My first short story was published in a national magazine Popular Dogs at age 14. Over the years, I have written and traditionally published in different genres and ventured into stage and screenplay writing with some awards and productions that include That’s The Spirit: A Haunting Comedy (produced stage play), The Great Mudbug War (produced stage and screenplay), Riders of the North Wind (award-winning unproduced screenplay), and The Swamp Dragon (award-winning unproduced screenplay). Traditionally published novels include YA fantasy The Swamp Dragon (Whiskey Creek Press 2011) and adult maritime historical novels Dark Waters (Salvo Press 2012) and Storm Warning (Fireship Press 2015) and adult political satire Ghost of a Chance (Mockingbird Lane Press 2017 and audiobook by Wordwooze 2021), the adult sci-fi first contact novel, The Cat Who Fell to Earth (Mockingbird Lane Press 2020), horror novel, The 13th Child (Sunbury Press 2020), and my most recent for 2021 is my first Western in e-book and audiobook by Wordwooze, Arizona Red Ghost. My most recent wins were in December 2018 with a science-based dystopian short story titled Caldera for Aftermath Magazine, a new online publication out of the Netherlands that had over 1,400 international entries, and finalist in the Chanticleer International Book Award for The 13th Child. Pen It! Publications is publishing my first YA fantasy book in a three-book series, Jerry Swift and Chiron’s Pride in 2023. In art, I do portraits on commission, wildlife paintings, illustrations and cartoons and am available for freelance work. Presently, my day jobs include substitute teaching for one county and in the summer, naturalist for Lost River State Park.
Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?
Writing showed up early. I started for my own pleasure at age 12. I like to write in several genres now—historical fiction, sci-fi, horror, fantasy, paranormal and have one Western. I like to write for adult and YA. Writers that influenced me include King, Koonz, Dick Francis, Michael and Jeff Shaara, and Michael Crichton.
What inspired you to start writing this book?
A rather strange story in itself. I have been involved for many years in the Civil War reenacting hobby. I left the combat version for living history where real history can be taught rather than just the spectacle of a battle. In living history, it tales research and a bit of acting talent to make a historical figure you choose to portray come to life for the public. The group I worked with was The Federal Generals Corps and I first portrayed cavalry general William Averill. The group we worked with in programs was Lee’s Lieutenants. It was not long before we noticed a rather strange and disturbing thing. Many of their members were all true believers in the “Lost Cause” and “State’s Rights” and in our programs out of Winchester, VA always did a debate of sorts on secession over “State’s Rights” that was highly politically charged. I decided to try a different character out of Civil War history and started research on slavery and the laws and got into maritime history, discovered the US Navy had a unit called the African Squadron stationed off East Africa to stop slavers from crossing the Atlantic and that the “States Rights” issue was just an excuse to continue slavery and spread it to new states. Growing up in a boating family and having sailed on a 107-foot schooner on a great working vacation I felt I’d have a good technical feel to bring it all to life. Deeper into the research, I discovered the true story of Nathaniel “Lucky Nat” Gordon who was the only slaver captured by the US Navy who was tried and hung for piracy due to an old 1820s law that declared slavers to be pirates and hung if found guilty. That Naval officer who chased down and captured him at sea with over 900 captives in his hold, was Commander Sylvanius Gordon who later served on the blockade, so I decided to bring this new character to our next debate. I brought up the issue of slavery and my mission to catch slavers into the debate program when they started their “States Rights” subject and put Lee’s Lieutenants in a bit of shock by this hidden history, our army members joined in, the audience loved it and “States Rights” and secession was cut off at the pass. So, the research for that persona and the true story of “Lucky Nat” were behind this book.
Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?
This book was originally published by a different publisher under the title of Storm Warning, but, dropped just before the pandemic due to the soft cover not selling for six months, which to me was bogus. They said they would keep going with the e-book. Turned out they lied. Found that out when I did a search. All rights were returned and I took over a year to find a new traditional publisher. We changed the cover and title. We went through over 30 ideas for a title and settled on Lucky Nat; Justice for a Slaver. “Lucky Nat” was Nathaniel Gordon’s nick name due to 3 successful voyages and never getting caught by the US or British African Squadrons.
If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?
Old sea shanties and just about anything from Pirates of the Caribbean.
Describe your dream book cover.
Anything that hints at the story within, and NO AI renderings allowed.
What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?
I am not a full-time novelist though very prolific and use only small and medium traditional publishers. I also write short stories, stage, and screen plays some of which have won awards and been produced. My day jobs include substitute teaching and in summer, I am the naturalist for a state park.
What books did you read (for research or comfort) throughout your writing process?
If I’m writing historical fiction based on fact, I read non-fiction accounts and in the case of this book, I added reading articles on the controversial trial in the era’s New York Times newspaper that covered every aspect of the trial. For comfort reading I will choose anything in the genres I write in by any of my favorite authors.
What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?
The willingness of facing some tough parts of our history and some enjoyment of the sea chase and courtroom drama that puts the flesh on the bones of history in the multiple character style of the Shaaras. This book has only just come out and has earned 5 stars. The publisher and I know it will be banned by Florida and other states that want this part of history buried, but feel it is a good selling point.
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