Historians have often asked, “What if the South had won at the Battle of Gettysburg?—what if, indeed?
1865: The South has won The Civil War; Robert E. Lee is President of the Confederate States of America; and Abraham Lincoln is paralyzed and a fugitive, protected by remnants of the defeated Union Army after being shot in the spine when Washington was sacked by the Rebels. Slavery is legal and has penetrated all sectors of the land that was once the United States of America. John Wilkes Booth, Nathan Bedford Forrest, and The Pinkertons all play a pivotal role in the shaping of the now permanently divided nation. Set in the oil boom area of Northwest Pennsylvania, THE LAST BEST HOPE follows the lives of Captain Ezekiel Edwards, Chastity Stottish, and others deeply impacted in the aftermath of both stunning victory and shameful defeat in a sweeping drama of romance, adventure, and hope for a better tomorrow.
What is your name, where were you born and where do you live now?
My name is David Parrott, and I live in DuBois, Pennsylvania, USA.
Did you always want to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
I have wanted to write novels since I was in high school. I started my first attempts at the process in my early college years.
When did you first consider yourself as a "writer"?
I think I began to think of myself as a writer when I first got a contract with a literary agent.
Did it take a long time to get your first book published?
Yes. I had some contact with agents and publishers, but did not sell any work. I decided to self- publish a story after I had been writing for about ten years or so.
Do you work another job as well as your writing work?
I used to run my own small construction business, doing carpentry and house painting. Because the market for that work “slowed down” in the winter, I could usually do a draft of a novel each year in the winter.
What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarise it in less than 20 words what would you say?
A story about a different ending to the American Civil War – the South wins, and slavery returns to the North.
Who is your publisher? or do you self publish?
I still have a few books for sale as a self published author, but this story is being published by Alan and Goldie Browning of Storyteller Publishing
Do you have a "lucky charm" or "lucky routine" you follow when waiting for your book to be accepted by a publisher?
How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
I can write a draft of a story quite quickly, usually a few months. Then I give it to readers and rewrite it several times. Typically I would say this is about a three year process.
Which of your books were easier/harder to write than the others?
I wrote a humorous mystery about the death of a weather predicting groundhog. It only took a few months to write, and was for sale almost immediately. The more involved stories which I have been writing require a lengthy research and revision process.
What can we expect from you in the future? ie More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
I am still interested in historical fiction – with a twist. But I am currently working on an apocalypse novel which combines elements of science fiction and religious views of “the end times.”
Do you have plans for a new book? Is this book part of a series?
It would be part of a trilogy – similar in some ways to the work of JRR Tolkein.
What genre would you place your books into?
Usually historical fiction – or “alternate history.”
What made you decide to write that genre of book?
My degree is in church history, and I felt like often the story of an event could be told better with a fictional narrative rather than a straight factual account.
Do you have a favourite out of the books you have written? If so why is it your favourite?
This is like trying to choose which of my children I like best – they are all different (my books, that is) and have their pros and cons.
Do you have a favourite character from your books? and why are they your favourite?
My detective in my story The Curious Case of Punxsy Phil is a talking beaver - similar in some ways to Winnie-the-Pooh, or Mr. Mole from The Wind in the Willows. I think I like him because like Pooh Bear he keeps at it in spite of difficulties.
If you had to choose to be one of your characters in your book/books which would you be? and why?
I would like to be John Wilkes Booth, the villain in my Civil War story. He gets all the girls!
How long have you been writing?, and who or what inspired you to write?
I’ve been writing for about twenty years. Great novels and stories by Tolkein, C.S. Lewis, and the American novelists John D. MacDonald and Taylor Caldwell were inspirations.
Where do you get your book plot ideas from?What/Who is your inspiration?
I think my inspiration comes from time spent researching – either the past, or the future.
Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? ie You listen to music, sit in a certain chair?
I do typically try to have on music that relates to my theme. I listened to American folk music while writing The Last Best Hope.
Do you have anybody read your books and give you reviews before you officially release them?ie. Your partner, children, friends, reviewers you know?
My sister is an avid reader and teaches English compositon. I also give drafts of stories to a small circle of friends. Quite a bit of my rewriting relates to comments from these readers.
Do you gift books to readers to do reviews?
Do you read all the reviews of your book/books?
What was the toughest/best review you have ever had?
The best review I have had so far was in a newspaper Sunday edition – the reviewer loved the humor of my animal based mystery.
Would you ever ask a reviewer to change their review if it was not all positive about your book/books?
No. I think you have to take the good with the bad. I think in some senses “there is no such thing as bad publicity.” I can think of exceptions to that, but in general I think it is true.
How do you come up with the Title and Cover Designs for your book/books?Who designed the Cover of your books?
My wife and son have helped with self-published cover designs – my wife teaches art to children, and my son is a good graphic designer. Goldie Browning hired an artist to do the cover of my Civil War book.
Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
I often get the title first – and then write the book. But I have changed titles with revision of the manuscript a couple of times.
How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?
I tend to draw on the names of typical people in the location of the story.
Are character names and place names decided after there creation? or do you pick a character/place name and then invent them?
I do a little of both – sometimes I have a character in mind, and keep trying names to fit them. Other times the name comes first.
