The Great War-No, the First One- With Jeffrey K Walker

Every historical fiction fan has their pet periods. I will confess (and this is probably the Canadian in me- it was a seminal event in Canadian history and we were literally knee deep in it pretty much from day one. Plus, find one current world mess that doesn’t intersect with it somewhere) the First World War is a real obsession. So, when I find other writers working in that period it’s a happy day in my world. Enter Jeffrey K Walker, and his new novel, “None of Us the Same.”

Jeffrey is an impressive cat, and I’m looking forward to reading the book.

Jeffrey K Walker, author of the Sweet Wine of Youth trilogy and None of Us the Same.

JEFFREY K. WALKER is a Midwesterner, born in what was once the Glass Container Capital of the World. A retired military officer, he served in Bosnia and Afghanistan, planned the Kosovo air campaign and ran a State Department program in Baghdad. He’s been shelled, rocketed and sniped by various groups, all with bad aim. He’s lived in ten states and three foreign countries, managing to get degrees from Harvard and Georgetown along the way. An attorney and professor, he taught legal history at Georgetown, law of war at William & Mary and criminal and international law while an assistant dean at St. John’s. He’s been a contributor on NPR and a speaker at federal judicial conferences. He dotes on his wife, with whom he lives in Virginia, and his children, who are spread across the United States. Jeffrey has never been beaten at Whack-a-Mole.

I’ll put my doting on my wife up against his any day of the year. Other than that, he is just a better man than me in pretty much every way, which is incredibly annoying. That said, I still summoned enough self-esteem to ask him some questions.

In a nutshell, what’s the book about?

The book tracks the experiences during and after the First World War of three main characters. Deirdre Brannigan, who adds new meaning to ‘headstrong,’ is an Irish nurse from working-class Dublin, while affable Jack Oakley and complicated Will Parsons are childhood pals from St. John’s who enlist in the Newfoundland Regiment the day it’s formed in August, 1914. Deirdre joins a military nursing service after her father and brother hit the beach at Gallipoli. All three of their paths cross at Deirdre’s field hospital the first day of the Somme. Each of them suffers terrible and varied trauma from the war. The second half of the book returns to Newfoundland as they come to a reckoning with their self-pity, addictions, and emotional devastation. A big part of the healing process involves overlapping romantic and business relationships, not all of them entirely legal.

What is it about that time period or character that intrigued you and motivated you to write about it?

Well, Deirdre Brannigan is, in hindsight, an unconscious and dead-on composite of all the strong Irish-American women I grew up with—mother, aunts, grandmother, great aunts and cousins. Write what you know, right? I’ve been attracted to the First World War since I was a kid, much more so than World War II, which may sound odd coming from an American. The Great War was the first full-blown industrialized conflict fought by the world’s greatest economic powers with enormous conscript armies and rapidly evolving technologies. What no one really foresaw was the unimaginable level of violence, that if we could mass produce Model T’s and light bulbs, we could also mass produce death and destruction. Since at its heart None of Us the Same is about how war changes everyone and everything, World War I dovetailed nicely in my mind. Of course it’s also the centenary of the War, which we Americans just started commemorating 6 April 2017, being Johnny-come-lately as we were.

The other reason is, well, because I’m a coward. I wanted to write about the very timely subject of returning from the devastation of war—think Iraq and Afghanistan—but couldn’t quite bring myself to set the story present day. Besides the current over-politicized narrative around those two ongoing conflicts, I got the creeping sense I was appropriating the stories of these young men and women much too soon after the fact. As a retired Air Force officer, I was keenly sensitive to this. On the other hand, this also makes None of Us the Same historical fiction that deals with very contemporary issues.

Without giving away spoilers, what’s your favorite scene or event in the book?

Wow, tough question—and I know every writer has that same reaction, having created so many darlings, after all. I’m partial to the very first scene, set in Deirdre’s charity hospital where she’s dealing with a young trainee’s rather unique problem with, shall we say, man parts. The scene is interrupted by the rising peal of church bells all across Dublin as the declaration of war is announced. There are three scenes throughout the book set at a lighthouse kept by Jack’s uncle that were a guilty pleasure to write, the Newfoundland seacoast being so remarkably beautiful. There’s a scene early in the book when the pals meet their new company sergeant-major that’s a wry twist on the crusty old drill sergeant and all of my early readers loved Sergeant-Major Pilmore. Later in the book, there’s a fine (and pivotal) scene along the waterfront during “fish making”—the production of salt cod which was the economic mainstay of Newfoundland until the fisheries collapsed in 1992, ending 500 years of tradition.

