I dreamed about writing even before I realized that was my dream. As a quiet child and more than a bit of a loner, I could entertain myself for hours telling stories. Since no one else would listen in those days and my natural shyness precluded my telling others, I would create them for myself. So today to have my stories—both the true (historical) and the fabricated—printed into books read by others is very gratifying.
My first love—writing wise—is fiction. Crafting a story that captures the imagination is a magical thing. Building characters that take on lives of their own has a power that is impossible to measure. Imagine creating a James Bond or a Nancy Drew. Such characters often become more famous than their authors.
I also have an abiding fascination with history. The perils and depredations suffered by our ancestors in molding the world we inhabit moves the spirit deeply. Making these people and events come to life is a challenge not to be taken lightly. I believe that history is as much about relationships and settings as dates, facts and events. Events and dates are important, but as David Milch remarked about his show, “Deadwood,” people don’t live dates and facts, they live stories. I endeavor to bring real people to life by painting their experiences and the folks they shared them with while sticking to thoroughly researched facts. I look to build a body of work that both enlightens and entertains the reader. The characters should seem real and readers should walk away feeling as if they had just bade farewell to a lifelong friend once the cover closes on the final word.
I remember the thrill I got upon having my first writing assignment returned in English 101 at Anderson College. Dr. Brena Walker handed me the paper, looked down to where I sat, smiled and said, “you write very well.” Funny how the smallest gust of wind can push your boat in a certain direction. It took a number of years before I gained the drive required to propel me into the writing life and, as any writer can attest, the setbacks and dues paying nearly halted this before it was realized.
Nonetheless I became more serious about writing in the late 1990s when I wrote the first draft of a book that remains unfinished. A while later, probably a year or so, I began working on what would become “In Due Time.” Many unsuccessful attempts at obtaining an agent were then followed by pursuing smaller presses that did not require the intervention of an agent. As someone with no track record and no agent to advocate for me, I had about given up hope on this book before finding a home for it at White Feather Press.
In the meantime, I had discovered a collection of letters from the War for Southern Independence (okay, “Civil War” for those who have never bothered to look up the definition of a civil war) residing in the archives at Duke University. The Robert Boyd family was loosely connected with one of my own family lines and as I researched these letters, I discovered a rich story of what war can do not only to individuals, but also to families and communities. So I embarked on a quest I had not previously considered, writing a history book. What started as little more than plans to share these letters through publication grew into a full blown biography of these soldiers with all the information I could garner on them. Going through fifty years of church records, local, family and regimental histories and combing through cemeteries, even going so far as sitting on the ground next to a worn stone and tracing my fingers along the indistinguishable letters and dates until I finally made out the words and life spans.
So like a flood of blessings, the contract with McFarland Publishers for the publication of “The Boys of Diamond Hill” was signed about two weeks after I signed the contract with White Feather Press for “In Due Time” and they were released six months apart.
A Gold Medal for History from the Military Writers Society of America and a book that resides in libraries all over the world led me to believe I may have a talent for this and opened the door for my next book, “Georgia Remembers Gettysburg.” Where the road leads is anybody’s guess, but I will make that journey along with my wife and you the readers by my side.