Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Book Publishing Secrets: Interview with F.W. Abel, author of 'Deeds of a Colored Soldier during the Rebellion, Volume 1: From the Beginning to Chickamagua'

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.
Deeds of a Colored Soldier during the Rebellion, Volume 1: From the Beginning to Chickamagua is a novel of the Civil War.  Written as a memoir as told to an interviewer more than thirty years after the war’s end, it traces the story of Jedediah Worth, a teenaged slave who becomes a soldier fighting for the Union and the freedom of his people.

At secession, although he vaguely realizes that the conflict started over the question of slavery, Jedediah regards Kentucky, and the South, as home.  When his master’s sons join the Confederate army, he and his friend Obie accompany them as their personal servants.  Eager to prove himself as a man, Jedediah runs ammunition and even rescues a wounded Confederate until, with Obie’s prodding, he comes to realize his valor should serve the cause of emancipation.  He escapes, meeting up with Samson, an enslaved African who becomes his life-long friend.

Jedediah and Samson travel hundreds of miles to Kansas, to join one of the few units of colored troops allowed to serve in the early part of the war, and participate in the first battle fought by colored troops, the victory at Island Mound.

Gaining confidence in his abilities, Jedediah becomes a non-commissioned officer, leading his men during the brutal, hand-to-hand combat at Milliken’s Bend, where the Confederate promise no quarter will be given to colored troops, and where he becomes the first colored soldier to be awarded the newly-created Medal of Honor.

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

Thank you for your time in answering our questions about getting published.  Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to become an author and pen this book?
Author: I recall a reviewer of the motion picture “Glory” as having stated it would have been interesting to know more about the African-American soldiers portrayed in the film, as it revolved around the story of their commanding officer.  “Glory” was an outstanding movie, but it gave the impression that the 54th Massachusetts Regiment was the first colored regiment to fight.  My novel kind of sets the record straight, and from the viewpoint of the enlisted men, the African-American soldiers who did the fighting.  Also, I was a pre-teen during the Civil War Centennial, and I read a number of young adult novels with that theme.  I essentially combined the two.

Is this your first book?
Author:  It is.
With this particular book, how did you publish – traditional, small press, Indie, etc. – and why did you choose this method?
Author:  I guess small press.  I’m still a novice when it comes to publishing and publishing terminology. 

Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey?  The pros and cons?
Author: The hardest, most discouraging part of writing for an audience was finding a publisher (my folder of rejection letters is pretty thick).  I am grateful to have found Twilight Times and genuinely appreciate publisher Lida Quillen’s enthusiasm, professionalism and support.  She turned what could have been something no more than a hobby into a product, if you will.  However, professional that she is, she had me write, edit and meet deadlines like a professional, never demanding but through her expectation for the success of a project important to us both.

What lessons do you feel you learned about your particular publishing journey and about the publishing industry as a whole?
Author: Authors should be aware that publishing is not only a business, it is an expensive one to run.  For that reason, publishers may be reluctant to take on a project by an unknown.  However, writers who want to become published authors can usually find a publishing house (or more than one) whose size and market are a fit.  It will take some research, and a thick skin for the criticism that even publishers that are a good fit might have.  After all, most of the down-side risk accrues to them.
Would you recommend this method of publishing to other authors?
Author: I feel that most good writers are good at writers, and the number of good writers that are also good at promotion is almost miniscule.  Maybe it is my bias, because I’m not a good promoter, but a publisher that shares your vision and enthusiasm for your work is “a pearl beyond price.”
What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
Author:  Write what you know, and if you don’t know, write what you read.
If a genre appeals to you, read it extensively.  After a while, you’ll begin to discern the quality work from the ordinary.  Try to emulate the quality.

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