Richard Adams and Why I Don’t Believe in “YA”

Richard Adams

Richard Adams, author of Watership Down, died this week. Although talking bunnies in the English countryside are a long way from the Crusades, he and I have (had?) at least one philosophy in common–“there are no such things as children’s books.”

I know it’s tacky and self-serving turning the loss of a writer into a discussion about my new book, Acre’s Bastard, but there’s a point to be made, so indulge me.

Watership Down, because it involves talking rabbits, is sometimes (very mistakenly) thought of as a children’s book. Adams’ point was that a book is a book. If you can read, then the book is for you. Now, to make this about me again, that’s one reason I intentionally avoided making the tale of Lucca and his adventures, “YA.” Yes, the hero is a young boy. Yes it’s an adventure story that anyone over the age of 14 or 15 can enjoy. That doesn’t mean it’s meant for a younger audience or that adults can’t enjoy it guilt-free.

In fact, one reason my former publishers at The Book Folks (blessings be upon them) turned this book down, is the fear that adults won’t read about a young boy, and younger readers will be appalled or offended by the violence and terror Lucca goes through. I don’t believe that. So far, my readers and reviewers haven’t either.

The fact is, a good story is a good story. Jim Hawkins, Luke Skywalker and Kim were young boys thrust into violent situations and thrilling adventures. Treasure Island and the lot were written for a general audience, before marketing people segregated the audience and school libraries were the final arbiters of what was appropriate reading material.

The recent violence in Aleppo only goes to show that children are often caught in wartime, and combatants don’t care what’s “appropriate for children.” That’s what Acre’s Bastard is about. Yes, it might not be for all young readers (although I’d have read it at 15.) That’s why I rejected the original title of “Acre’s Brat,” lest it entice those not ready to tackle the subject matter. You have to play fair with the audience, after all.

Richard Adam’s allegorical rabbits weren’t intended solely for a young audience, although it didn’t talk down to, or exclude them either. I hope the same is true of my book. I hope teen readers will thrill to Lucca’s adventures and identify with his spirit, and older audiences won’t be put off by the idea that it’s about a child so must be for younger audiences.

Acre’s Bastard is available for pre-order now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Chapters online. The Ebook will be available January 17, and the paperback February 8.

 

Family Letters Inspire Civil War Drama: Greg Seeley

Lately, my email has been filled with authors who’ve written Civil War dramas (henceforth to be referred to as Civil War 1.0, because I’ve got a bad feeling about this.) I’m a bit ambivalent about the time period, maybe because I’m Canadian and don’t really empathize too much with the South on this one. (I’ve heard all the arguments. Bite me.) At any rate, many of the authors have deep family connections to the event. Such a writer is Greg Seeley, whose new novel, “Henry’s Pride,” is here for your consideration.

greg-seeleyGreg Seeley was raised on a farm north of Afton, Iowa. He graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a major in history and received his Master’s degree from the University of Iowa. He is a retired certified public accountant and lives in Overland Park, Kansas with his wife Carolyn, a retired math teacher. Henry’s Pride is Greg’s first novel. He is also the author of
a book verse entitled The Horse Lawyer and other Poems.

So what’s Henry’s Pride all about?

Henry’s Pride is a wide-sweeping novel of the Civil War told from the perspective of two families, one from Minnesota and the other from Georgia. Henry Hancock is a Minnesota tenant farmer who reluctantly but dutifully goes to war to save the Union. Darius Morgan, the son of a Georgia plantation owner eagerly enlists in the Confederate army to save what he considers to be his rightful legacy. Other characters, whose stories are interwoven include Hamilton Stark, the cowardly yet vicious overseer from the Morgan plantation and Adam Kendrick, a gentle but dutiful southern soldier, who must keep his anti-slavery sentiments hidden. Meet also Joshua Gibbons, a Union chaplain and Hosea Billings the vindictive captain of guards at a Federal prison camp.

The story is told through the usual means of narrative and dialogue but also through numerous letters written back and forth between the characters expressing their loneliness, fear, pride, and other emotions associated with what the title character calls “the nation’s nasty business”. The story also portrays the devastating effect of war on soldiers and families alike – wounds both physical and mental as the characters deal with battle injuries and with what is now call PTSD. There is Jonas Hancock, Henry’s brother, who is injured and mustered out early in the war but continuously deals with haunting memories. There is Henry himself, tormented by reminders of what he has had to see and do. Henry’s Pride is a war novel that, in sense, is also an anti-war novel. Characters on both sides examine themselves and must decide whether or not their respective country’s objectives are worth the sacrifices they and thousands of others are called upon to make. Henry’s Pride is not about generals and military strategy or troop movements. It’s about ordinary soldiers and families each trying to find their way through the “madness” that is the Civil War.

What inspired the story? Where’d your passion for the topic come from?front-cover-thumbnail

My great-grandfather, Ira Seeley, served with an Iowa regiment in the Civil War. When I was still in elementary school, my grandmother would sometimes bring out letters he had written home, show them to me, and read me some of them. After college, I took the same letters and carefully typed a transcript of each one exactly as written.

Many years later, after I retired as a CPA, I thought about trying to reconstruct all of the unsaved letters that my great-grandmother might have written to her soldier husband and mesh them with the transcribed letters.  I soon determined the task to be nearly impossible given the time it would have taken for their letters to cross in the mail and the difficulty of determining which letters each would have received when writing to the other. At that point, I decided to write a novel of the period – a fictional account where I could weave into the story letters to and from my characters written in the style of the day.

