Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Karl Bacon grew up in the small picturesque town of Woodbury, Connecticut. After graduating from Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, he returned to Connecticut and found employment in manufacturing. "Just a job" turned into a professional career, much of which was spent working for a Swiss machine tool company. In 2000 he started his own business to provide services to manufacturing clients across the USA. This change also allowed time to develop his writing craft.

From youth Karl has been a serious student of the Civil War. The draft of An Eye for Glory took ten years from conception to completion. Thousands of hours were spent researching every detail, through copious reading, internet research and personal visits to each of the battlefields, so the novel might be as historically accurate and believable as possible. He lives in Naugatuck, Connecticut with his wife of thirty-three years, Jackie.

Did you see yourself becoming a writer as a child? If not, what did you dream of being?

No, I never thought of becoming a writer. In fact, I disliked writing until I started to write the first of several instructional manuals for the aforementioned Swiss firm. It seemed I had a talent for explaining things well. As a logical and analytical sort of guy I also wasn't much of a dreamer. However, I regularly questioned what God wished me to do with my life. I trusted that, if he wanted me to work at something else, he would make it clear to me.

How long did you write before you sold your first book?

It took ten years to write the first draft, from spring 1998 to June 2008. Research rabbit trails often took days or weeks to resolve. I read extensively about the history of the Connecticut regiment Michael Palmer would enlist in and detailed accounts of every battle he would have been a part of. While visiting the battlefields I visualized how the battle played out over the land. I tried to find the exact spot where Michael would have been. What would he have seen and heard and done? Sometimes I just sat still, soaking up the atmosphere of the place, so I might better bring that atmosphere to life on the page. Sometimes, after writing an intensely emotional scene, I felt drained and couldn’t write another word for weeks or even months. In time the Lord revived me, inspired me, and drove me back to the writing—he would not let me let it go.

Many of the people who follow our blog are aspiring writers themselves. Can you share your favorite writing tip with them?

I read somewhere the importance of approaching my writing from three perspectives—as writer, as character, as reader—one at a time, of course. First, as a writer I must create a compelling story and tell it in a forceful manner, using all the gifts I have been graced with to make my writing attractive to the reader. Next, I review my story as the character. Am I conveying the proper aspect of this character’s growth or decline that is needed at this point in the story? Is this person’s vocabulary fitting to his character? Are the emotions genuine and believable? Finally, I try to analyze what I have written as if I were reading it for the first time. I either read it aloud, or copy the text into my text-to-speech reader, and listen to the words. This might seem like a purely mechanical exercise, but it has certainly helped me to find errors, avoid repetition, hear the sound and flow of the words themselves, and generally improve the quality of my writing.

Now for the readers…many times, it’s easy for them to connect with the characters in a book, but not so much the authors themselves. Share something about your day-to-day life that might help a reader to feel as though they know you a little better.

Shortly after graduating from college over three decades ago, I married my lovely sweetheart Jackie. She was employed for years as a public school Kindergarten teacher, then moved to school administration. She is now principal of a primary school (grades Pre-K to 2) in East Haven, CT. I borrowed some of Jackie's many fine qualities when I developed the character of Michael's wife, Jessie Anne.

Several years ago I gave the unfinished manuscript of An Eye for Glory to Jackie to read. "Just tell me what you think," I said. Days stretched into weeks without a response. Finally I asked her about it.

"I got about a third of the way through. It's just not my cup
of tea."

Admittedly, I was a little miffed, but when a measure of objectivity returned, I realized that she was probably right. I still had much to learn and work to do. Last summer, after I completed the last of the substantive edits, I gave her the manuscript again. This time she flew through it. "You know," she said, "this book could change people's lives." That was the best thing this new writer could have ever heard.

Now that you are published, do you still experience rejections? If so, how are these rejections different or similar to the ones you received before becoming published?

I'm an oddity, a debut author whose work was never rejected. In the ten years it took to write it, I never seriously thought about getting it published. So in June, 2008 I put the two binders holding the manuscript in the bookcase in my office and offered a short prayer, "Lord, if that's not where you want it to stay, please show me what to do with it."

I recalled reading that perhaps the best thing any author hoping to get published can do is attend a writers' conference. Within a few days I was a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). Within a week or two I had enrolled and made reservations for attending the ACFW annual conference during September in Minneapolis. As part of the total conference experience, I signed up for an interview with Sue Brower, Senior Acquisitions Editor for Zondervan.

Sue loved the storyline and asked for a proposal. I prepared the first proposal I had ever done and sent it in the first week of October, not expecting to receive any response until after the New Year 2009. A little over two weeks after sending the proposal, Sue emailed me. She was very interested and wanted the entire manuscript. She presented it to her publication board in November and emailed me on Veteran's Day with some very good news.

Most people would call it luck, getting the right story in front of the right person at the right time, but I know that only the providential hand of Almighty God could have so correctly directed my steps. Throughout the entire process from completion of the manuscript through publication, I believed that God would make his will known, and that I would be able to rest peacefully in whatever his perfect plan held for An Eye for Glory and for me.

Tell us a little about your latest release:

An Eye for Glory: The Civil War Chronicles of a Citizen Soldier is historical fiction. It is a large story, encompassing almost two years of the war, but as the story is told in the first person, the scope of the novel is limited to what Michael Gabriel Palmer actually saw and heard and did. The story is set in the historical record of the 14th CT Volunteer Infantry and their service with the Army of the Potomac. This regiment served from August, 1862 until May, 1865 and fought in all of the eastern battles from Antietam through Appomattox.

