5-STAR Fantasy / Sci-Fi

Monday, February 10, 2014

Indie Author Interview: Walter Coffey

Indie Author Interview with Walter Coffey - Author of the Historical Non-Fiction The Civil War Months: A Month-by-Month Compendium of the War Between the States.

Walter Coffey is a graduate of both Joliet Junior College and Loyola University of Chicago. He has been studying the Civil War for nearly 25 years, and he is an award-winning author who has written numerous works about both the Civil War and American history.

Interview with Walter Coffey

Author Walter Coffey
Author Walter Coffey
Alan Kealey (Indie Author News): What is your (writing) background?
Walter Coffey: Writing is something that's always been a part of me, and something I've always had to do. I started out writing science-fiction, then switched over to American history when I was in college. I've written dozens of non-published short stories and articles. I've also published four novels, all suspense thrillers about a Union secret agent during the Civil War. Since then I've switched over to non-fiction with my latest book, The Civil War Months.

Who are your favorite writers, your favorite books, and who or what are your writing influences?
Wow, there's so many... regarding fiction, H.G. Wells inspired me to write science-fiction. As I got older, I became interested in the more socially conscious writers such as Frank Norris (McTeague is one of my favorites), F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby is a classic), and Sinclair Lewis (I still enjoy It Can't Happen Here). Civil War writers who have inspired me have been John Jakes (one of the most prolific history writers there is) and Owen Parry (his detective series is first-rate).
For non-fiction, there are lots of historians that I enjoy reading. Civil War writers include Bruce Catton, Shelby Foote, and James McPherson. American history writers include Arthur Schlesinger, Forrest McDonald, Eric Foner, Larry Schweikart, and Howard Zinn.

"Writing has been my favorite form of expression [...]"

When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?
In grade school, I think the 5th grade is when I first read H.G. Wells and was amazed by how creative his works were. I thought it would be fun if I could imagine such things and put them to paper. Writing has been my favorite form of expression ever since.

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, because I actually won a school competition for it! It was a sci-fi thriller called "Astro-Blast," and it was inspired by H.G. Wells's War of the Worlds. I can't remember what the prize was, but I do remember having my book's title broadcast over the school intercom. I thought that was pretty cool!

Tell us about your writing process. Do you have a writing routine?

Yes, I start at 6:00 a.m. every day (except Sunday). I work on my blog, newsletter, website, and researching future projects until 12:00 p.m. If I'm working on a specific book, that's my first priority. Then I start up again from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. (minus a dinner break).
The last thing I usually do before stopping at 8:00 is make a list of priorities that I want to tackle the next day. I generally don't take a day off. I work less hours on Sunday, but I work 7 days a week.

Please, describe your desk/workplace.
Not pretty! As hard as I try to be organized, my desk is usually littered with all kinds of history books that I'm using for research. I have a nice old-fashioned roll-top desk that houses my computer, and I always keep a notepad and pens handy in case an idea comes to mind. My desktop holds a dusty mini-bust of Lincoln that my mother found for me at a garage sale.

"The hardest part of writing is actually sitting down and doing it!"

What do you find easiest about writing? What's the hardest?
The easiest thing for me is the research. I love digging for facts in history books and reading old newspaper articles. I'm an avid note-taker; I can best understand what I'm trying to learn by writing it down, then reading it in my own hand.
The hardest part of writing is actually sitting down and doing it! There are times when I'd rather chew glass than actually force myself to sit in front of that computer at 6:00 a.m. I constantly think of other things I could do besides write, but it's only procrastination. Fighting through that makes the writing all the more rewarding.

What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The greatest joy is looking at a finished project with satisfaction (and a sigh of relief) that all my hard work produced a tangible result. I know so many people who try to be writers and tell me about ideas they have but never finish what they start. I also have lots of projects that I started but never finished. I get my greatest satisfaction in coming up with an idea and actually seeing it through to the end.

Walter, please tell us a little about your Historical Non-Fiction The Civil War Months.
My book is a one-stop shop for all things Civil War. It tells the entire story of the conflict in a month-by-month format. This allows readers to see not only the major events that shaped the course of the war, but also the obscure, behind-the-scenes events that were happening at the same time. For example, most people know about the Battle of Antietam (bloodiest single day in American history), but most don't know that the U.S. was also fighting the Sioux Indians in Minnesota at the same time. I put the events side-by-side so they're in the proper chronological context.

The Civil War Months (Walter Coffey)
Click to Read an Excerpt

What inspired you to write the book?
It started way back over 25 years ago when I first saw Ken Burns's documentary, The Civil War. The way in which the material was presented, and the fact that this nation was nearly cut in two was (and has been ever since) extremely fascinating to me. From that time I've always wanted to write about the war, but there are already thousands of books out there, so I needed to come up with a unique way of telling the story. That's how I came up with the month-by-month format.

