Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Guest post by F.W. Abel: The Story behind Writing and Publishing 'Deeds of a Colored Soldier during the Rebellion, Volume 1: From the Beginning to Chickamagua'

  I began writing the book when I was between jobs, partly to do something useful during what had turned into a very discouraging job search, and partly to see if I could actually write something as long and involved as a novel.

            To the adage of write what you know, I’ll add write what you read.  I read a lot, mostly history and for real pleasure, good historical fiction. Also, I was a pre-teen during the Civil War Centennial, and I read a number of young adult novels with that theme that included teen-aged soldiers.  As estimates of under-age soldiers in both armies during the Civil War range as high as 20 percent, such a novel would not have been historically inaccurate, an important consideration in historical fiction.

            I may have been naĆÆve, but I also figured that writing historical fiction might be a good genre to try, as history has provided the plot line, and all the author has to do is dramatize the dull parts and dress up the already dramatic parts.

            That being the case, I actually first wrote the novel as kind of a young adult adventure story, in the third person, as Jedediah Worth, Kansas Colored Volunteers.  A potential publisher said it really said little new about the Civil War, so I re-wrote it as kind of a first-person interview, which allowed much more scope for commentary by the main character.

            I wrote it linearly, with the narrative moving forward in time, without a formal outline, although I always knew where I was going.  Of course, then I had to go back several times and write in other actions and occurrences to make the story coherent and increase the dramatic tension.

            The novel is written in the style of George MacDonald Fraser’s The Flashman Papers, that is, by a fictional character as if he were actually a historical person.  

            Of course, getting it published was not easy.  I have a folder of rejection letters more than an inch thick, but I was lucky in that a friend of four decades, Scott O’Connell, published author of the Yankee Doodle Spies series, gave me an introduction to Lida Quillen, publisher of Twilight Times Books.

Purchase the book on Amazon / Twilight Times Books / B&N


F.W. Abel was born in New York.  His life-long fascination with the Civil War began during the Civil War Centennial, when he was ten years old.  After graduating from Fordham University, he served for eight years as an infantry officer in the U.S. Army and currently works for the federal government.  He lives in a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C., within a few hours’ drive of most of the Civil War’s eastern theater battlefields, where he has walked the same ground once trodden by heroes.

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