Interview with J Jeffrey "Snailpace" Philbrick

What is your e-reading device of choice?
Actually, I'm a primitive. When I'm not reading off a dead tree I do most of my reading on by desk top computer where I write my tomes. The closest I come to using any sort of e-reading device would be my I phone.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Actually, I just got into e-publishing. So, I'll have the answer to that question once I've floundered around in deep waters for a while.
Describe your desk
It's a big old brown formica top behemoth that I picked up at the dump. It takes up about one quarter of my tiny little office. On occasion I get to see a small section of the top when I clear away some of the clutter to make room for a plate when I eat a snack while doing research for my next book.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in the small beach resort town of Orleans on Cape Cod during the late 1950s, early 1960s. At that time there where less than 3,000 year round residents which swelled to over 12,000 in the summer season. I grew up with my mom, dad and four brothers in a very old full Cape house built c 1815 about 1/2 mile from Skaket Beach near Cape Cod Bay. For many years our family owned and operated a clam shack at Nauset Beach on the Atlantic Ocean side of town. All us boys spent our summers working at the clam shack but still found time to do what kids do at the beach and in the woods around our home. My family had three acres of woods behind the house and that was my playground. Scouting was also a very big influence to a small town boy like myself that exposed me to camping, hiking, backpacking and other outdoor activities. Because my parents where too busy running a business to keep an eye on my younger brother and I, we where shipped off to spend the whole summer at the local Boy Scout camp. Three of my brothers achieved the Eagle rank but I quite the troop before getting Eagle to join the Sea Scouts because a good friend told me they did backpacking trips. I had my very first encounter with the Appalachian Trail on a backpacking trip with the Sea Scouts. If anything has influenced my writing on outdoor themes I would have to say growing up near the ocean, playing in the woods and Scouting.
When did you first start writing?
After spending 30 years in the restaurant business and 18 years as a self-employed residential carpenter writing is a new "career" for me. Over the past few years the residential housing market has grown very soft and there was plenty of free time for other thing like "writing". Actually, I view what I do as more along the lines of research and compiling data that I organize and record.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Over the past 15 years I've done quite a bit of section hiking different portions of the Appalachian Trail in GA, NC, and VA either with the Scouts, with my two sons, or on my own. I only did a couple of sections a year which involved long drives, trying to find safe parking, and expensive shuttle service to the trailhead. When the price of gas quadrupled I hit on the idea of getting to the AT using public transportation. I did some online research and found there was very little information available on accessing the Trail via public transportation. Knowing that an estimated 2 to 4 million people hike some portion of the Trail every year (thats a very broad estimate and no one knows the exact figure) I figured there would be a market for comprehensive information about the subject beyond my own personal use.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
The motivation comes from my older brother Richard who has already published six e-books. My original intention was to publish the old fashion way but he educated me on the advantages of being an indie author.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
We'll have to wait and see.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Actually, writing is more of a chore than a joy. I sometimes think I'm more tired after a day of writing than framing a house. My greatest joy will be getting out on the Appalachian Trail and encountering a fellow hiker using one of my guides.
What are you working on next?
A while ago I was going to do a section hike near Damascus, VA with another adult buddy I knew from Scouts. Seeing as I was in charge of the troop outdoor program I was put in charge of planning that hike. While doing some online research I stumbled on the fact that the Iron Mountain Trail, that goes East out of Damascus, was the original route of the Appalachian Trail from the 1930s. That portion of the AT was relocated to the South in the early 70s and the old portion of the AT was re-blazed and re-named and still had three of the original trail shelters still standing too. The idea that a section of the original AT still existed (only under another name) and was open for hiking got my interest. I started researching online to see if other old sections of the AT still existed for hiking. I discovered that large portions of the trail have been relocated in TN, VA, PA, and about half the Trail in ME. Eventually, that research lead me to online archives of vintage out of print USGS maps stored at several university libraries and at the US Geological Survey. I down loaded a full set of old maps and started comparing them with current hiking maps. I was able to discover quite a few existing sections of the former old AT route open to hiking and even went out and hiked a few of them in VA to see what condition they where in. My next project is titled "A Hikers Guide to the Old Appalachian Trail."
Who are your favorite authors?