Who do you see as your target audience and where can we buy the book?
My target audience includes anybody seeking a deeper understanding of the Civil War. It's not necessarily geared toward diehard Civil War buffs, although some who bought my book have expressed satisfaction with it.
I consider The Civil War Months to be a general reference guide to the conflict, so high school and college students would find it very useful in their studies of the war. One reviewer was gracious enough to say that my book should be on the shelf of every high school and university library.
The Civil War Months is available at all major online bookstores (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.). It is also available through my publisher at AuthorHouse.com. And readers can order autographed copies directly through my website at WalterCoffey.com/Purchase.html.

What makes your book special?
The month-by-month format. The narrative is presented from a chronological perspective, which I see as a merging of Ken Burns's The Civil War and E.B. Long's The Civil War Day by Day. I haven't seen any other Civil War books presented this way, and I've been fortunate enough to have received very positive feedback about it.

How would you describe the success of your book so far?
The book has gotten great reviews so far, for which I'm very grateful! I've also had good success in selling the book at Civil War reenactments and among organizations such as the Sons of Union Veterans, Sons of Confederate Veterans, and Civil War Round Tables. I'm beginning to focus more on marketing to increase online and bookstore sales, and I'd like to eventually get it stocked in libraries as well.

How long did it take it to write the book?
I started researching some 25 years ago. Gathering all the notes I'd taken, putting them into the chronological format, and actually writing the book took about 3 years.

"Never stop trying to learn, and never stop trying to improve your craft."

Can you give some advice for other Authors regarding the writing process?
Never stop trying to learn, and never stop trying to improve your craft. Remember that it's not just about writing... for me, it's also about researching and editing. That is, read, write, and rewrite!

Are you working on another book project? Can you tell us a little about it?
My next book will be out later this month. It's called The Reconstruction Years, and it picks up where The Civil War Months leaves off, except in a year-by-year format this time. This tells the tragic story of the war's aftermath, the restoration of the Union, and how the events of that era still resonate today.

Where do you see the book market in 5 or 10 years? Will there be only eBooks and will book stores disappear like record stores disappeared?
I think that eBooks will become the dominant force in the book market, but I don't think that bookstores will ever entirely disappear. There will always be people (myself included) who prefer reading an actual book, if only for nostalgic reasons, so I think there will always be a small niche for physical books and the stores that sell them.

What is your e-reading device of choice?
I prefer Amazon Kindle, but I still have a fondness for physical books. I'm still getting used to downloading books to a device!

Do you write full-time or do you have a day job? When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I recently quit my full-time day job, so I'm now trying to devote all my time to writing and marketing. My day job had prevented me from marketing my work in a way I would've liked, so I'm hoping that now I'll have more time to focus on that.
When I'm not writing, I'm spending time with my wife Gianna and our three dogs. We don't watch a lot of television, but we are addicted to "The Walking Dead!" I also love to cook, and hope to maybe someday write a cookbook if I can think of a good theme for it.

How can readers connect with you?
I can be contacted through my website at WalterCoffey.com. I'm also on Facebook (Walter Coffey or WalterCoffey.com), Twitter (@wltrcoffey), LinkedIn, Pinterest, and I can be contacted anytime via email at wltrcoffey@gmail.com.
Thank you very much for your time!

Thank you very much for the Interview, Walter.

About the Book The Civil War Months

The Civil War Months (Walter Coffey)
Click to Read an Excerpt
The Civil War obliterated America's past, along with many of the founders' visions of what America should be. Replacing those visions was the America that we have today. Any true understanding of America, both past and present, must include a specific understanding of this conflict.

This work, with a thought-provoking introduction exploring the true causes of the war, traces the entire story of the conflict in a concise monthly summary. In addition to all the major events that shaped the war, key facts that have disappeared from most mainstream texts are also included, such as:

- Both Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis lost young sons during the war
- The legendary Robert E. Lee faced intense southern criticism for military failures in the war's first year
- U.S. forces battled the Sioux Indians during the war, leading to the largest mass execution in American history
- A former Ohio congressman was banished to the South by Lincoln for opposing the war

Facts are explored and myths are exposed as the conflict is put in its proper chronological perspective. For anyone seeking a general resource guide to the seminal event in American history, this is essential reading.

- "[...] Walter Coffey states the facts but not in a dry or boring manner. He makes this book entertaining as well as educational. Walter Coffey dedicates one chapter to each month; in each chapter he supplies spurs and battles; he does this with precision. Civil War Months: A Month-by-Month Compendium of the War Between the States covers January 1861 through May 1865. This book should be in all high school and middle school libraries." - Reader Review

Links to the Book

Link to the Hardcover The Civil War Months with Excerpt on Amazon

Link to the Paperback The Civil War Months with Excerpt on Amazon

Link to the eBook The Civil War Months with Excerpt on Amazon