Michael and his best friend John Robinson, both in their mid-thirties, are quite idealistic when they enlist. Both men endure great personal sacrifice because they believe God had called them to rid the nation of slavery and save the Union. For Michael, it isn’t long before this idealism is displaced by the horror and tragedy of the war. Fear and doubt and disillusionment possess him and begin to have profound effects on his character.

Eventually Michael comes to hate the enemy and sees killing as the only solution to ending the war so he can go home. At Gettysburg, during the climax of Pickett’s charge, his hatred boils over and he coldly kills one Rebel after another until the charge is broken. Then Michael jumps over the rock wall, bayonet at the ready to finish off any Confederates he can find, until he is brought up short by a man lying at his feet, a man he remembered shooting earlier. The man was dying. He held up a small Bible. He pleaded with Michael to read for him as he died. In that moment, Michael realizes he has killed a brother in Christ, and this realization haunts Michael for a long time to come.

While it is Michael Palmer’s story, it is all the story of his wife, Jessie Anne. Michael has included several of the letters which passed between husband and wife, and we learn much about how the war has affected not only Michael, but Jessie Anne as well. And as the reader will learn, it is Jessie Anne who finally sets the stage for Michael’s recovery and restoration after the war is done.

If you could only share one line from An Eye for Glory, which one would you choose and why?

The first sentence of the first chapter is "General Reno’s corpse was the first I saw during the war." Not bad for a first line. It plunges the reader into the Civil War and reveals one of the protagonist's core conflicts: death. The astute Civil War buff will know that Gen. Reno was killed at South Mountain on September 14, 1862—time and place, although I reveal this directly shortly after. I believe it also conveys the tenor of the story to follow. If you were looking for a sweet Civil War romance loaded with victor's laurels and gallant chivalry, you will probably be disappointed, because An Eye for Glory is a true to history, realistic, and unflinching portrayal of one man's experiences. Still, I wrestled long and hard with that first line, not so much with the wording of it, but with the decision to use such an obvious hook line to start a literary novel. It seemed to go against the first-person matter-of-fact style of Michael Palmer's storytelling, but everything I had read and heard begged for a powerful first sentence. I conceded the point and I think I made the right decision—and I haven't lost any sleep over it.

Writers often put things in their books that are very personal—like a funny story that happened to them, a spiritual truth they learned through difficulty, or even just a character trait that is uniquely theirs. Is there something in An Eye for Glory that only people close to you know is about you or someone you know?

I grew up playing baseball, and the position I played most often was catcher. In the snowball fight scene (Chapter 16), the throwing motion I described is the method I learned for throwing the ball accurately from home plate to second base. And come autumn, when unpicked apples fell from the trees, I would often see how many tree trunks I could hit with them.

Readers often talk a lot about the hero and heroine of a story, but today I’d like to know something about your villain. Does he or she have a redeeming quality? Why or why not?

Have you ever thought or said, "I'm my own worst enemy?" There is no human villain in An Eye for Glory, no person you can point to as the antagonist. While the elemental conflict of man against man is present on the battlefield, it is not the most pressing conflict for Michael Palmer. Many times during the story, Michael gives vivid details about what he has seen, and often these descriptions are terribly graphic. The horror takes up residence within his soul to the extent that, as lowering clouds obscure the warm, life-giving sun, so Michael’s ordeals hide God’s tender mercies from him. As the story develops, Michael comes to see God as more enemy than friend, let alone as his Heavenly Father. Michael is lost in his temporary afflictions, and loses all sight of the eternal glory that can be his, both in this life and the next.

What kind of research did you have to do for this book? Can you share some articles or website links you found particularly helpful?

I didn’t keep a log, but thousands of hours were spent on research, with reading occupying most of that time. My Civil War library grew from half a shelf to an entire bookcase. I found a few key volumes at my local and state libraries. The Internet proved invaluable as well, especially the Library of Congress digital collection of historical maps. The address is: I also visited all of the battlefields depicted in the story (, some two or three times, in an effort to walk where the men of the Fourteenth Connecticut walked and fought. A complete bibliography can be found on my website at I have also posted a few links to get you started if you are interested in attending one of the many events planned in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

Tell us what new projects you’re working on.

I have started another Civil War novel titled Until Shiloh Comes. It is completely different in terms of scope, a more localized and personal story, rather than a saga like An Eye for Glory. My second novel will deal with the changes that take place in a southern Tennessee family in the aftermath of the battle of Shiloh.

The most common thing I hear when people learned I’ve published a book is, “I’ve always wanted to do that.” Faced with this statement, what advice would you give to someone just starting out in this business?

First, be brutally honest and question yourself. “Is this what God would have of me at this point in my life? Is it His calling or my desire?” Both would be best. “If I pursue writing, will other and perhaps more necessary duties to family or employer or church go undone?” Second, when you write, do it only for the glory of God and honor Him with the gift you have been given. Third, no matter what stage your writing career’s at, attend a writers’ conference, preferably a Christian one. Opportunities for learning about writing and the publishing business abound, friendships develop, fellowship with others of like precious faith and gifts enriches you, and you have the opportunity to rub elbows with other writers, published authors, agents, and editors from many Christian publishing houses.

What is the one question you were afraid I would ask…and how would you answer?

Did the institution of slavery cause the Civil War?

Yes, in my opinion. In spite of all that has been said and written about states having the right of self-determination within their borders, and the right to dissolve their federal bonds, it was only the slavery issue that so totally divided and polarized this nation into two opposing camps that were willing to shed rivers of blood to resolve it.
Karl is giving away a copy of his book An Eye for Glory. Be sure to stop by The Borrowed Book on Friday for your chance to win!

1 comment :

  1. Great interview, Karl. Thanks so much for stopping by The Borrowed Book!


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