Favorite Quotes on Books and Reading

"A book is a gift you can open again and again." Garrison Keillor

Literature is a textually transmitted disease, normally contracted in childhood.” Jane Yolen

"It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it." Oscar Wilde

"Books have furnished, burnished, and enabled my life." Julia Keller

Monday, November 12, 2018

Book Spotlight: CHILDREN OF A GOOD WAR by Jack Woodville London

French Letters: Children of a Good War by Jack Woodville London
ISBN: 9780990612186 (paperback)
ASIN: B07H9KF9Q5 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Vire Press
Release Date: November 8, 2018


Four decades after World War II, 1986 is a year of terrorist hijackings, of personal computers and CD players, of AIDS and Miami Vice. It also is a year in which a beloved doctor falls to his death, a Pan Am pilot is shot while trying to foil the takeover of Pan Am flight 73, and when four bitter French widows use their medicines as bets to play poker in their retirement home while a lonely nun observes her vows of silence in an Irish convent. And it is the year when a cache of faded letters is discovered in a cellar, causing Frank Hastings to realize that he is not who he believed he is, and to go in search of his mother. 


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Author Q & A

1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? Or what first inspired you to write? 

8th grade. I was enrolled in a 'Ready Writing' competition and won a prize of some kind for a story about someone very like me who somehow fixed up a wrecked sports car, then had lots of adventures in places whose names I misspelled. I was taken by the craft of writing when I read a number of books in which the word choices the authors made were extraordinary. Examples were the romance poem 'The Eve of St. Agnes' and 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' ("The hound? The hound did nothing." "Exactly.")

2.  Where/When do you best like to write?  

In my study. I write best in the mornings when I'm alone.  

3.  Do you have any interesting writing habits or superstitions?  

Probably not. I believe that when working on fiction, you should attempt 1000 words a day. I also believe that you should begin by reading what you wrote yesterday, edit and revise it, then move on to a fresh 1000  words. Repeat tomorrow.  

4.  When you are struggling to write/have writer's block, what are some ways that help you find your creative muse again?  

I dig out one of several novels that just light my fires. Larry McMurtry teaches creative writing with every sentence. I read almost anything by Evelyn Waugh or Anthony Powell. John Lanchester and Hilary Mantel are creative and inspiring.      

5.  What do you think makes a good story?

A flawed protagonist, a conflict, a solution, then disaster. 


6. What inspired your story?  

a.  I thought that there should be a story that reflects three conditions of the cycle (cyclone?) of life: being taken for granted (and attempting revenge); being utterly alone in the world, no matter how many people are around you; and, learning that you really don't know who you are, then setting out to find out.
b.  I found the meanness of the Biblical story of the brothers Jacob and Esau and the things they did to their father to also be timeless. I build a family saga around parents who were not always completely blameless, their friends, their enemies, and their children, creating a story in which there are individual bits that all of us will recognize from our family, friends, or, shudder, ourselves. And, as Jacob and Esau feuded and lied, so do brothers feud and lie today, with lasting consequences. Finally, one of the great narratives of sibling rivalries is the accusation that one of them is not really a sibling at all, but a foundling, a child dug up under a cabbage patch, or a bastard that someone brought home to raise.

7.  How does a new story idea come to you? Is it an event that sparks the plot or a character speaking to you?

Characters are wonderful devices. You can create them, then drop them into nearly any period or event and they will act as such characters would act at any time in history, whether it is ancient Greece, Tudor England, baby boomers in the 1980s, or Trump America. 

8.  Is there a message/theme in your novel that you want readers to grasp?  

I hope that the notion comes through that finding out who we are is something each of us must find out for himself or herself; while we may or may not know who our parents are, we almost never know who they were.  

9.  What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?  

How little we really know about our parents.  

10.  What was your greatest challenge in writing this book?  

When drawing complex characters with richly detailed individual lives, it takes a great deal of focus to keep their individual storylines arranged so that they become a part of the real story. There are clues buried in most of the characters' roles that readers often breeze through as minor details of daily life, then realize some time downstream that they are important pieces of the story. 




Meet the Author


Jack Woodville London studied the craft of fiction at the Academy of Fiction, St. Céré, France and at Oxford University. He was the first Author of the Year of the Military Writers Society of America. His French Letters novels are widely praised for their portrayal of America in the 1940s, both at home and in the Second World War, and as Americans evolved from the experience of that war into the consumer society of the baby boom generation. Children of a Good War is the third book in that series. The first book, Virginia's War, was a Finalist for Best Novel of the South and the Dear Author 'Novel with a Romantic Element' contest. The second volume, Engaged in War, won the silver medal for general fiction at the London Book Festival, among other awards. His craft book, A Novel Approach, a short and light-hearted work on the conventions of writing, is designed to help writers who are setting out on the path to write their first book. A Novel Approach won the E-Lit Gold Medal for non-fiction in 2015. Jack also is the author of several published articles on the craft of writing and on early 20th-century history. His work in progress is Shades of the Deep Blue Sea, a mystery-adventure novel about two sailors and a girl, set on a Pacific island World War II. Jack lives in Austin, Texas. 

Connect with the author via Facebook, his Website,  or YouTube.



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French Letters: Children of a Good War



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