Saturday, February 15, 2014

Straight from the Mouth of 'Deeds of a Colored Soldier during the Rebellion, Volume 1: From the Beginning to Chickamagua' F.W. Abel

F.W. Abel was born in the city of New York, long ago enough to have not even been a teenager at the beginning of the Civil War Centennial.  He escaped from Fordham University with a degree in psychology into the U.S. Army.  The army had him function as a psychologist for a while, until he escaped from that into “the real army” that is, the infantry.  After postings in Berlin, Tokyo and the southern United States, he left and became a junior executive in the insurance industry.  He now labors diligently for the American taxpayer as a federal bureaucrat.  He currently resides in a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C.  As many of the most important battles of the Civil war was fought within a relatively short distance, he has taken advantage and visited most of them, as well as several in the so-called “Western Theater.” 

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Thanks for letting us interrogate you!  Can you give us a go-for-the-gut answer as to why you wanted to be an author?

I read a lot, mostly history and for real pleasure, good (don’t be offended, but my local public library includes books of the “bodice-ripper” genre on this shelf) historical fiction.

While I certainly don’t include myself in the class of George MacDonald Fraser, Bernard Cornwell or Dewy Lambdin, I thought I could write a piece of historical fiction that, if not as good as theirs, at least not bad.

On the other hand, I also read authors like Christopher Moore, but don’t have near the imagination to write what he does.  Historical fiction is easy be comparison.  History has provided the plot line, and all the author has to is dramatize the dull parts and dress up the already dramatic parts.

If nothing else, sometimes writing it down is the only way to get the idea out of one’s head. 

Tell us (we won’t tell promise!) is it all it’s cracked up to be?  I mean what are the perks and what are the demands?

First, let me say I’m not a writer.  Beckett, Joyce – they’re writers.  I’m merely a story-teller.

But to make any kind of writing more than just a hobby (or therapy) takes some self-discipline.  I wrote by first two novels which becane, with much, much polishing, Deeds of a Colored Soldier during the Rebellion, Volume 1, when I was between jobs.  If I could turn out five fairly decent pages in a day, that, to me, was a successful day.

Of course, getting it published takes writing to a new level.  No matter how many times I go over it, I will miss something that requires editing, either just copy-editing or something to make what is clear in my own mind understandable to the reader.  So, friends who are willing to read my stuff and don’t pull any punches in their critiques are a godsend.

From there, we go to professional editors.  My publisher had two go over Deeds, and I appreciate the embarrassment they saved me because, remember, I wanted to write good fiction.

Then there is further polishing, to deadlines, because publishing is a business, not an art form.  My publisher is a delight, not demanding, but gently ensuring that I get things done in a timely fashion, and is gratifyingly enthusiastic and encouraging.

So, a person who writes as hobby has to be prepared for writing as a business, with all that entails, including criticism.

As for perks, well my book isn’t quite out yet.  However, I am of course expecting the standard rich and famous status when it does.
Which route did you take – traditional or self-published – and can you give us the nitty gritty low down on what’s that like?

Traditional.  It’s hard to break in.  (If you don’t believe me, I’ll show my inch-plus thick folder of rejection letters.)  Publishing is expensive, so just like Hollywood and Broadway, publishers would rather deal with known quantities rather than take the chance on discovering the “next new big thing.”

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. 

Tell us for real what your family feels about you spending so much time getting your book written, polished, edited, formatted, published, what have you?

Sometimes they get annoyed.  The writing can become obsessive.  This was especially true when I started my first novel, because it appeared to just be a hobby.  Remember, I started on it when I was between jobs.  However, my wife, Kathy, held things together financially and let me continue with it.  It’s no wonder the book is dedicated to her.

In writing your book, how did you deal with the phone ringing, your family needing dinner or your boss calling you saying you’re late?

I simply ignored them all.

What was the craziest or insane thing that happened to you in the book publishing process?

Nothing I can recall.  I guess my life is just dull.

How about the social networks?  Which ones do you believe help and which ones do you wish you could avoid?

I am a product of my generation, and so far, have managed to avoid them all.  However, I suppose that will have to change when the standard rich and FAMOUS kicks in.

Book sales.  Don’t you just love them (or lack of?)?  How are you making the sales happen for you?

Hasn’t happened yet.  But I’m willing to make someone “an offer they can’t refuse.

What is one thing you’d like to jump on the rooftop and scream about?

The present state of politics in these great United States.  I really want to go up on the roof and push a few pols off. 

Okay, too much sugar for you today!  Here’s a nice cup of Chamomile tea and come on over and sit under the cabana and watch the waves roll in.  

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