Last year, author Joel Blaine Kirkpatrick shared his top secret project with me. Until recently, I had to keep it locked in a steel volt, with a state-of-the-art alarm system, guard dogs, and armed security. You have no idea how difficult that was for me. Oh, the pressure! Now the project has been released and Joel is here to spill all the details.
For many of you, alternative history is likely an unfamiliar fiction genre. Unlike historical fiction, which is any fiction story set in the past, the alternative history genre takes a real historical event and gives it a little spin. Joel saw this unchartered territory as a challenge and dove right in. He has tackled the American Revolution in his new book When America Slew Her King.
Before we talk about the book, here’s the man behind the words:
A novelist with five published works–only four of his books are available in Kindle format.
Being a fierce supporter of independent and self-publishing, Joel straddles the fence quite well in the industry. He is the current Acquisitions Director for JournalStone Publishing, and is the first contact for authors wishing to be published in the traditional modes.
His motto, which he freely shares as terribly good advice–Authors should write for themselves, then share their work.
And here is the barest glimpse at the book:
Ready to learn more? On to a chat with Joel:
Why the American Revolution?
After my fourth novel, I wanted to experiment with Alternative History. A modest amount of research revealed that it has been riotously consumed by “what if the Nazis won the last World War” themes. I don’t believe that the genre should have lapsed into such lackluster fantasy; I wanted to enter it in the purest direction and actually remake a portion of time with as little modification as possible. I wanted a single event, and a single person’s action to suspend everything we had ever learned, but I wanted it all to be frighteningly plausible. This was so rich a period of danger, I almost left off inventing anything to help the story evolve.
All of my novels are about journeys of intense personal change. I pit characters against themselves, and in thinking about this theme I wondered who might have the greatest impact if they were suddenly opposite of themselves. Remaking someone well-known, even for an instant, had a crushing appeal about it. The Revolution gave me countless possibilities in players to target, but a deliciously small handful of towering figures who could have stopped time the way I wanted to stop it.
While the story is fiction, the ‘characters’ are real. This is an alternate take on history, which required you, as the author, to know a lot of detail about this time period. The amount of information is astounding and had to require endless hours of research. Tell us about your writing process. Did you do most of your research first or did you research facts as needed?
I hate to write while weeding out information that I don’t need, or cannot use. I target exactly what I desire to support the directions the story wants to move. However, this story was almost lined up too perfectly for me.
It quickly became only a search for people who were in position to enter as one of my characters. In that effort, I sometimes had trouble. Not everyone was connected as I hoped, for that reason there are literally hundreds who do not appear. I would work for hours to determine if a single person actually fit the story as it was developing. So, I would read and learn for about four days before ever including that person at all. Then, once they were established, I had to continue following their own history, to glean elements that could support their place in this story. In a few instances, my research led to a person with a more plausible thread in their own real history, so they became my focus instead of some other character.
This book is more like nonfiction than fiction. How did the writing process differ for you, as compared to your four previous novels?
Every person, but two, actually lived the life I described. I only changed their actions from that January morning in 1774. There is so little fiction in this that it is disturbing. This could have happened. As the story unfolded, I began to lose my sense of being an author, and actually felt at times like a mere reporter.
In truth, I hope that historians attack this to unravel it and prove it impossible. I believe that would be frustratingly more difficult than my job of writing it.
As I was reading, I felt exactly what you said about there being so little fiction that the story was disturbing. (Disturbing in the sense that it all could have happened exactly as you described.) I can see how you’d feel you were approaching the story more as a reporter than fiction author.
If you could spend the day with any character/person from your book, who would you choose and why?
Martha Washington. I believe we’ve only ever glimpsed the power of support she gave to her husband. It is very tenderly displayed in this story, but still the quality that best defines her within it.
When America Slew Her King is only available in hardcover, and will not be released as an ebook. Why?
I’m read electronically by thousands, who will never hear the delightful whisper of my pages when they turn. That de-evolution will never happen to this story. Books are too precious a commodity to continue separating their souls from their bodies.
This is a deeply personal desire of mine—to create a book that might last a hundred years.
My office/library has built-in shelves on all the walls. After I’d finished your book, I almost put it in the history section, rather than with the fiction. At that moment, I wondered what someone picking that book up two hundred years from now would think. It would be easy to mistake the story as a piece of history.
You work for a small publisher called Journalstone. Tell us about that.
I reviewed an author’s book over a year ago, not knowing he was building a publishing company. He appreciated my opinion of his work, and offered me a job. So, I read all the submissions to JournalStone Publishing now, and would never have dreamt that my own experience would turn that direction. I’ve had the pleasure of helping other author’s see their books in print, and that is tremendously gratifying. A real world job still claims my regular hours, but give JournalStone about twenty hours each week, just reading and managing their contests.
If you could go back to any time and place in history, where would you go and why?
I believe I would have put myself to sea with Magellan. It would be wonderful to feel the shuddering deck of a great ship in the grips of a storm. I was born four hundred thirty-five years too late.
What is your favorite…
color? Sea Blue
food? Yes, food is my favorite.
time of day/night? I love the twilight hours, or the very early hours of morning. I adore stillness and shadow, though I’m terribly afraid of the dark.
animal? Cats, then dogs. Line up all the rest according to size and that’s my list.
song? ‘Alleluia, Behold the Bridegroom’ a traditional Russian liturgical hymn from the thirteenth century. No one even knows who wrote it.
I had never heard of this song, so of course I had to hear it. Truly haunting! For those who’d like to listen, here it is on YouTube:
Describe yourself with one word or phrase.
What inspires you?
I have a smallish collection of very dear books—each over three hundred years old. It is quite possible, that I might have been the first reader in more than a century to turn all their pages. In my hands they come alive again, and those centuries fade to something meaningless. They are true time-travelers when open, existing in both the present and past.
Every book I’ve ever held, has inspired me.
Joel has a special site for When America Slew Her King, where you can learn more and read excerpts: www.whenamericaslewherking.com
You can buy the book from Lulu, the publisher: www.lulu.com/shop/joel-blaine-kirkpatrick/when-america-slew-her-king/hardcover/product-20099144.html.
And it will soon be available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
You can learn more about Joel and his other novels on his website: http://brownbrushbooks.com
And you can connect with Joel on Twitter: www.Twitter.com/JBKirkpat or @JBKirkpat
I hope you’ll take the time to join Joel in his writing world.
Thanks for reading.