A. Writing a novel is much different from writing a story for a newspaper. As a newspaper reporter, you know you’ll be working on a story for a day, or maybe a few days, or maybe even a few weeks. But you know at the end of that time, your work will appear in print under your byline. (Or if the story doesn’t pan out, at least you know you’ll get paid for your time.) With novel writing, you don’t have those assurances. You work for months on end, not knowing for sure if your work will ever be published or if anyone will read it if it is. I think novel writing is a much tougher test of self discipline.
A. Actually, I wrote a book called Scouts’ Honor before I wrote The Politics of Barbecue. On my first attempt, I didn’t have any luck finding a publisher for Scouts’ Honor. But after I got The Politics of Barbecue published, I re-worked Scouts’ Honor and it was published last year.
A. In newspaper writing, you’ve always got editors who are monitoring your progress. This can be both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because editors keep you motivated and focused on meeting your deadlines. It can be a curse if you’ve got an editor who is always breathing down your neck and trying to micro-manage you. At least I’m told that can happen with some editors.
A. I typically write in the evenings after I get home from work. Usually, that only happens after quite a bit of procrastination. I’ll flip on the TV and spend a while surfing Facebook or reading news stories online before I ever get serious about writing. But once I do get serious, I tend to go on writing benders. I’m not a big believer in forcing myself to write every day because if I’m not feeling it, the work product isn’t going to be any good. But when I am feeling it, I don’t want to stop writing.
A. I’ve written with outlines and without outlines. For me, I think it’s helpful to have a general skeleton of what the story will look like before I start writing. However, I’ve never done an outline from start to finish for a novel. I just try to outline the first few chapters to get me started, then I make up the rest as I go along. I like not knowing how a story is going to end. Until I have to write the ending, of course.
A. “The Coal Torpedo” is a really dark story. Since the story is set right after the Civil War and concerns events that happened during the Civil War, I think a really slow, creepy whispered version of “Dixie” would have to be on the soundtrack. Maybe the same kind of treatment for “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” If I had to go with something modern, maybe “Bring Me to Life” by Evanescence. But even that might be too upbeat to fit this story.
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“The Coal Torpedo” by Blake Fontenay
The Civil War has just ended and historical figure Allan Pinkerton is in Washington, D.C. in the office of President Andrew Johnson on a mission to set wrongs right. But Johnson may have another agenda than the truth and – if Johnson has his way – the person responsible for the deaths of 1,700 American civilians may go unpunished.