Today I am honored to share with you a guest post by Bob O'Connor, author of the Civil War novel A House Divided Against Itself.
It is often said of fiction writers that we don’t have to do any research because we can make everything up. I do not operate that way. I spend months and sometimes years gathering information from individual soldier’s military records, personal letters, regimental histories and the like to gather information I need. I find undiscovered “nuggets” in military records, diaries, etc. I build my story around that information.
When I write I actually add footnotes. That allows me to go back at any time and check figures or specific information. I delete all the footnotes on the final draft before the book is published.
In my novel A House Divided Against Itself, I follow the story of four Gettysburg characters through the Civil War. The book is based on a true story. I know what happened.
A historian asked recently why I spend all that time researching and then write fiction. The answer is complicated. First and foremost, fiction gives me creative license that I would not have with non-fiction. Secondly, it allows me to fill in holes in the story. Thirdly, it is much more fun to write fiction. And finally, more people purchase and read fiction than non-fiction.
My information is based on the record. As an example, Jack talks about the accidental killing of John Colehouse from Company F, the 87th Pennsylvania Infantry. That incident is described in detail in one of Jack’s letters to his mother.
I talk of the 2nd Pennsylvania Infantry re-enlisting after their 90-day enlistments were finished. But Nicholas Codori, one of their friends from Gettysburg, did not re-enlist. I know that because I read Nicholas’ service record.
A House Divided Against Itself is a mostly true novel. I try hard to make the story interesting and believable. Many historians cannot tell when I am telling the truth and when I am making something up.
Bob O’Connor, a native of Illinois who now lives near Harpers Ferry, WV, has been a life-long student of both the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln. As a 7th grader he attended the Centennial of the Lincoln Douglas debates at Galesburg, Illinois. One year later he portrayed Lincoln in his school play. Today he is the author of six Civil War era books. His subjects are Abraham Lincoln’s bodyguard, John Brown the abolitionist, the U.S. Colored Troops and brothers fighting against brothers.
O’Connor’s books (two non-fiction and four historical fiction) depict real people and real events. His research has uncovered a never before published drawing of the hanging of John Brown and a complete 500 page unpublished manuscript written by Lincoln’s bodyguard. He has made over 500 appearances in 18 states and the District of Columbia in the last six years to talk about his books.
A House Divided Against Itself is available on line at www.boboconnorbooks.com or at amazon.com. It is also available on all e-book formats.