Author Interview: Bob O’Connor

I am a long-time researcher of Civil War history. I have written for most of the jobs in my life and probably have had 3,500 articles published in my career.

I do a great deal of research on each book, following historical events as they happened and then filling in the spaces to create believable historical fiction.

My general audience is folks who have an interest in the Civil War but don’t necessarily want to read
about troop movements or the minutia of the battle strategy. I write about the ordinary soldier in the field and try to convey what they were feeling and show how they were basically bored, tired and hungry, but willing to sacrifice for what they believed was a noble cause.

Part of my research is visiting places where my characters were. For instance, I visited the river ford where the Confederate army crossed into Maryland from Virginia on the same date that they crossed. That gave me a good idea of what the trees looked like at that time of the year, what the soldiers would have seen up and downstream.

My current book is based on four real characters from their regimental records and over 90 letters that were sent back and forth. Every situation in the book is real and every character is real. I make up the dialogue and the connectors when the story has a hole in it. I enjoy being able to provide a believable story even when parts of it are fabricated.

It’s rare today to find an author who does nothing but write for a living. Do you have a ‘real’ job other than writing, and if so, what is it? What are some other jobs you’ve had in your life? 

Bob O’Connor:  My “real” job actually works well with my writing. I work part-time with the Convention and Visitors Bureau in Harpers Ferry. Our visitors are there because of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, a Civil War site. I have been in the tourism business since 1984.

What compelled you to write your first book? 

Bob O’Connor:  I have studied three historical characters my entire life – John Brown, Abraham Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth. When I moved to Charles Town, WV in 2001, I found out that John Wilkes Booth had been in Charles Town to attend the hanging of John Brown. That made me want to find out why – and my first book was born from that.


Tell us a little bit about your book/s.

Bob O’Connor:  “The Perfect Steel Trap Harpers Ferry 1859” Fiction (The John Brown Raid, capture, trial, and execution) MY FIRST 

“The Virginian Who Might Have Saved Lincoln” Fiction (The story of Ward Hill Lamon, Lincoln’s bodyguard)

“Catesby: Eyewitness to the Civil War” Fiction MY FAVORITE (The story of a colored blacksmith and his struggle to become free)

“The US Colored Troops at Andersonville Prison” Non-Fiction (The never before told story of 105 black soldiers at the Confederate prison)

“The Life of Abraham Lincoln: As President” written by Ward Hill Lamon circa 1880 and edited by Bob O’Connor – Non-Fiction (The bodyguard’s chronology of Lincoln’s presidency – a manuscript written in 1880 and never published)

“A House Divided Against Itself” – Fiction MY LATEST (The story of two brothers who fought against each other twice in battles during the Civil War)


My books are mostly historical fiction. I do massive amounts of research, following a story that really happened, and then fabricate the dialogue and creatively fill in the holes in the story.

Are you currently working on any writing projects our readers should watch for release soon? 

Bob O’Connor:  I am currently writing the sequel to Catesby: Eyewitness to the Civil War.

Have you ever won any writing awards? If so, what? 

Bob O’Connor:  I have been named a Finalist four times for the Best Book Awards and the Indie Book Awards

What about your family? Has your family been supportive of your writing? 

Bob O’Connor:  I was divorced over twenty years ago. I have two children and six grandchildren who all live close to me. They are all very supportive of my writing.


Location and life experience can sprinkle their influence in your writing. Tell us about where you grew up and a little about where you live now. If you could live anywhere you want to live, where would that be? 

I grew up in Illinois – thus my intrigue with Abraham Lincoln. My 7th grade teacher took me to the Centennial of the Lincoln-Douglas debate in Galesburg, IL in 1958. The following year I portrayed Abraham Lincoln in the 8th grade play. Today I live in Charles Town, WV close to the site of the John Brown raid, birthplace of Lincoln’s bodyguard, place where Catesby lived, and site of the training of the 2nd Virginia Infantry. In other words, within close proximity to each story that I have written.

Do you watch television? If so, what are your favorite shows? Does television influence of inspire your writing?

Bob O’Connor:  I do not have a television. That inspires me to write because it gives me more time to write, more quiet, and allows me to not waste time.

Focusing on your most recent (or first) book, tell our readers what genre your book is and what popular author you think your writing style in this book is most like. 

Bob O’Connor:  My genre is historical fiction. My style is most like Michael Shaara who wrote “Killer Angels”. Shaara broke from the conventional style by following the characters of the Civil War rather than battles. His son, Jeff Shaara, has carried on that tradition after his father died. My books have a similar style.

How long did it take you to write your most recent (or first) book? When you started writing, did you think it would take that long (or short)? 

Bob O’Connor:  My first book took me about 4 ½ years to write. That was probably because I worked full time and had trouble finding time to do the research I needed. Now that I only work 20 hours per week, I am much more discipline to write and do the research on a more regular schedule. My most current books probably each have taken about a year. When I started I had no idea of how long a book would take to write.

Thinking about your writing career, is there anything you’d go back and do differently now that you have been published? 

Bob O’Connor:  My first book was published at age 59. If I could have a “do over” I would have published when I was young!

Many authors have said that naming their characters is a difficult process, almost like choosing a name for their own child. How did you select the names of some of your lead characters in your book/s? 

Bob O’Connor:  All the lead characters in my books are all real people.


It’s said that the editing process of publishing a novel with a publisher is can be grueling and often more difficult than actually writing the story. Do you think this is true for you? How did you feel about editing your masterpiece? Editing is a huge key to my success. I have a professional editor who I work well with. She gives me her feedback but leaves it up to me to make the final “cuts”. I do not find the editing either grueling or difficult, but rather a necessary evil. My books improve with the final edits.

Now that you are a published author, does it feel differently than you had imagined?

Bob O’Connor:  It definitely has elevated my status in the community and my self-esteem. With an estimated over 40 million people currently writing a book, it is nice to be in the much smaller group of those who actually are published authors.

Now, use this space to tell us more about who you. Anything you want your readers to know?

Bob O’Connor:  

My books may be found at:

I do regular publishing posts at http://examiner.com/books-in-charleston/bob-o-connor and Civil War posts at http://examiner.com/civil-war-in-national/bob-o-connor

I blog as Abraham Lincoln’s bodyguard every Friday with my postings dated exactly 150 years ago. My blog is http://lincolnsbodyguardblog.blogspot.com.

I do first person historical presentations as Lincoln’s bodyguard for schools and organizations. My website with that information is www.lincolnsbodyguard.com.

My website is www.boboconnorbooks.com. My e-mail is author@boboconnnorbooks.com.

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Comments

comments

4 comments to Author Interview: Bob O’Connor

  • Bob O'Connor  says:

    Thanks for hosting today’s book tour stop and for making me look so good. I appreciate what you do. Thanks. Bob

  • Jennifer Walker  says:

    Thank you for hosting Bob on his tour!

  • […] July 3—Interview at Texas Straight Talk Reviews […]

  • Chris Stevenson  says:

    Very interesting and informative interview. Lots of dedicated research here–truly admirable. I too wish I would have published younger or not taken such a long time away from writing.

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