Bob O’Connor lives in Charles Town, West Virginia. He writes non-fiction and award-winning historical fiction set in the area, based on real historical figures. His first novel reached publication in 2006, and he is at work on his fifth one now.
Take a look at these titles: “The Perfect Steel Trap: Harpers Ferry 1859” dealing with John Brown; “The Virginian Who Might Have Saved Lincoln” about Ward Hill Lamon, a close friend of Lincoln’s; “Catesby: Eyewitness to the Civil War” introduced blacksmith Catesby, a slave to George Washington’s great grand nephew Lewis Washington; and most recently, “A House Divided Against Itself,” the story of the Culp brothers of Gettysburg. (Read my review here.) O’Connor brings a strong appreciation of history and a gift for storytelling to his fiction.
His non-fiction titles include “The U.S. Colored Troops at Andersonville Prison,” “Ranson, A Centennial History” and “The Life of Abraham Lincoln as President.” O’Connor finds little-known or under-distributed documentation and shares the find with readers.
While his website contains a lot of information about him, I had a few questions of my own for O’Connor. Join me on this brief interview.
Q. What was it about the Culp brothers' story that caused you to choose them for your book over other sets of brothers fighting on opposite sides?
A. They are a very rare case. Even though the expression "brothers fought against brother" is a common theme, and brothers did fight on opposite sides, but these two brothers fought against each other in two battles -- that is extremely rare.
Q. You told the story from a first person point-of-view most of the time. What advantage (or disadvantage) do you feel this gave you?
A. It let the characters each tell their own story. Since I had many of their letters (over 90 in total) I was able to get a good feel for what was bothering them and how they were handling the war situations.
Q. What contributed to your decision to use colloquial language in the book?
A. One of the characters was almost illiterate. He could not spell the same word the same way twice in the same sentence. I tried to show that throughout his sections.
Q. Did you write the story in total for one character at a time or for each character along the timeline before progressing to the next scene?
A. I wrote the story within the context of the timeline of their actions.
Q. As a researcher, do you have a favorite resource or does it vary for each book?
A. I go wherever the story takes me. For this book I used the Library of Congress, the National Archives, the Carlisle War College Research Center, the Adams County Historical Society to name a few.
Q. Have you selected your next project yet? What should readers be looking forward to in your next project?
A. My next project is a sequel to “Catesby: Eyewitness to the Civil War.” Many of my readers say this is their favorite book and are really excited about a sequel.