S.W. O’Connell is the author of the Yankee Doodle Spies series of action and espionage novels set during the American Revolutionary War. The author is a retired Army officer with over twenty years’ experience in a variety of intelligence-related assignments around the world. He is long time student of history and lover of the historical novel genre. So it was no surprise that he turned to that genre when he decided to write back in 2009. He lives in Virginia.
Found out more on Amazon.
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?
Because I failed as a publisher! Seriously, I used to publish a small history magazine. And I wrote some of the articles for it, which I thoroughly enjoyed. So, as I folded the “book” I made a mental note to self that if I ever got into the business again it would be as a writer.
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?
There are no perks that I can note, unless you count no social life, few friends and little fresh air. The demands are dedication to the work. Tedious hours at a computer screen (my penmanship is has led some to believe I am a doctor). Let’s see, what else. Bad golf scores, no travel. Little vacation and that with said laptop on lap. I spent the last previous two summers at the Outer Banks and got into the ocean once. Basically, you have to give it your all.
Which route did you take – traditional or self-published – and can you give us the nitty gritty low down on what’s that like?
I have been fortunate to have a traditional publisher. I did the usual internet searching for literary agents and found that to be an exercise in self-flagellation. Lots of work sending out queries, etc. very little feedback, even little negative. It’s mostly a void. I did connect with two, however. And I found them through people I knew who knew people. So although I haven’t done it, which probably means an aspiring writer should network with other authors, both in the real world as well as and virtual. The agents I hooked up with were really pumped at first but essentially kept me in a wait mode for two years. I did gain some feedback on my work, but it was painful.
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?
I think they just pretend I’m back in the Army and deployed somewhere around the globe. I do make time for meals and church, however. That buys some points!
Do your pets actually get their food on time or do they have to wait until you type just one more word?
I have a black Lab named Jeb. He gets fed on time. And it’s nice to have him lazing around but not disturbing the flow. And his “constitutionals” offer an excuse to take a break and stretch.
Are they actually still alive?
Yes! But not because of me… Seriously, the ideal situation is one-room efficiency in a three story walk up in Paris where you share the bathroom down the hall. No responsibilities but write.
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?
Ignore phones, enjoy cold food, I’d say.
What was the craziest or insane thing that happened to you in the book publishing process?
You mean besides even starting? Probably finding my publisher. I was coming up snake eyes after I parted with my second agent when a friend sent me an email. He had pitched his second book, a Cold War non-fiction piece to Twilight Times Books. When they informed him they only did novels (at the time), he mentioned my work on The Patriot Spy (the first novel in the Yankee Doodle Spies series). They said sure have him send it. The acceptance process was amazingly swift and painless. Did I mention surprising?
How about the social networks? Which ones do you believe help and which ones do you wish you could avoid?
I use Facebook, Blogspot and Twitter to, I think, good effect. I have a certain advantage. I write historic fiction on the Revolutionary War. Much of my social media content is based on that. So I am feeding folks historical facts and nuggets on the war’s people, places and things. And maybe twice a week I shamelessly hype my novels. But anyone who follows me on even one of those will expand his or her knowledge on this little understood and critical event in world history, and the people that lived it. I ‘ll take this opportunity to pitch them to your readers. My Facebook Page is called Yankee Doodle Spies. Detailed daily posts on the war’s events. With visuals. My Facebook Timeline is as S.W. O’Connell. I include some of the history but more current events related to the American Revolution. For example if there is an event upcoming at Mount Vernon, etc. I tweet as @SWOConnell – mostly shorter versions of the other stuff. My blog is called Yankee Doodle Spies and is on Blogger www.yankeedoodlespies.blogspot.com These are slightly richer articles about some aspect of the American Revolution or my writing.
Book sales. Don’t you just love them (or lack of)? How are you making the sales happen for you?
Chewing gum and spit, mostly. My publisher has a nice on-line campaign going for The Cavalier Spy. My first novel, The Patriot Spy, was reviewed in the US Army’s Military Corps Association (MICA) publication.
What is one thing you’d like to jump on the rooftop and scream about?
That people are reading books less and less. And the world we live in is proof of it.
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. Now…can you tell us what you love about being a published author and how all those things above doesn’t matter because it’s all part of the whole scheme of things and you wouldn’t have it any other way?
That’s a long but very easy question. I thirst to get the stories out. That’s all that matters. I get drunk on the stories: the ideas, the creating, the polishing, and the publishing. If even one person gets joy from the work, or learns from it or are inspired by it; then I have made a difference. How cool is that?