I mainly like to read non fiction and history. But, when I do read fiction I tend to enjoy authors with a humorous bend. I have enjoyed Mark Twain, Bill Bryson, Thomas Berger, and George MacDonald Fraser.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The need to use the toilet and to eat, but, not necessarily in that order.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Work of course. But when it's my fee time I like to be out in the woods or hiking a trail.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
No. When it comes to stories I'm a verbal guy. I have a reputation for telling great campfire stories. Besides memory and plot development that craft is very free form and involves intonation, timing, and some acting. Writing is static.
What is your writing process?
Research, organize, write, re-write, spell check, publish.
What do your fans mean to you?
As in any business customer support is crucial and the writing business is no exception. I'm new at writing and what I have written is nonfiction related to the Appalachian Trail. I know there are many "fans" of the Trail and it would be great if those lovers of the Trail would become fans of my work.
What do you read for pleasure?
I mostly read nonfiction which is generally history. I also enjoy historical fiction and detective novels.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
No. But I do remember reading Thomas Berger's "Little Big Man". That's when it dawned on me that the foundation of a great narrative is the "voice" of the narrator. The hook of the story was the intonation of the speaking voice of the main character Jack Crabb, the implausible 104 year old only white survivor of the Little Big Horn. It was just like hearing someone tell a campfire story. Mark Twain does the same thing in Huckleberry Finn but Berger was the guy who made me notice it.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Ebooks are a new thing for me. When I decided to publish some guides related to the Appalachian Trail my older brother Richard, who has published several ebooks, introduced me to ebooks and epublishing. I have downloaded several public domain ebooks for research purposes but I don't generally use ebooks for my personal enjoyment.
How do you approach cover design?
I hire that out. When I was a young man I got some good advice from my father who was a shrewd business man. He told me that I might be good at a few things, and maybe even good at a lot of things, but nobody is good at everything. Know what you're good at then find the guys that are good at what they do and hire them to do what you know you are not good at.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
I like reading nonfiction, history, and historical novels which might be very uninteresting to many people. Several books I have enjoyed are:
1. "Seeds of Change: Six Plants that Changed Mankind" by Henry Hobhouse.
The title covers the content of the book which are a series of essays. Hobhouse disclaims on the influence of horticulture on history.
2. "Indian Givers: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World" by Jack Weatherford.
The title covers the content of the book with each chapter disclosing the influence of american indian culture on the shaping of world history in general. The book was my first exposure to the huge impact of Columbus' discovery of the New World and the importance of the Columbian Exchange in the shaping of subsequent world history.
3. "The Forgotten Soldier" by Guy Sajer.
A memoir of the exploits of a French teenager who enlists in the German Army in WWII and is shipped to the Russian Front. It is a vivid account of the brutal combat that took place there. Sajer claims that it is a true firsthand account, but, there is some controversy as to the accuracy and authenticity of Sajer's work. Even so, it's a good read.
4. "Little Big Man" by Thomas Berger.
A comic novel recounted by Jack Crabb, the 104 year old only white survivor of the Little Big Horn. Crabb is captured and raised by the Cheyenne indians as a child and throughout the story he switches residence between the Red and White world. There is a full cast of colorful stereotypical western characters he encounters from noble to not so noble savages, a medicine show charlatan, gunslingers, lawmen, gamblers, mule skinners, to the blustering self-deluded George Armstrong Custer who Crabb tricks into self destruction at the Last Stand. The book underscores who where the true savages of the wild west.
5. "Arundel" and "Rabbel in Arms" by Kenneth Roberts.
I've cheated by chosing two of Roberts books for #5. But, any of his historical novels are excellent entertainment. His writing style is slightly dated as they where written in the 1930s and 40s. The novels cover the period of the American revolution and tend to rehabilitate unpopular persons and causes. The key character in the two novels I've mentioned involve the American officer and later traitor Benedict Arnold in his expedition to capture Quebec (Arundel) and the Saratoga campaign (Rabble in Arms).
Published 2014-09-11.
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Books by This Author

Philbrick's Appalachian Trail Public Transportation Guide, Complete Edition: Georgia to Maine
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 67,210. Language: English. Published: June 1, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » Sports & outdoor recreation » Hiking, Nonfiction » Transportation » Public Transportation
Want to hike the A.T. but need help getting there and back? Now there's a public transportation guide with comprehensive, detailed, and practical information to help any hiker get to or from just about any spot on the Trail by bus, plane, train, and dial-a-ride. Newly revised and current. The only public transportation guide available anywhere for thru-hikers, section hikers, or weekend warriors.