Today, the very funny and talented Steven B. Weissman is
visiting to chat about his recently published romantic historical fiction, Bountiful Creek.
TC: Hi Steven.
Thanks for sparing some of your time today. First, let me get this out there. I read Bountiful
Creek and absolutely loved it.
SW: Thank you,
Teresa. I’m so glad you enjoyed it.
A little about the book:
“In the spring of 1861, just prior to the
onset of the Civil War, Martha Somerville finds her life rapidly changing along
with the world around her. Determined to find a way to build a life with her
love, Wilby, Martha focuses her energies on acquiring enough money to buy a
plot of land to turn into a small farm. Her obsession takes her far from quiet
Bountiful Creek, Virginia, deep into Union territory in Ohio. When war breaks
out, she immediately sets her course for home before Wilby leaves to join the
Confederate Army; but a wealthy suitor, a gravely ill companion, and a thief
challenge her efforts to reach him in time. Yet even if she can successfully
overcome her obstacles, her life dangerously parallels an ill-fated legend that
threatens to keep her and the man she loves apart forever.”
TC: Such a
beautiful and moving story about a young woman’s struggles around the time of
the American Civil War! Where did the inspiration for Bountiful Creek come from?
SW: I had acquired
a bundle of original, handwritten 19th century letters, to
experience the period firsthand instead of only from what I’d seen in movies or
read in novels. In the stack, I discovered two very poignant letters from a
young western Virginia woman, Martha Somerville, about the hardships as well as
joys of Civil War era life. That was my inspiration.
incredible that you wrote such a book after reading two letters. Inspiration is a mysterious thing. How long did it take you to write it? And, it is obvious that you’ve meticulously
researched the era. What percentage of
your writing time (just ballpark) did you spend on research?
SW: It took me
four years to write Bountiful Creek.
I did research all along the way, as needed. But I spent three months on heavy
research before I ever wrote a word, totaling fifteen books, on everything from
Appalachian culture and speech, to typical life in southern slave states, to
life among the very wealthy in high society. I wanted to equip myself with as
much knowledge as possible about the time, places, and varied cultures, to
firmly set the stage, so to speak, before I ever dropped the characters onto
dedication to research and accuracy shows in the pages of your book. The vocabulary was amazing! Can you share any of the process you used to
develop such incredible prose?
SW: I love the
beautiful prose of wonderfully talented authors such as Jane Austen, Henry
James, Charles Dickens and the like. Once I’d set my mind to a similar style
and rhythm, it became quite natural to write that way. I also found it helpful
to read from those authors while writing, just to keep me in the zone.
TC: Seems to have been a very effective
approach. I’ve read how some authors get
themselves in the mood for writing. Do
you have any particular thing you do before immersing yourself in a writing
SW: I like to have
a snack handy, and sometimes a glass of wine. I have no particular thing that I
do to get in the mood, but I do need total silence when writing. I’ve tried
writing outdoors, but all those wonderful sounds from birds, insects, even the
plop of a frog jumping into the lagoon distract me. Oddly, when working on a
rewrite or editing, I find it helpful to have background noise, like music or
the TV. It keeps me from getting into my head too much, so I can just focus on
TC: Looking back over your experience writing Bountiful Creek, from idea inception, to
published book, what’s been your greatest frustration?
SW: My greatest
frustration was finding typos in what I thought was a “finished” manuscript—a
missing question mark, a wrong word, etc. I must have read it front to back at
least forty times before I caught, I hope, the last error.
TC: Spoken like a true editor! Now, let’s take
that last question and change it to what has been your greatest triumph?
writing it! Seriously, at times it seemed like it would never end. I guess I
could have used the same answer for my greatest frustration, but I’ll stick
with it as my triumph.
TC: You have me
smiling now—and likely any writer reading this is smiling as well. “Finishing writing it!” Triumph, indeed. After chatting with you and discovering what
a fun guy you are, I admit amazement at the distance, personality wise, between
you and your characters. How did you do
that so effectively?