But if I had to pick, I’d say my favorite scene is Will’s experience on the first day of the Somme. You can’t make up a more atrocious battle scene than the reality of the Somme on 1 July 1917. The British had 20,000 men killed just that morning, the Newfoundland Regiment suffering over 90% dead, wounded or missing. It’s almost unimaginable at a macro level, so I tried to show the abject horror of that day through one young man’s experience. And it’s plenty horrible, believe me. (If I can butt in, I’d put it up against the battle of Passchendaele where nearly half the dead drowned in mud…. but why pick nits?)

Where can people find you and your book?

I’d welcome them first and foremost at Sign up to receive my latest news and I’ll happily send you a fun piece on sayings that originated during the Great War. Many fans have read it and said, “I didn’t know that!”

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None of Us the Same is available on Amazon at



From Roses to Tudors-Samantha Wilcoxson

Readers of historical fiction tend to gravitate to certain periods. There are huge clumps of writers and readers fascinated by The US Civil War, World War 2, and One of the hottest trends the last little on both TV, the movies, and novels has been the Tudor period. Cable TV is littered with torn bodices. I will confess somewhat ashamedly, I have somehow missed the boat. If sheer numbers are any indication, there are a lot of people out there who find that time more fascinating than I do.

Enter Samantha Wilcoxson, and her Plantagenet Embers trilogy. The latest installment, Queen of Martyrs is now out.

Samantha, you and I are both members of the Historical Novel Society (join us on Facebook here). What else should we know?

Samantha Wilcoxson

I’m the author of the Plantagenet Embers Trilogy. An incurable bibliophile and sufferer of wanderlust, I live in Michigan with my husband and three teenagers.

Three teenagers? That explains your obsession with family blood-letting and intrigue. What’s Queen of Martyrs about?

Queen of Martyrs is biographical fiction that transports the reader into the life of Mary Tudor. The story begins with her receiving the news of Margaret Pole’s execution in 1541 and follows her through the rest of her life as she struggles as a bastardized princess who finally becomes queen. My objective was to humanize the woman that many people today dismiss as ‘Bloody Mary’. There is so much more to her character, and many of the ‘facts’ people believe about her are no more than myths. My research made it shockingly easy to find sympathy for Queen Mary I.

As England’s first queen regnant, Mary faced many challenges, which she was, quite frankly, unprepared for. She failed to realize how great the outcry would be against her choice of Prince Philip of Spain as a husband. She did not recognize the great religious changes that were taking place throughout the world and that could not be ignored or reversed. Mary was a devout, caring woman, but she was no politician. In this intimate portrayal of her, readers are invited to enter her world, share her heartbreaks and victories, and gain understanding of this complex sixteenth century woman.

I confess I’ve kind of missed the whole Plantagenet/Tudor thing. What’s your fascination with this period?

Some readers might be surprised to discover that the Tudor era is not my first love. It was the Wars of the Roses that captivated my attention, but I was looking for a new angle that had not already been written about. That was how I began with Elizabeth of York in Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen. I had not planned a trilogy, but the story of the York remnant unfolded in front of me, ending with Reginald Pole at Mary’s side in Queen of Martyrs.

The fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries are interesting not only due to political upheaval, but the impact of religious changes that forced people throughout Europe to evolve in their thinking and way of life. The heavy influence of faith on daily life is difficult to wrap the modern mind around, but that is just what I appreciate about studying the medieval and reformation eras.

Without giving away the good bits, what’s your favorite scene in the book?

One of my favorite scenes in Queen of Martyrs takes place during the reign of Edward VI. This was a turbulent time for Mary as she watched the country she loved falling into heresy. At that point, she had no reason to believe that she would become queen. She was her brother’s legal heir, but he was much younger. In this scene, Mary has the opportunity to escape England with the help of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. This is when Mary decides that she must remain in England and do what she must to save her brother and all Englishmen, though she may be forced to pay the ultimate price.

It is a great misconception that Mary’s attempt at counter-reformation was based on bitterness or a need for revenge. Mary truly believed that she was doing what was necessary to ensure that her people enjoyed eternal life in heaven, and I think this scene gives readers a poignant view of Mary’s true motivations.

Where can people learn more about your work?

The best place to find me is on my blog. I also invite everyone to follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Instagram. Besides bookish news, I share a wide variety of history articles and images of historic places that I visit. I love to share my tendency toward bibliophilia and wanderlust with friends!

My books are available in paperback and on Kindle on Amazon. They are also free with Kindle Unlimited!


