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Book Review ~~ I Jonathan by GWB Scott

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing   5 out of 5 quills    ~~  Book Review

A lovely, thoughtful writing about our civil war as seen through the eyes of the citizenry of Charleston, South Carolina. Scott artfully draws the rich opulent life of high society and then, in the blink of an eye, plunks the reader onto a mule driven cart sitting amongst slaves, freedmen, and blue collared working white men. Amidst fetes, balls, parties and parades the attack on Fort Sumter was a weak, half-hearted skirmish when  the South Carolina Militia artillery fired from shore on the Union garrison on April 12, 1861. It is generally taken as the beginning of the American Civil War even though Sumter fired on southern ships running the Union blockade months before.   The bombardment continued, off and on, all day, watched by many happy civilians.

One note Scott hit perfectly was that the people who befriended Jonathan (from Boston) and took him in, were traitors to what he considered his country (the North). How would he be able to reconcile this?  Yet, he lived most of his life in and around Charleston and all during the war years. 

This book is touted as fiction but the historical accuracy was breathtaking, with wonderful little tidbits from the deep dive this author did with his research. I think my favorite was the tale (and forgive me if I don’t get it exact) of a young man who was a fan of a popular and very talented pianist. Their friendship went on for years until the piano man joined the Confederate Army. As a farewell gift to his acolyte, he scribbled some numbers on a snippet of paper and pressed it into the young man’s hand. The song found its way from hand to hand until someone was able to make sense of the numbers on the page…and the rest is history.  It is what we now know as ‘Taps’, Played on military bases today and at military funerals.

I have one critique and that’s about the poor formatting. Writers!  Find your ‘Justify’ (margins) key and use it!  This will keep your right margin as crisp and clean as your left margin. This book had multi-syllable words that ended a line of text and hence defaulted to the next line of text. This left huge gaps in the right margin. The writer/editor should have taken the time to hyphenate these words rather than leave a ragged right margin.  The ‘Section’ page should have appeared on an odd numbered page (right side) and the chapter following should have been placed on the next odd numbered page. (Format a Novel

Readers do not need to be Civil War enthusiasts, or know much about it, to thoroughly enjoy this story. It is beautifully drawn with rich characters.  I highly recommend this book. 

Did you miss my Interview with George Scott?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: George Scott, November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
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Interview with author, George WB Scott (part 2)

Q. What first inspired you to write?

GS. I’ve always written, since elementary school. I won a contest in junior high school, and have always gotten good feedback from school writing. In ninth grade I showed a girl a story I wrote for another class, and she told me I wrote well. That made a big impression.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

GS. For “I Jonathan” I have always had the idea of a man out of place, seeing a culture with “new eyes.” I built a story around the historical events, and developed people, some based on historical figures, who would act the parts. One example of a history-based character is the captain of the blockade runner. He’s based on a real person.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

GS. Oh, yes. When I can work without interruption, I’m totally in the scene. My wife makes me eat.

Q. Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

GS. Yes, I’m working on a story about the Christianization of the Slavic people in Bohemia. History is pretty sketchy in that period, so the research is more based on culture, legends and traditions. It’s another clash of civilizations.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

GS. I had no direction when I went to college, and dropped out after one semester. Then I worked jobs in kitchens and landscaping for six years. One day I found myself literally digging a ditch, and realized I needed to focus. I went back to college and got a degree, and concentrated on my work, first in television news.
One job I had later involved driving a lot in the country where I listened to a station that played Country music from back in the 1950s and 1960s. This was the inspiration for a screenplay, “Big Sky Country,” written in 2001, and since then I’ve accepted that writing is something I need to do.
When my wife and I visited Charleston in 2000, I was inspired to try to build a story around what I learned about the war, and to go deeper into the “why” of the people who lived there then. I also wrote a childhood memoir in 2004, “Growing Up in Eden.”

George in the Low Country

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

GS. I think paper books will always be around. There is something tactile that is part of my reading experience. People growing up with portable electronic screens may be more comfortable with them, but I believe the printed page will always endure.

