Welcome to the Tuesday Author series at The Writing Life blog, where I have the pleasure of chatting with authors across genres. Today, I’m very pleased to welcome John M. Cahill.
John M. Cahill was born and raised in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in the history-rich Berkshire Hills. He earned a B.A. degree in journalism and political science from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. After graduation, he moved to New York’s Capital District where, for 34 years, he enjoyed a successful and rewarding career in public relations and social marketing with New York State government. While living in New York’s Mohawk Valley, he became fascinated with the Dutch and Iroquois history of the area. He now lives with his wife in Vienna, Austria.
John is the author of Savage Wilderness, the second book in a series entitled, The Boschloper Saga. The first book in the series, Primitive Passions, was published in 2015.
What is the genre of your book series?
Savage Wilderness is historical fiction, specifically an historical adventure.
Please describe what Savage Wilderess is about.
Savage Wilderness continues the adventures of Sean O’Cathail on the frontier of 17th-Century New York. Sean is a young Irishman who has come to America to seek his fortune. He becomes a fur trader in Albany and, eventually, is named a special envoy to the Iroquois for the lieutenant-governor of the Colony of New York, Thomas Dongan.
At the start of Savage Wilderness, in 1687, the flow of beaver pelts to Albany has slowed to a trickle. In response, Governor Dongan grants licenses to Albany traders to enter French territory and divert the furs of the Far Indians in the west from Montreal to Albany. However, as the expedition sets out for the Great Lakes, the new governor of New France, under orders from King Louis XIV, has mounted an invasion of Seneca territory. Caught in the middle, the Albany traders are captured by the French and their Indian allies and sent to Montreal and Quebec where they would be held as bargaining chips in the continuing power play between the governments of New France and New York. At this point, Sean finds that his adventure is only just beginning. He need all his wits and the help of a long-lost love to survive and return home.
How did you come up with the title?
The title comes from a quote from a 1775 speech in Parliament by Edmund Burke, “By adverting to the dignity of this high calling, our ancestors have turned a savage wilderness into a glorious empire.”
John, what inspired you to write this series?
While I was working for New York State government in Albany and living in the Mohawk Valley, I began to explore the relationships and interactions of the Dutch and English fur traders, their Iroquois neighbors and their French adversaries. I found that I was especially intrigued by the events of the second half of the 1600s. At that time, although the English had taken New York from the Dutch, the Dutch in the colony behaved as though nothing had changed.
Does your main character resemble you? If so, in what ways?
It’s hard to say without sounding as if I’m bragging, but I like to think that Sean is a “mensch,” someone who has integrity and honor, and is faithful to his family and friends
What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing?
The hardest part of writing, for me, is motivating myself to just write. I have a strong predilection for procrastinating and calling it “research.”
John, what is your favorite part of writing?
As Dorothy Parker famously said, “I hate writing, but I love having written.” For me, the favorite part of writing comes when I am satisfied to the degree that I can send my manuscript to a publisher with a clear conscience.
What was the last book you read? What did you think of it?
The last book I read was Enigma by Robert Harris. I hadn’t seen the movie and the book sat in my TBR pile for over a year before I made myself read it. I was quite pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t boring as I had feared (breaking codes). It was even a quite exciting story (no spoilers).
Who are some of your favorite authors?
My favorite authors cover a lot of ground. Besides Robert Harris, I like Bernard Cornwell, Ian Rankin, James Lee Burke, Roddy Doyle, Martin Cruz Smith, John Grisham, John Sanford and Jeff Shaara.
What authors or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and why?
Reading the works of James Fenimore Cooper, Kenneth Roberts and Walter D. Edmonds as a youth got me interested in pre-Revolutionary America and made me want to learn more. Andersonville by MacKinlay Kantor showed me the kind of realism in writing to which I aspire.
Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?
I have a study in which I write. I’ll read anywhere and everywhere.
Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?
I can’t whistle. Never could. As a child, I was quite embarrassed by it, but I grew out of that.
Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?
In my professional life as a social marketer, I was a writer and editor for more than 30 years. So, I found the process of writing a novel to be oddly liberating. I guess I just assumed that the publishing process would be the thicket of brambles that I have found it to be.
What do you hope readers will gain from your book?
I hope that they will come to appreciate the lives of the people who first opened up the American interior and to realize that many of the political and cultural problems of the time are much the same as those we face today. History really does repeat itself.
Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market this book?
I kept faith in myself, my imagination and my talent.
What didn’t work as well as you’d hoped?
Living in Europe and trying to market books about colonial America in the USA is extremely difficult.
I can relate. The setting for my two books is Puerto Rico and I live in the US. Marketing is a bit more challenging from a distance.
Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?
Don’t give up. Learn from each experience and keep plugging away.
Website and social media links?
Where can we find your book?
Savage Wilderness is available from W & B Publishers at www.a-argusbooks.com
Primitive Passions is available from Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Primitive-Passions-Boschloper-Sage-1/dp/1537174983/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1489249012&sr=8-5&keywords=primitive+passions
What’s next for you, John?
I am currently working on Book 3 in The Boschloper Saga. With the working title, Inglorious Revolution, it will focus on concurrent events associated with King William’s War, e.g., the massacre at Schenectady, and Leisler’s Rebellion in New York.
Thank you for a great interview, John. I wish you the best with your series!
Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1920 Puerto Rico.