Interview with Jim Douglas

What's the story behind your latest book?
First off, let me say right now that I make no claims to being a writer. Never was, had no desire to be one. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd ever do such a crazy thing as this. This started when I ran across an image of A. G. Happer in an antique shop. I collect Civil War soldier images and I always research the soldier. I want to know who he was, and where he lived. Did he survive the war? If so, what did he do after the war?
I started on Happer expecting the usual stuff, like a brief outline of his war record, his regiment, what battles if any was he in, maybe where he was from etc. The more I looked, the more I found. This could be interesting I thought. So I dug deeper, I started really pulling on that thread. Just when I was hot on the trail, everything stopped. On my first visit to Washington, Pennsylvania, I expected to find a bronze statue of Major Happer, or at least a plaque on the court house or something. After all, he practically built and developed the entire county. There was nothing. No one I talked to there had ever heard of the Major. Not the genealogy section of the library, which, ironically is named after an employee of the Major's; not the historical society The Lemoyne House, not Washington and Jefferson College. There was nothing to suggest that the Major ever was there. I found that very sad. This good and decent man should not be forgotten. That's when I decided to write this book.
What do your fans mean to you?
I don't think of people as fans. I think of people as just folks I'm having a conversation with. I guess if I have a style, it's that I'm not talking at people, I'm talking with people. I'm nobody special, I'm just a guy with a story to tell.
Who are your favorite authors?
Tom Clancy, Brad Thor, Harry Fanz, Allen C. Guelzo, and a score of other Civil War writers. I devour everything Civil War, but I have to say my overall favorite, although not Civil War related has to be the late, great Tom Clancy.
Describe your desk
I'm one of those weird people that keeps a neat desk. My desktop is usually empty. My entire family makes fun of me for being a neat freak and rightfully so.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in western Pennsylvania, and folks around here whether you are a common Joe or wealthy, are very down to earth. If you walk into a tavern, you might see a CEO sitting on a bar stool next to a construction worker having a conversation. Just look at the fans at a Steeler game. All races, colors, backgrounds, and customs all coming together to have fun. The only colors are black and gold. Western PA has always been an oasis of normal in a sea of crazy. This area has a way of keeping people grounded.
What do you read for pleasure?
When I need to step back from the War Between the States, I usually reach for either Tom Clancy, or Brad Thor.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Every day is a reset button. A new chance to get it right. A new chapter in the adventure of your life. That, and I smell the coffee.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
My wife got me a Kindle Fire for Christmas last year.
What are you working on next?
I have several projects in the works right now. All Civil War related, and all are something other than the usual stuff you see. I like stories that others don't tell. I like the human interest stories, I like to make readers say, "I didn't know that." I always research heavily to have all my facts straight. In the Civil War world, there is always discussion and disagreement between the "experts," so I always make sure I get it right, and can back it up.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Taking care of my family. That's job one. I'm a news junky, I have to keep up with what's going on. I get none of my news from the main stream media. I'm a serious student of the Civil War, and I read and study everything I can get my hands on that I think is serious writing. Some years ago I narrowed my focus down to the battle of Gettysburg and the Army of Northern Virginia. I also read lighter stuff to relax and just have fun. I also am a serious collector of Civil War artifacts.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Kind of a loaded question. To be honest, the first five favorites would all be Tom Clancy books starting with The Hunt For Red October. That one introduced me to many years of brilliant writing. Sadly at an end. Right now, I especially like the book by Allen C. Guelzo called Gettysburg, The Last Invasion. The man really knows his stuff, and he really has a way with words. I've heard him speak and when you read his books you can hear in your mind's ear his distinctive voice telling the story. Much as you can the great Shelby Foote.
Published 2015-06-28.
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