thought it would be interesting and different to begin Caden Twist right at the beginning of his military career. Shortly after that decision, I quickly decided to place Caden into the same OTS class as Denise Gables. Anyone who has read the first series knows the running joke about how Gables is the one character that will always survive, regardless of the odds. In that series, she is pretty much the opposite of a red shirt in Star Trek. I even had Caden encounter Denise very briefly in OTS (and advance the mystique of her indestructibility during it).
Given that I was writing HOTR inside an already established timeline in the early part of the first series, I knew that the Battle of Sponde was coming up. It offered a very fascinating opportunity to insert Caden into that battle but have his experience and attitude be very different from that of Garrett Heskan’s during the same time. The danger, however, was I couldn’t rewrite history. Everything that happens in HOTR during the battle could not conflict with anything from the original series.
Fortunately, there were two Brevic fleets participating in the Battle of Sponde and that gave me just enough leeway to create an interesting (hopefully) story while still remaining faithful to the canon created in the Heskan-focused books. I tried my absolute best to keep the facts of the battle identical. Missiles fired, fighters launched (and lost), ships destroyed should all be exactly the same. In fact, in the missile attack against Task Group 2.2, a command cruiser takes a Hollaran missile hit in the very first wave in No Way to Start a War (Book 2 of the original series), which ends up being a pivotal sequence aboard Lochaber for Caden Twist in Hero of the Republic. Even the dialogue between fleet admirals is the same.
What’s different are the attitudes and takeaways by Caden Twist when compared to Garrett Heskan. Besides being able to tell a new story from inside the battle (the fate of Twist and Lochaber), I really enjoyed writing how Twist’s belief and faith in the Republic makes him leave the battle with a very different attitude than Heskan did in No Way to Start a War. Since the reader (most likely) sees the battle from both points of view (Twist’s and Heskan’s), I hope it gives the reader a chuckle at how the same event can be interpreted so differently depending on your perspective.
The other main function Sponde serves is to introduce Twist to Garrett Heskan and begin a long and twisting relationship between these two characters. This relationship will be an important one going into Across the Blue Line for reasons obvious at the end of HOTR.
When writing Sponde, I had to go back to old notes from NWTSAW to ensure accuracy before writing the battle from Lochaber’s perspective. Below is the actual missile attack between TG 2.2 and the Hollaran Main Fleet. I was trying to figure out how long it would take Twist to inspect the damage from the first missile hit. I also drew up a very crude organizational chart for Lochaber although it doesn’t appear in the book because I knew that the ship would only appear in the first part of the book.