NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q – What about other topics you've not covered, such as the War of 1812, the French and Indian War, Custer's Last Stand, the Spanish American War, etc.?
A. I've talked about many of these topics with my publisher, and they've rejected them all, saying "they're not epic enough." I may not agree with their definition of "epic," but while I'm under contract to them, I pretty much have to go with those stories they're willing to print. Once my obligations are satisfied, then of course I can tackle any story I choose, and 1812 in particular is a good one. I understand that what Random House wants me to do is continue with the kinds of stories I've been doing, the "large-scale" stories from our military history. They feel I'm working in what has become a well-established genre, and their attitude is very much "if it ain' t broke, don't fix it." Hard to argue with that. And, at the end of the day, if they don't want to publish it, there's not much point in me writing it.
Q – Are there plans to make any more movies from your books?
A – Right now, nothing is actively in the works, though I do hear from Hollywood people from time to time. Many people don't realize the enormous cost involved in producing a film these days, which is why no film is being made based on The Last Full Measure. (Ted Turner spent $60 million-plus on "Gods and Generals", and lost a significant amount of money in the process.) I have no control at all over whether a film is ever produced from my book, and time will tell. Historical films in general (what some of Hollywood refer to as "costume dramas") have always been a difficult sell to Hollywood studios. Unless they can "jazz them up" with special effects, or add drama that has little to do with the actual historical event, many producers seem to believe that the American public won't spend their money on a ticket. I'd really rather not have any of my books turned into soap operas.
Q – How long does it take you to write a book?
A – Typically, I'm trying to complete a book every eighteen months or so. Each book requires about a year of research, and takes about six months of full-time writing to complete the manuscript. For the new Civil War series, due to the time constraints of the calendar for the Sesquicentennial (2011-2015) I've been under a one-book-per-year schedule. That's only possible since so much of the research overlaps from one book to the next.
Q – Why are you going back to the Civil War? The Korean War vets are getting older too, and they're hoping you'll tell that story.
A – I've received an enormous number of letters from Korea vets, wondering if I'll ever write that book. The answer definitely is "yes." But with the 150th anniversary of the Civil War beginning in 2011, my publisher understands that the audience for the Civil War stories will pay a lot of attention to that subject. For years, I've received critical comments from the Civil War audience, that I've neglected the "Western" theater of that war. That will change with the trilogy I intend to do on Shiloh and Vicksburg, Chattanooga, and the Sherman story in the Carolinas, which ends the war. I hope each book can be released around the 150th anniversaries of those events. With Shiloh and Vicksburg, so far so good.
Q – I found a mistake in one of your books. If I tell you about it, do you get offended?
A – Absolutely not. I deeply appreciate that people read my books so carefully that they catch errors, and are interested enough to let me know about it. Whether technical details or simple typos, we can correct the errors in subsequent printings of every book, and in the paperback versions. Mistakes do slip by, no matter how careful I am to "get it right." I deeply appreciate readers whose expertise in one particular area inspires them to set me straight on something I've gotten wrong.
Q – When I receive a response to my email to your web site, is that really you, or do you have a staff answering emails?
A – It's really me. Honest. Sometimes it takes me a long while to respond, depending on my travel or work schedule, but I respond as quickly as I can to every email, every question, and every compliment (or gripe – and there are a few). If I didn't want to hear from you, I wouldn't put the email link on the web site. Your input is enormously helpful to me, whether a simple compliment, or some issue that I need to address in the latest book. Plus, through those email contacts, I have received some magnificent research source material.
Q – Why does it take so long for a paperback version of your books to become available, once the hardcover is published?
A – That decision rests solely with my publisher. Typically, they wait from six months to a year to publish the paperback version of my books. They want the hardcover to have its opportunity to sell in the marketplace before they issue a "cheaper" version of the book. I've been told recently that the "mass-market" format, which is the cheapest version of each book, is being phased out, due to the e-book phenomenon, which has overwhelmed the paperback book market.
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