My most recent book, published in October by the Naval Institute Press, is entitled For Love of Country. It is the first of five projected sequels to my first novel, A Matter of Honor. The setting for For Love of Country is the Barbary Coast of North Africa during the 1780’s. Richard Cutler, the main protagonist in all six novels, sails to Algiers to try to ransom his brother, Caleb, who had been taken prisoner by Barbary pirates while serving aboard a Cutler merchant vessel. From Algiers, Richard sails to France to report to his former naval commander, John Paul Jones. While in Paris he learns that a former love interest is in grave danger, and he risks his own life to save her and her two daughters from the guillotine.
Tell us something about yourself.
I have always been interested in reading and writing as I was raised in a Boston family in which reading for pleasure was an important part of life. That interest flowed into my professional life, during which I have served as a publisher, editor, sales manager, chief financial officer of a publishing house, a publishing consultant, and a literary agent. My first attempt at writing historical fiction was almost forty years ago when I was in my mid 20’s. The novel was set in fourteenth century England during the Hundred Years War and it was great fun to write. Fortunately for American letters it was never published.
What inspired you to write this book?
I have always loved the study of history, both in fiction and nonfiction, and I have always loved sailing. So I have combined these interests in writing this series.
How did you choose the title?
The title, I believe, captures the idealism that many Americans of that age (and this age) felt about their newly born republic.
What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?
Getting any book published in this day and age is always a struggle. I certainly had my share of rejections for Book I. My then publisher, Cumberland House, went out of business just six weeks before Book II (For Love of Country) was to be released. My agent and I had to scramble to find a new publisher – which by the grace of God, we did.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I set my alarm for 4:00 each morning. I putter around the kitchen for 15 or 20 minutes, making coffee, emptying the dishwasher, anything to get the blood pumping. Then I sit down at my computer and start off editing the material I had written the previous morning. I write until 8:00 or so, until I have to leave for work or until one of my three sons comes into my home office looking for money. The important thing, from my perspective, is to establish a routine that you follow every day, seven days a week, no exceptions barring an emergency.
How do you come up with the names for your characters?
Some of the characters in my novels are real historical figures, so naming them is fairly easy. Others are names that evoke the spirit of early New England – names such as Agreen, Abel, and Makepeace. Still others are names of friends of mine or names that seem right at the moment of creating the character. For the protagonist I wanted a name that was simple but strong. “Richard Cutler” seemed right to me, especially since the name came to me one Sunday in church.
If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?
I wouldn’t do anything differently.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?
I have always loved historical and nautical fiction. I also love to read adventure books and books about the sea. My two favorite authors at an early age were Jack London and Edward R. Snow. I also enjoy reading the great writers of the twentieth century: Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald and the like. Then, of course, there’s Patrick O’Brian and C.S. Forester.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
Book III in the series, entitled The Power and the Glory, is finished and with my agent. The backdrop of the novel is the Quasi-War with France in the late 1790’s. I am currently working on Book IV, A Call to Arms, set in the Mediterranean and the Barbary Wars a few years later.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Write for yourself, write your passion, and let the chips fall where they may.