Q. What makes a writer great?

GS. I don’t know. Many of my favorite writers are not considered “great” by some, and I have no doubt that there are many, many great writers who never get published, and so will ever remain unknown.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

GS. It’s a thing you can hold. I can pick up a volume of my work and feel the weight of it, the sum of many hundreds of hours of work. But what it really means to me is a vehicle to convey ideas in a substantial form, one that takes hours to explore, and hopefully leaves the reader interested in the subjects it touches.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

GS. I could write nothing without my life experiences. Some people will like my work, and others who lived very different lives may not. A book can be a bridge of one’s experience to another.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

GS. We garden when we can. We ride bikes. I like to travel, to experience new places and learn their histories. And I like movies, though in 2020 I experience them at home instead of at a theater. Hopefully that will change soon.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

GS. My screenplay was Science Fiction, and I liked that. I’ve got a mystery in mind for another year, and also a series for younger readers.

Q. Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

GS. Be kinder, and forgive yourself.
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: George Scott, November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, February: Mike Lupica 
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Interview with author, George WB Scott

TS. George WB Scott is an East Tennessee video producer and videographer with a life-long interest in the causes and events of the Civil War. His years of research on this topic are the basis of a story of Jonathan’s personal journey through one of the most interesting and important regions of the South. Scott was born in Stuart, Florida, and is a cum laude graduate of Appalachian State University. He lives with his wife Mary Leidig in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? 

GS. I work in an office with many windows that looks out on our backyard. My wife shares the office with a desk next to mine. I write on an Apple Macbook Pro, which I use as a desktop computer. I have two large monitors and a wireless keyboard, which I also use for video editing as part of my business. Sometimes I take the laptop and keyboard to other locations when I need more privacy.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

GS. In the morning I drink at least three cups of coffee, and caffeinated like that I can burn up several pages in the morning. Sometimes when I am into a chapter or scene I write late into the night.
I keep a small notepad by my hand.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

GS. I’ve always thought of myself as a writer, but until my book was edited I didn’t realize what I didn’t know. For years I have kept a small notebook of random thoughts and musings which I have dipped into for my last novel, and I expect I will for the next one.

Review:  ”I know lots of people who call themselves writers who aren’t as good…Civil War Charleston, was a complex place of fiery secessionists and perplexed immigrants, African Americans both enslaved and free, sailors, soldiers, musicians and drunks, old veterans and young secessionists knew nothing of war but would learn about its horrors all too soon.” –Jack Neely, Executive Director of Knoxville History Project, journalist and author.

Q. What tools do you begin with? Legal pad, spiral notebook, pencils, fountain pen, or do you go right to your keyboard?

GS. I find I do much of my best thinking when I am doing some physical labor, such as yardwork or hiking. For my last novel I wrestled with how to craft a story into the historical timeline of the Civil War, and stressed over that for a long time. Finally I just sat at my computer and wrote one random scene, the chapter about the delivery of the CSS Hunley submarine. After that, I determined how the character came to that spot, and what happened afterwards.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

GS. I like to get a start after a cup of coffee in the morning, and write until I either have to get up and move around a bit, or when I reach the end of an event in the book. Afternoons are not usually as productive.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

GS. It’s like I have always heard from every writer I ever asked: write! Just write something, even if it’s a letter to an old friend, or a review of a movie. It’s easier to direct your writing to a bigger project once you have some “writing momentum.”

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

GS. Most characters are derived from people I know. Some I will sketch in as “placeholders,” until I can build a backstory that justifies the actions each is used for. In “I Jonathan,” for instance, I researched how Isabella could come to be where she was and in the condition she was in. The same goes for the policeman Kerry. William was a pretty stock character for Civil War books, but I have known people like him, and I enlarged him to be grander than reality, which was right for him.
Zeke is an adaptation from a man in an old Charles Kuralt “On the Road” episode.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

Part 2 of this wonderful interview will post Oct. 17th.  Please join us. 
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: George Scott, November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, February: Mike Lupica 
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!