Duty in the Cause of Liberty with Charles Frye

The American Revolution is truly one of the seminal events in world history, and while I get insane amounts of fun tweaking people about being a Loyalist and seeing it from the Canadian side, there’s no doubt of its importance. Oh, and the right side won. That leads us to “The War has Begun,” by Charles E Frye, the first book in his quadrology. (Is that a thing? Let’s assume it is)

So what’s the Charlie Frye story?

author and polymath Charles E Frye, author of The War has Begun

I am a geographer, cartographer, information scientist, and U.S. Army veteran. However, I studied architecture for three years prior to discovering geography, and I am still fascinated with architectural history and the design of the built environment. I have read books by the dozens every year since I could read. For fun, I still read fantasy and historical fiction. I decided I wanted to be a professional baseball player when I was five years old, and while I grew out of that, I have always enjoyed watching baseball, and am an Angels fan now. For the past fifteen years, my hobbies have included genealogy, reading about the history of the American Revolutionary War, and researching Isaac Frye’s story. I have been a member of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) for twelve years, and a member of George Washington’s Lifeguard, which the unit my chapter portrays in re-enactments, living history events, and parades—it definitely helped to know how to walk a mile in those shoes, including how to fire a musket and study the manual of arms. I was born in Ohio, and spent significant time in Missouri and Kansas. I am married and have three sons and a daughter, and for twenty-three years have lived and worked in southern California.

Re-enactors fascinate me (and freak me out a little) because of the depth of their passion for the topic. What is the story of The War Has Begun (besides the obvious, that the war had begun?)

The War has Begun is the first of four books about Major Isaac Frye in the American Revolution. He is a farmer, husband, father, and minuteman from Wilton, NH. So, why write about him? Wasn’t everybody a farmer and minuteman in those days? In New Hampshire, it was roughly one in five men. What makes Isaac different is that he served for the entire war as an officer, starting on day one, through to being in the last unit disbanded. No one else from New Hampshire did that, and nobody from any other colony, other than Massachusetts could have. To me, that was a story worth learning about and telling.

I called the series of four books Duty in the Cause of Liberty because as a veteran I know a little of what that means, but Isaac Frye and the men he served with fought to establish something that none of them could describe fully, even while their lives were at stake as they fought for it. As I watched our country go about its daily business remaining largely oblivious to the recent wars, I wondered how many of those people would sacrifice anything if their country called upon them. By the time I completed my research on Isaac, and saw the magnitude of what he, his family, and his town sacrificed; I felt strongly compelled to tell his story and hopefully convey some of why he may have done what he did. The story begins as he responds immediately to the Lexington and Concord alarm on April 19, 1775 and serves as an officer in the American army. His descendant’s oral history oral history included his words as he left: “The war has begun, I must be going.” Isaac fights in the Battle of Breeds Hill, and after the siege of Boston ends, marches to New York City, where he stays only a short time before ordered to Quebec. After retreating with the sick and nearly starving army from Quebec, his regiment is one of several that establish and construct Camp Independence during the latter months of 1776. The next book in the series will take up the story starting in early 1777.

What is it about this particular story that appealed to you?

As I started the research, I was stunned to find so many records were preserved, particularly compared the next hundred and fifty years. In part, it was due to Isaac being an officer, which meant he was named in many records pertaining to his regiments, and responsible for producing some of those records. I am a geographer and cartographer, so it was second nature for me to decide to map Isaac’s timeline during the war using a geographic information system (GIS). This allowed me to organize hundreds of records pinpointing Isaac’s location nearly a thousand times.

To make that geographic timeline, I needed a detailed map of America from 1775 to 1784. I spent several years compiling that from primary source documents—this allowed me to locate Isaac. Modern maps would not work because we have changed the names of towns and landforms, dammed rivers, drained swamps, and built highways and railroads. I needed a map that showed all the places that mattered during the Revolutionary War. The map is available online, and shows the path Isaac took during this book:

All that research and time, what’s your favorite scene in the book?

I have always liked reading battle scenes, so the Battle of Bunker Hill is my “default” choice. However, the scenes near the end about Josiah Parker, the son of Isaac’s neighbor, were the most satisfying to write in terms of what motivated me to write this book. Those scenes stem from a letter Isaac’s wife Elizabeth wrote to him in the fall of 1776. It took both genealogical research and a little bit of luck to find a corroborating account that brought all the details together. That letter, combined with determining who Isaac’s neighbors were, held the keys to understanding some of how Wilton suffered and operated as a community during the war.

Where can people learn more about the book series and your work?