Author Interview with Randy O’Brien

About a month ago I posted on my Twitter asking for authors to come forward who might want to feature as part of my new series of interviews on my blog. I received a lot more responses than I ever thought I would and so decided to formulate some questions with some ques and send them all off and see what different responses I got back.

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This week is Randy O’Brien who last year had Gettysburg by Morning release in November. I’ll let Randy explain everything more in response to my questions below:

What is your book and what’s it about?

My book is called Gettysburg by Morning and was released in November of last year. There are over 200 documented cases of women who dressed as men to fight in the Civil War. In my novel, Eloise Jacobson takes her brother’s place in the Union Army. She interacts with Custer, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Mary Todd Lincoln, and works in the War room as a telegraph operator with Abraham Lincoln.

What made you want to write a book in the first place?

I read an article about women who dressed as men to fight on both sides during the Civil War. I checked to see if anyone had written a novel based on this idea and while there were a couple, with wives who dressed as a man to be with their husbands, and spies, there were no novels based on this idea. I thought, telling the story of a grunt soldier who was really a 17-year-old girl would be dramatic and poignant.

I’ve written my little stories since I was a pre-teen. I used to mow yards in the neighbourhood to make money so I could rent a typewriter and type my stories. I sent one to Rod Serling for his Night Gallery show, but he never read it. 

I was a radio news reporter and adjunct writing professor for over 40 years. I have several completed novels and screenplays, but this is only the second to see print. A “mystery” was published in 2007 by a small independent press that has since gone under. I’ve signed four options contracts with producers but no productions….yet.

What got you into writing?

For a career, I wrote scripts and articles for 40 years for different media and felt incredibly lucky to be able to pursue my passion for so long. I decided to write fiction for self-exploration and entertainment and am thoroughly enjoying it.

What was the biggest struggle when writing your book(s)?

Most of the ideas for Eloise’s journey came from research…journals, diaries, and memoirs of the soldiers which require a lot of time taken out of writing to make sure it is accurate. Part of the book was inspired by Shakespeare’s Coriolanus

Not every day is a good day for writing. Sometimes you’re in the flow and words come easily, but other days it’s a struggle.

What was the publishing process like?

It’s been good. I’ve bought ads and did a Goodreads giveaway. I’m still not sure if either were effective.

Once I’d sent it off to a publisher, the reading process took about a year. The publisher uses a panel of readers with the editor being the final arbiter. Histria and Addison and Highsmith have been very supportive and kind. My novel is one of two from their catalogue they nominated for the PEN Faulkner. Highly recommend.

What’s been your favourite thing about being a published author?

I’m humbled by people taking the time to read and review my work. All of the reviews at this point have been positive, but I know this book isn’t for everyone and many will be turned off by the violence, sex, and drama.

I usually have to have some tissues nearby when I finish the first draft. If I’m not weeping at the end I know I’ve got a lot to do in the rewrite.

Histria is a worldwide corporation with a wide range of authors, both fiction and nonfiction. I feel proud to be on the team.

If you could give advice to someone looking to write a book what would it be?

You’ll only find out if you have talent by doing. This is a learning-by-doing process, trial and error, and the only way to produce is to put your butt in a chair and do it.

I have a system for being productive on my blog. Also, I’ve been a member of a number of writing groups and they were all helpful. The writers will give you two things in a meeting: encouragement, which is helpful and needed, and more importantly what isn’t working. 

Where can you find Randy?

Pick up a copy of Randy’s book Gettysburg of Morning here.

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