SW: I guess it has
something to do with living vicariously. Whether my characters are endearing,
or just plain scoundrels (they’re the most interesting, but so unlike me), it’s
fun to totally immerse myself in each of them and act out things I never would
or could do in real life.
TC: One of the glories of being a writer is
getting to live so many lives within one lifetime. Scoundrels are fun to write, and you’ve
written a nasty one for Bountiful Creek. I’m tiptoeing now; I don’t want to give away any
spoilers. When you wrote the scoundrel,
was it all planned, or was it seat-of-your-pants writing?
SW: Not much was
planned. I pretty much forged through the story, oftentimes having little more
information than the characters themselves. As for the villain, well, every
good story needs one. But I had no idea how it would manifest itself until I
got to that part in the story, and then I just had fun with it.
through was a good ‘non-plan’. I found
it fascinating that you, a man, wrote a female protagonist so amazingly
well. What brought you to the decision
to write the story in Martha’s voice?
SW: Since the
letters I used as the inspiration to write Bountiful
Creek were written by a real woman, it seemed only natural for the story to
be told in her voice. The challenge was to mentally put myself into the role of
a woman and look at things from a woman’s point of view, especially given the
period in which the story takes place. Sometimes I’d be inside a woman’s head
for so long that when a writing session was over, I’d need to do something
manly like watch a ball game, scratch myself, and belch (lol).
TC: Whew, glad
that you figured out appropriate measures to get back into a man’s head (lol)! Your
characters are drawn so richly. Were
there any experiences in your life that influenced your writing or decision to become
SW: I guess I
started gathering the raw materials necessary for being a writer as a young
man. I dropped out of college, traded in musty books
for a Harley Davidson, and well-trodden university halls for roads less
traveled, and experienced life from all corners.
almost magical comes through the words of a writer who has experienced life in a
larger sense. Such is the case with your writing. Are you working on anything new?
Speaking of magical, I’m working on a fun time travel/fantasy story, but with a
twist from the usual.
TC: Oh, I can’t
wait! OK, let’s shake things up a little. I always like to ask a few
off-the-wall questions—to get a little glimpse of the person behind the
writer. Here goes…
If you had a time machine—where (when in time) would you go?
SW: I’d want to go back to important
historical times to see what REALLY happened—so many to choose from. But, if I
can only pick one place in time (other than the age of dinosaurs—wouldn’t that
be cool!), I’d like to be in Ford’s Theater in Washington DC when Abraham
Lincoln was shot. I just can’t even imagine the excitement and drama on that
TC: Excitement and drama indeed. OK, now
share something fun and crazy that you’ve done.
SW: I used to jump fences with my horse, in a
western saddle, like John Wayne in True
Oh, there’s lots of things you can do with horses. One
winter, with the ground covered in ice, I skied down the road by grabbing the
end my horse’s tail while he ran ahead of me.
That worked pretty well…until he bucked and double-barreled me right in
TC: Your last
answer is a perfect lead into my next question. If there were a book about your life, what
genre would it be?
SW: Is “How Not
To” books a genre? I’m full of those things.
TC: It sounds like you are, but obviously not when it
comes to your writing! One more
question, then I’ll let you get back to work on your next novel. You have to act in a Broadway show. Which
character will you play?
SW: I think I’d
like to play Professor Harold Hill in The
Music Man. I get to sing, dance, mesmerize an entire town, and get the girl
at the end. Of course, I’d have to learn to sing and dance first…
TC: I hear there
are lessons to be had. ;-) And what a
great choice for a writer, “Professor Harold Hill”—quite the entertainer…
I want to thank you again, Steven, for sharing your time,
experience, and knowledge with my readers and me.
SW: It was my
pleasure, Teresa. Thank you so much for inviting me.
I encourage you to check out Steven’s book.
It’s here on Amazon: BOUNTIFULCREEK