What’s your favorite scene from the book?

I believe my favorite scene takes place after Henry Hancock has been mustered out of service and has returned home. The traumatized Henry, though of Methodist faith, seeks out a priest to take his confession and absolve him of the things he has had to do. The scene shows a certain depth of feeling shared even now by veterans of more recent wars. Though Henry was a hero of the Battle of Shiloh – even called ‘the Lion’ by his men, he is vulnerable. He is at the same time proud of his service to the country and guilt-ridden over the part he has played.

Where can people learn more about Henry’s Pride?

The book is available at Goodreads and as both an e-book and paperback edition at Amazon.com. For signed copies, contact me at Greg.Seeley@att.net.

Manhattan Before Hudson with Harald Johnson

I have mixed feelings about New York City, but there’s no argument it’s changed the world like few places before or since. Harald Johnson has tackled the history of the island of Manhattan in a series of novellas. The first Manhattan Novella: 1609, is out now.

Sometimes I feel like such an underachiever when I do these interviews. What’s the Harald Johnson story?

I invent a new career for myself every 7-10 years, like a memory-challenged

The author visioning his Manhattan story at the tip of the island he swam around.
The author visioning his Manhattan story at the tip of the island he swam around.

cicada. Over the past 40 years, I’ve been a magazine publisher, Hollywood art director, ad agency creative director, photographer/filmmaker, marketing consultant, and of course, a writer across all those trips around the sun. And recently, I’ve turned my focus back to something I’ve kept hidden for a long time: fiction writing. Oh, and did I mention I like to swim? A lot. Not only did I win that around-Manhattan swimming race mentioned here, but I continue to swim regularly as much as I can. So water and swimming are recurring themes in my life, and in my writing.

What’s the story behind Manhattan: 1609? And don’t say it’s about Manhattan in 1609 because that’ll just tick me off…..

If historical fiction is your thing, you might also want to check out my own novels, The Count of the Sahara and the newest, Acre’s Bastard.

 

 

Launch Event for Acre’s Bastard February 11th

My new novel, Acre's Bastard will be out in January of 2017 and available in all formats and online stores
My new novel, Acre’s Bastard will be out in January of 2017 and available in all formats and online stores

Join me February 11th, 2017 to launch Acre’s Bastard! I’ll be speaking at the Museums at Lisle Station, in Lisle, IL at 1 PM, on “Putting the Story in History,” Then I’ll be signing the first hot-off-the-presses copies of my new historical fiction novel.

If you can join us, click CONTACT on the right side of the screen and drop us a line.

 

 

Here’s the poster and the details:

Join us February 11th

 

 

 

Was Robin Hood Gay? We Ask NB Dixon

One of the most fun things about history is asking: “what if?”  That can cause all kinds of chaos. Additionally, there’s no quicker way to freak people out than to question the sexuality of a historical figure or at least portray them in some way different than the idealized picture of that person. There are fewer iconic characters than Robin Hood. So when you ask, “was Robin Hood gay?” You’re pretty much asking for trouble.

Yet, author NB Dixon has done just that. In a new series of Kindle novels, beginning with The Heir of Locksley, he (or she, cause we don’t know do we?) examines not only what we know about the legendary outlaw, but the relationships with his band of “Merry Men.”

Now, I could make jokes ( What, the emerald green tights weren’t a giveaway? Okay, sorry. I’m done acting like a 12 year old now.) but if Alexander the Great, Richard the Lion Heart and other historical figures haven’t already proven that having unconventional sexuality and being a badass aren’t mutually exclusive, I don’t know what will.

Tell us a little more about yourself. I notice you write incognito, so we don’t have a picture of you.

I’ve always loved history, and English history in particular. Trying to get in

Was Robin Hood Gay? Find out for yourself in this new novel, Heir of Locksley
Was Robin Hood really into Maid Marian? Find out for yourself in this new novel, Heir of Locksley

the minds of characters hundreds of years dead and portray how they would have thought and felt is what I love most about this type of fiction.

My parents gave me books as soon as I was able to hold one and so my love of literature was born. I’ve always had a taste for the dramatic, so Historical Fiction was perfect. It also means I get to indulge my love of Folklore and Medieval History.

My love affair with the Robin Hood legend began one day in a hidden corner of the school library and has extended into my adult life. I only hope I can convince my readers to love him as much as I do.

In a nutshell, what’s your book about?

Heir of Locksley is the first in a series chronicling the life of Robin Hood. While researching the legend, the thing that struck me most was the relationship between Robin Hood and his men. There is evidence to suggest that his sexuality was not as cut and dried as Hollywood would have us believe. Maid Marian does not even feature in the earliest tales. It was this bond between men that I chose to explore by means of a GLBT (or LGBT or however you want to arrange those letters where you live) theme.

A controversial take to be sure. Still, Robin Hood is one of my favorite stories as well. What is it about the legends and that time period you find so intriguing?

What I find most fascinating about this period is the odd mixture of honour and brutality that characterised it. Though I have to say, the sword fights are fun to write as well.

One of the abiding principles of this blog is, “swords are way cooler than guns,” so welcome aboard. What’s your favorite scene in the book?

It would be hard to pick a favourite scene, but I think the one where a young Robin takes part in an archery contest for the first time was particularly enjoyable to write.

Where can people find your book?

They can learn more about me and the books at my website, www.NBDixonauthor.com

You can find the book on Kindle at

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk