Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Interview with an Author: E. Michael Helms and "Of Blood and Brothers"

Today on the blog we have E. Michael Helms, author of "Of Blood and Brothers: Part I and Part II". As you all probably know by now, I have a special spot in my heart for Civil War historicals, so I immensely enjoyed the first part of this epic family saga. Here is the synopsis of both novels:

Historical Fiction Novels by E Michael HelmsIn Part One, it's the spring of 1927, ambitious cub reporter Calvin Hogue covers a family reunion in the Florida Panhandle. He learns two Malburn brothers fought on opposing sides during the Civil War, and encourages them to tell their stories. Before the night is over, Calvin realizes he has a far greater story than a run-of-the-mill family reunion.

Thus begins the first of many sessions with the Malburn brothers. The saga unfolds in their own words with wit, wisdom and sometimes, sadness. Before long the brothers are confronting troubled pasts and conjuring up ghosts laid buried throughout the long post-war years. Calvin is swept along by the harrowing eyewitness account of our nation’s most trying era, through bloody battles, personal trials and losses, and the mutual love of a beautiful young woman.
Of Blood and Brothers Book Two by E Michael HelmsIn Part Two, as the Confederate Army conducts a fighting retreat to save the vital railhead at Atlanta, Daniel Malburn is severely wounded during a fierce battle near Dallas, Georgia. Daniel is captured and sent north to prison at Rock Island, Illinois.

The war ends, but trouble stalks the Malburns in post-war Florida. Amid the violent days of Reconstruction, Daniel and Elijah face continuing conflict, family turmoil, and heart-wrenching tragedy as they struggle toward a hard-earned and costly reconciliation. 

A big welcome to Michael!

CW: Tell us a bit about yourself. When did you turn to writing?

EMH: After high school graduation I joined the Marine Corps and served in combat during the height of the Vietnam War. A couple of years after my discharge, I tried a semester of college. I took a creative writing course, and on the first day of class we were required to write an essay. The professor was impressed with what I wrote, and immediately transferred me to an advanced class with full credit for the one I’d signed up for. I later dropped out of college because I felt like I didn’t fit in with the other students. I seemed so much older, although that really wasn’t the case. Whatever talent I might have had lay latent for the next dozen years or so. I eventually joined a VA counseling group for combat veterans struggling with PTSD. Our counselor suggested I start “journaling” as a way of getting my feelings down on paper, sort of a purging process. The journal soon took the form of a book, and resulted in my Vietnam memoir, The Proud Bastards, first published in 1990. It has remained in print for over twenty years, currently with Simon & Schuster/Pocket.

CW: “Of Blood and Brothers: Book One” focuses on two brothers who are seemingly torn apart by their loyalties during the Civil War. What appealed to you about this era and/or plotline?

EMH: I've been a Civil War “buff” for as long as I can remember. Although “brother against brother” is a common and well-used theme for novels about the war, I chose to use it because there was a real family (the Mashburns) who lived near where I grew up and actually faced that situation during the Civil War. Additionally, when I was nine or ten, there were a couple of elderly brothers who lived in my neighborhood whose father had fought for the Confederacy during the war. Those two old gents would regale my friends and me for hours with stories about their father’s exploits fighting the “damnyankees.” Their speech patterns and colorful language gave rise to the voices of Daniel and Elijah Malburn, the brothers in my two-volume saga, Of Blood and Brothers.

CW:  The novel has a very authentic feel to it. To me, it called to mind Majorie Kinnan Rawlings’ work in terms of setting. How did you go about capturing that?

EMH: As mentioned before, I grew up in the area where the “Malburn” brothers lived and died, just north of the Gulf Coast in the Florida Panhandle. As a kid, I camped, swam, fished, and hunted near the Malburn homestead, so I am intimately familiar with the area. I also drew on my personal combat experiences to lend authenticity to the battle scenes in Of Blood and Brothers. Weapons and tactics may change through the centuries, but when it comes right down to it, closing with and destroying the enemy in battle is a common denominator in all wars. I also walked over the very ground where both brothers experienced their own horrific battle experiences in Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida. Add to that a ton of research over a period of years and you have my answer.

CW: Who is your favorite author or book?

EMH: That’s a tough one, but I’d have to say Erich Maria Remarque, author of All Quiet on the Western Front, The Road Back, and a slew of other wonderful novels. The two I mentioned told (fictionally) of his experiences as a German foot soldier during WWI, and the struggles returning veterans faced in the years immediately following the “War to End All Wars.”
I’ve also become a huge fan of Ross Macdonald and his “Lew Archer” mysteries, although I never read a single one until I’d finished the first three novels in my Mac McClellan Mystery series. So, Mac is no copycat of Lew, but he may pick up a few pointers as the series progresses. (Note: Deadly Catch: A Mac McClellan Mystery was released in November 2013. Deadly Ruse is due for release November 2014.)

CW: Random question: If you could meet any historical personage, who would it be?

EMH: Another tough one, but I would probably choose Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. His dry wit and body of work are, in my opinion, incomparable in the realm of American literature. I can’t begin to tell you how many hours of entertainment he provided me as a young reader. I’d love to sit on the porch of his family home at Hartford, Conneticuit, enjoy a drink with him, and pick his brain. Some say he’s still there, in spirit form, as his and other family members’ ghosts have been reported in the home, now restored as a museum.
CW: Thanks so much for stopping in, Michael!

EMH: Thank you so much for having me as your guest. It’s been a pleasure.

* * * 

For more information on Michael or his books (which include a mystery series and a military historical), check out his website. Michael is also on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. "Of Blood and Brothers Part One and Part Two" are both available in ebook form as well as paperback. Please Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Books-A-Million to purchase.

No comments:

Post a Comment