Interview with John C. Bush

How did your background as a Southerner inform your writing?
My wife grew up in North Alabama. I grew up in Montgomery, 200 miles to the south and very different culturally. Montgomery is "Old South", the "Cradle of the Confederacy" where Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as President. During twelve years of public school and four years of college, I never heard a single word about Alabamans who fought for the Union. I knew nothing of this piece of history until I married into a family of Southern "patriots." What my own background brought to the writing of PATRIOTS AND REBELS was an appreciation for history and a love of the language. When you hear Mattie's voice in the novel you are hearing my Grandma Bush, whom I knew well. She died when I was in my teens and as a child I spent a good bit of time with her.
How did you come to write PATRIOTS AND REBELS?
The idea for this book was planted in my brain some 35 years ago, which is when my wife and I Iearned that her GG Grandfather, Tom Files, who was an Alabama native, had served in the UNION army. My first response to that news was, "There has to be a story in that if you could just find it!" I was busy with an active career and growing family, so that thought was filed away but kept presenting itself now and again as a gentle reminder. Such pursuit of the idea as I did took a genealogical form. Several years past, when I had a researcher get Tom Files war record for me from the National Archives. When he sent it to me he included a note" "Looks like there could be a book in this one!" That was the nudge I needed to start putting the story together, and it became a five year project, with PATRIOTS AND REBELS as the final result.
What obstacles did you face in writing PATRIOTS AND REBELS?
For starters, how does a man in his 70s create a believable voice for a fourteen year old girl? I did it (assuming I did) with a lot of help and advice from friends and editors, and by writing and rewriting and rewriting. Further, there was the challenge familiar to all writers of fiction of having my characters speak in their own language styles, but also be understandable to readers who are living 150 years later. I wanted to be as faithful as possible to the real events and history while making an interesting and entertaining but authentic story. From what people are saying, I guess I must have come close.
What is your writing style? What is your writing day like?
I've heard other writers say you should devote specific time every day to writing, or you should write some specific number of words every day. Not I. I write when I have something to write, which means that some days I don't write a single word and other days I may write for two or three or eight or ten or twelve hours. Which is not to say I'm neglecting the project. My mind is almost always working on the plot, the timeline or character development. Some of my most creative times comes when I'm driving along the Interstate. Not long ago I saw a meme on Facebook. It said there are two kinds of writers: architects and gardeners. Architects have all the details mapped out in advance. Gardeners scatter the seed and waits to see what comes up. I guess I must be a gardener.
Do you buy books? What kind have you been buying lately?
Do I buy buy books? The house is full of them. I count nine bookcases full, and a couple of those are double shelved -- books behind books. Most recently I've enjoyed Winston Groom's SHROUDS OF GLORY (yes, it's about the Civil War.) Simon Schama's ROUGH CROSSINGS: BRITAIN, THE SLAVES AND THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION. Tracy Thompson's THE NEW MIND OF THE SOUTH. And Breena Clark's RIVER, CROSS MY HEART. Oh, and there are books by friends in my writers group: LIKE A FOX and LIKE SHEEP by Judy Mitchell Rich, and DUTY DRIVEN: THE PLIGHT OF ALABAMA'S AFRICAN AMERICANS DURING THE CIVIL WAR by Peggy Allen Towns.
What do you read for pleasure?
In addition to those I just mentioned, I especially enjoy historical fiction, and I've read quite a bit of it. I especially enjoyed THE SECRETS OF MARY BOWSER by Lois Laveen, and Lalita Tademy's CANE RIVER. All of Michener, of course. Barbara Tuchman's THE FIRST SALUTE. One I wish every American would read in light of our current involvements with the Muslim world is James Reston, Jr.'s WARRIORS OF GOD: RICHARD THE LIONHEART AND SALADIN IN THE THIRD CRUSADE. That one, along with the Mary Bowser book are among my all-time favorites.
Describe your desk
"If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, what is an empty desk a sign on?" But I know where everything is, and if you lay a finger on a single bit of it ...!
What are you working on next?
I began work on a "prequel" to PATRIOTS, set in the American Revolution and featuring actual ancestors of the people in PATRIOTS, but I've put it aside for a while. It just wasn't quite perculating for me. I'm sure I'll get back to it someday. I've begun another which I describe as semi-historical fiction. It is about the experiences of distant relatives, too -- Jews from the Frisian Islands who immigrated to the Carolinas just before the Revolution, experienced a forced conversion to Christianity and abandonment by their sponsors to the colonies. It will be a tough story for an Anglo-Saxon Presbyterian to write, but I hope to bring it off.
Published 2015-07-27.
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Books by This Author

Patriots and Rebels
Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 79,640. Language: English. Published: July 24, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Historical » USA
PATRIOTS AND REBELS shines light on aspects of the Civil War largely neglected in historical fiction. It is told through the voices and experiences of Tom Files, a Union soldier from Alabama, and his fourteen year old daughter, Fannie, who survived the war at home with her mother and young sisters.