Thursday, November 15, 2018

Buried letters, buried bombshells perhaps?

Today I'm delighted to welcome Jack Woodville London to my blog. He's touring the internet with his novel, French Letters: Children of a Good War, and the title intrigued me enough to encourage a "yes" when asked if he could drop in here. I hope you'll agree.

So, find some good coffee, and maybe a gluten free snack, then sit and enjoy our conversation:




  • So, first of all, I'd like to know where you're from (my accent gives you an unfair advantage otherwise)?
I grew up in Groom, Texas, a town near Amarillo.  I live in Austin with my wife, Alice, and Junebug the writing cat.
  • Ah, a cat. And a writing cat too. So, did you and/or your cat always want to be a writer?
I wanted to race sports cars until I was about 14, then wanted to be a basketball player. Then I wanted to be a history professor.  I always wanted to be a writer.

  • Always? That's the same answer I'd give. So what first inspired you to write seriously?
8th grade.  I was enrolled in a ‘Ready Writing’ competition and won a prize of some kind for a story about someone very like me who somehow fixed up a wrecked sports car, then had lots of adventures in places whose names I misspelled. I was taken by the craft of writing when I read a number of books in which the word choices the authors made were extraordinary.  Examples were the romance poem ‘The Eve of St. Agnes’ and ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ (“The hound?  The hound did nothing.” “Exactly.”)

  • Oh, great examples. What inspired your story?
    1. I thought that there should be a story that reflects three conditions of the cycle (cyclone?) of life:  being taken for granted (and attempting revenge); being utterly alone in the world, no matter how many people are around you; and, learning that you really don’t know who you are, then setting out to find out. 
    2. I found the meanness of the Biblical story of the brothers Jacob and Esau and the things they did to their father to also be timeless.  I build a family saga around parents who were not always completely blameless, their friends, their enemies, and their children, creating a story in which there are individual bits that all of us will recognize from our family, friends, or, shudder, ourselves.  And, as Jacob and Esau feuded and lied, so do brothers feud and lie today, with lasting consequences.  Finally, one of the great narratives of sibling rivalries is the accusation that one of them is not really a sibling at all, but a foundling, a child dug up under a cabbage patch, or a bastard that someone brought home to raise. 
  • Wow! How does a story idea like this come to you? Is it an event that sparks the plot or a character speaking to you? 
Characters are wonderful devices.  You can create them, then drop them into nearly any period or event and they will act as such characters would act at any time in history, whether it is ancient Greece, Tudor England, baby boomers in the 1980s, or Trump America.
  • Is there a message/theme in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I hope that the notion comes through that finding out who we are is something each of us must find out for himself or herself; while we may or may not know who our parents are, we almost never know who they were.
  • What was your greatest challenge in writing this book?
When drawing complex characters with richly detailed individual lives, it takes a great deal of focus to keep their individual story lines arranged so that they become a part of the real story.  There are clues buried in most of the characters’ roles that readers often breeze through as minor details of daily life, then realize some time downstream that they are important pieces of the story.
  • What do you like to do when you are not writing?
My wife and I really like each other; we take long walks together, go to summer school together, I accompany her on her photography classes and shoots.  And, beyond my control, nearly everything I do becomes a seed of an idea or research for a project.  I once rode with two friends for 3700 miles over six days through the Texas desert, New Mexico and Colorado mountains, the plains of Wyoming, back to Colorado, into Kansas, down to Oklahoma, and finally back to Texas.  I went to keep them from driving off a mountain or into the Rio Grande; it ended when I discovered that no one, absolutely no one, not Lewis and Clark or Kit Carson or Zebulon Pike or Sam Houston, had done anything close to it.  What if we had been spies?
  • Sounds an amazing trip! And I can see how stories might be seeded there. So... now you've made me jealous of your travels, I suppose I should ask you to make me jealous of your writing life too. Have you won any awards or honors (not just for writing of course)?
a.    Author of the Year for 2011-2012; Indie Excellence Award; e-Lit gold award,
b.    Trial lawyer of the year, SuperLawyer.

  • Trial lawyer. Wow! (And yes, I'm seriously jealous of your Indie Excellence Award!) Thank you so much for visiting here, and I'll wish you many good readers for your book (which I also plan to read as soon as I can.)

About the Author:
Honored as Author of the Year, Military Writers Society of America 2011-2012, and winner, Indie Excellence Award, 2013, Jack Woodville London is the author of A Novel Approach (To Writing Your First Book, 2014, a cheeky and thoughtful book on the craft of writing for authors tackling their first novel. He also is the author of the award-winning French Letters fiction series. His World War II-era novel Virginia's War was a Finalist for Best Novel of the South and the Dear Author Novel with a Romantic Element contest. His 'parallel-quel' novel Engaged in War won the silver medal in General Fiction at the London Book Festival and the Silver prize in the Stars and Flags Historical Fiction competition. It was the Book of the Month by both Good Reads and Military Writers Society of America and reached Number One on Amazon. He has published some thirty literary articles and sixty book reviews, all in addition to a lengthy career as a courtroom lawyer and a forty year writing career as the author of technical legal articles, and as editor during law school of the University of Texas International Law Journal. His fiction work in progress includes French Letters: Children of a Good War.

He grew up in small-town Texas before earning degrees at the University of Texas and West Texas State University and earning certificates at the Fiction Academy, St. Céré, France and Ecole Francaise, Trois Ponts, France, and at Oxford University, England, UK.

Ha! The "other place!"

Find him at:


and Children of a Good War is available at:



About the book:
Eleanor Hastings knew from experience that some bombs lie buried for decades before blowing up to hurt someone. Now, forty years after World War II, a cache of faded wartime letters is discovered in a cellar, causing Eleanor's husband, Frank, to understand that he really was a bastard and sending him on a quest to find out who he really is — and to uncover his family's long-buried secrets.

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