I had the pleasure of working with this gifted writer as he led a writer's group to which I belonged. His talent, wisdom and experience helped guide our group and set an example of professionalism and excellence. Mr. Fletcher's incredible attention to detail and ability to flesh out the holes in history with high drama, and thrilling action sets him apart from other writers in his genre. This book would make a great Father's Day gift or summer read for those of us who love a rousing sea-story and a historical, political thriller all wrapped up into one great novel! Let me introduce you to: Alton Fletcher...
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I have always been a reader who enjoys the written word and marvels at the ability of a good writer to imagine and create a world in which the characters come to life. In high school, I began writing poetry, because I had no idea how to write a novel, and because I saw the power of poetry to express thoughts and emotions in very few words. One of my English teachers encouraged me to submit some poetry to our high school literary journal. When, to my surprise, two of my poems were accepted and published, I thought perhaps it might be something to pursue at some point. At the time, I aspired to be an architect. After graduation and a year of college, however, it was made very clear to me that I wasn’t cut out to be an engineer. I began to rethink my goals and decided to further develop my nascent writing skills. I transferred to a different college and changed my major to English Literature. I’ve been a writer ever since.
How long does it take you to write a book?
It took about a year of fulltime effort to complete the first draft of my novel. About a quarter of that time was devoted to research. Of course, it took several more years and countless revisions to get it right. The earliest “finished” draft was 150,000 words. I pitched it to a well-known agent at a writers’ conference. He seemed interested in the idea and asked for a full manuscript, but only after I reduced it to less than 100,000 words. Easier said than done to reduce your beloved manuscript by a third. Needless to say, it took a while longer than that first year to get it right.
What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
Mornings are best for me. I write from just after breakfast until noon, unless I’m on a roll. Then, I sometimes write all day. Generally, though, I break at noon to exercise and have lunch. The afternoons are reserved for chores and errands. Evenings are for reading or a good movie. (I secretly watch movies to study plot and character development. I know how to ruin a movie for casual watchers. Just ask my wife.)
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I edit as I write. I can’t help it. I know that’s not the best practice and goes against what most writing instructors teach, but it works for me. I usually edit the previous day’s work before I begin writing, which helps get the creative juices flowing. As I write, I edit each sentence until it seems right, before I can move on. So, I hardly ever write more than 500 words in a day, sometimes far less.
Where do you get your information and inspiration for your books?
I’m often inspired by reading an excellent piece of writing, fiction or non-fiction, that catches my attention and imagination. The idea for my first novel came from reading an outstanding work of non-fiction, Battle Cry of Freedom, by James McPherson. One small, two-paragraph account of an actual historical event leading up to the Civil War made me put the book down, sit, and think for a while. That well-written account was the seed of my first novel.
When did you write your first book?
I finished the early draft of what is now Find The Wind’s Eye in 2016. After feedback from various workshops, writing groups, agents, and editors, I revised the book countless times over the next five years and even changed the title before deciding to publish it this year.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I love to sail whenever I have the opportunity. I owned a sailboat until last year, when I could no longer afford to keep it. But I still sail with friends whenever possible, and I will be teaching at a sailing school this summer. Other than that, I enjoy flyfishing and an occasional round of golf. But I guess my favorite thing to do is travel with my wife to interesting, usually historic places. We honeymooned in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, 45 years ago this June. We still try to return once a year or so. I always enjoy time together with her visiting historic sites.
What does your family think of your writing?
My wife encouraged me to write, even though I quit my day job to do it. Actually, I retired early so I could focus on writing fulltime. It was something I had always wanted to do, and after two careers, one in the military and one in private industry, I figured at the age of 62 it was a now or never, do or die situation. I have written for others all my life. I needed to write something by, of, and for myself. And to the glory of God. I think I’ve achieved that, finally. And my wife is now my best critic and biggest fan. If she likes my stories, most likely others will, too.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I learned how much enjoyment I could get from historical research. Living close to Washington, D.C., I am blessed to have access to the National Archives and Library of Congress. I love to peruse old documents, pictures, and books. I could get lost in those places and never come out, if I didn’t have to eat or sleep.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I’m now writing the sequel to my first novel, Find The Wind’s Eye. It doesn’t yet have a title, but it won’t until I am finished. I learned that lesson the first time around. The title I started with was not the final one, even though I was convinced it was suitable and good. I discovered that I was wrong, however, after a friend and editor said it sounded too much like the name of a trucking company. He is still my friend, and he was right. Although misnamed, my first book—the one that at last manifested my longing desire to write a good story—will always be my favorite. I am sure of it.
Do you have any suggestions to help others become better writers? If so, what are they?
Don’t be fooled by thinking that your earliest completed draft is ready to be published, if only you could find the right agent. You’ll likely waste a lot of time and effort in frustration, if you think so. You’ve just gotten started, my friend. Revise, revise, and revise again. Keep writing. Don’t quit. And read more. Lots more.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they have to say?
So far, my readers seem to like my first book, and want to read more. So say the reviews, at least. One reader said she had awakened one morning to mad hens, because she stayed up so late to finish my book that she missed their feeding. She couldn’t put it down. I don’t think a writer could hope for any more than making hens mad.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about yourself?
Yeah, I do suffer from imposter syndrome, in case you’re wondering. I think we all do, at some point. Perseverance is the only good response to that fear. The only imposters are the ones who never finish. Stay the course. See it through to The End.
Alton Fletcher enjoys sailing almost as much as he enjoys writing and sometimes wishes he could do both at once. He became enamored with the sea, sailing ships, and books upon his first reading of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island as a boy. Literature of the Sea is his favorite genre, due to its inherent tension between the call to adventure and longing for home. For the past twenty years, after retiring as an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard, he has made Virginia his home, where he continues to sail and write to his heart's content.
Back Cover Blurb:
In 1854 Boston, Third Lieutenant Andrew Gunn of the United States Revenue Cutter Service resists the President’s direct order to extradite a fugitive slave, Anthony Burns, back to Virginia aboard his ship—a lawful order that he believes is immoral and unjust.
Torn between his own reverence for freedom as an American and his sworn duty, Gunn suffers the hazards of hard choices that threaten his own life, liberty, and happiness. His first real exposure to the scourge of slavery brings chaos to his ordered life, despite his desperate attempts to control it.
Set aboard a small ship in the midst of a gathering political storm, Find The Wind’s Eye is a timely, moving story about a man of principle trying to find his way in a fast-changing, increasingly ambivalent world. He strives to do the right thing, while struggling with the ugly truth of his own complicity in the national sin of slavery.
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Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B08VGXLCHW