Do you decide on character traits (ie shy, quiet, tomboy girl) before writing the whole book or as you go along?
I usually have a rough model for each character – an acquaintance, friend, or historical figure. But some of these change dramatically as the conflicts and events of the story take place. The character can thus be quite different in successive drafts.
Do you basic plot/plan for your book, before you actually begin writing it out? Or do you let the writing flow and see where it takes the story?
My sister talks about “heavy planners vs. heavy revisers.” I think I have typically done a fast rough draft, and then extensive revision. But the more I write and learn about writing, the more pre-planning I do.
How do you market/promote your books?
I done some online marketing (google adwords, a website, etc.) I have also taken actual boxes of them to bookstores, found the manager, and attempted to sell them.
What do you think makes a book a really good/bestseller ?
An imaginative story with clearly drawn characters who face a huge crisis of some sort that matters not only to them, but to others as well.
Have you ever suffered from a "writer's block"? What did you do to get past the "block"?
I have had trouble continuing a story when I have unresolved problems in the plot. I set it aside, and do other things, and often some unrelated event will provide the key to getting going again.
What do you do to unwind and relax?Do you have a hobby?
I restore old British sports cars (MG’s) and I have been building a model railway in my basement that is the “map” of the world of my apocalypse. It is set in Sweden.
Have you ever based characters on people you know or based events on things that have happened to you?
I often do that. But I have found that as a story gets further developed, that original basis changes dramatically (no pun intended!)
Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books? (Morals as in like Aesops Fables type of "The moral of this story is..")
In my more serious work I try to deal with moral issues like racism and tolerance – as well as ethical and religious dilemmas.
Is there a certain Author that influenced you in writing?
C.S. Lewis was a strong influence – but not so much his fiction writing as his literary criticism and commentary about what it is we are trying to do when writing stories.
Which format of book do you prefer, ebook,hardback, or paperback?
I prefer paper books – but I think they are a vanishing format.
What is your favourite book and Why? Have you read it more than once?
My favorites change from year to year. Originally it was Winnie-the-Pooh, then panoramic historicals like The Captains and the Kings or the works of James Michener. I really like Dickens A Christmas Carol – especially the first chapter with Scrooge in his office. And Tolkien’s The Lord of the Ring. All of these I have read numerous times.
Do you think books transfer to movies well? Which is you favourite/worst book to movie transfer?
I teach scriptwriting and I think it requires an equal measure of genius to create a story, and then to adapt it to the screen – again, Lord of the Rings I think succeeds at this.
What are you currently reading? Are you enjoying it? What format is it?(ebook, hardback or paperback)
I am reading an alternate history The Impeachment of Lincoln by Stephen Carter. A similar theme to my Civil War story, but set in Washington after the war. I have found it surprisingly well-written and engaging. It is in hardback and was expensive!
Do you think ebooks will ever totally replace printed books?
I wrote a paper on this topic for a college journal recently. I think it is similar to what happened with Gutenberg’ press – there were still scribes hand copying manuscripts for a long time (hundred of years) because the cost of gearing up to print was very high. I think likewise both e-books and print will co-exist together for a long time – but big publishers and big bookstores seem to be a thing of the past.
Do you think children at schools these days are encouraged enough to read? and/or do Imaginative writing?
I think children are encouraged to read – if their parents value education.
Did you read a lot at school and write lots of stories or is being a writer something newer in your life?
Even as a teenager I was an avid reader and loved books – more so than television or movies.
Did you have a favourite author as a child?
Do you have a treasured book from your childhood? If yes, what is it?
Do you have a favourite genre of book?
I like several genres – historical, science fiction, mystery, and I also read many many non-fiction book looking for information that will impact my stories.
Is there a book you know you will never read? Or one you tried to read but just couldn't finish?
Many of the truly great literary classics are too archaic to hold my interest – none in particular.
Are there any New Authors you are interested in for us to watch out for? and Why should we watch out for them?
Stephen Carter, the African-American author of the Lincoln story I am reading right now I believe is a talented new author.
Is there anything in your book/books you would change now if you could and what would it be?
Yes. I believe that I have learned a great deal about the development of characters, tension, and plot over the past five years. I would revise everything I have ever written! In particular, I think there needs to be a clear “fulcrum” or turning point in the story experienced by the protagonist, and that it should be clear to the reader and integral to the plot.
What do you think about book trailers?
I think the best advertisement for a book is an enthusiastic reader. Trailers are OK, but hype and advertising can only do so much.
What piece of advice would you give to a new writer?
The advice of Jose Luis Borges “Read a lot, write a lot, don’t rush into print.”
Do you or would you ever use a pen name?
No, but if I were to rewrite my novel Murder in Manzanar, which is set in a Japanese Internment Camp, I would choose a Japanese pseudonym.
If you could invite three favourite writers to dinner, who would you invite and enjoy chatting with?
Martin Cruz Smith (author of Gorky Park) J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter, obviously) and Anne Lamotte (Bird by Bird) And Stephen King if any of those three couldn’t fit it into their schedules!
Where can readers follow you?
graybarnbooks.com and I am working on a new website for my current book, which can be seen at http://storytellerpublishing.com
Your blog details?
I also have a blog related to my academic work at midlifephd.blogspot.com.