Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Guest Blogger, Jack Caldwell

Please join me in welcoming debut author Jack Caldwell as the special guest blogger here at Thoughts in Progress today.

Jack’s first book, PEMBERLEY RANCH, has just been released. He takes a new look at PRIDE AND PREJUDICE with a western flare and a bit of Southern charm. Here’s a brief  synopsis of it: “When the smoke has cleared from the battlefields and the civil war has finally ended, fervent Union supporter Beth Bennet reluctantly moves with her family from their home in Meryton, Ohio, to the windswept plains of Rosings, Texas. Handsome, haughty Will Darcy, a Confederate officer back from the war, owns half the land around Rosings, and his even haughtier cousin, Cate Burroughs, owns the other half.

In a town as small as Rosings, Beth and Will inevitably cross paths. But as Will becomes enchanted with the fiery Yankee, Beth won’t allow herself to warm to the man who represents the one thing she hates most: the army that killed her only brother.

But when carpetbagger George Whitehead arrives in Rosings, all that Beth thought to be true is turned on its head, and the only man who can save her home is the one she swore she’d never trust…”

Jack stopped by today to answer a few questions about his book and his writing. Thanks to Jack and Danielle at Sourcebooks, I have 2 copies of PEMBERLEY RANCH to giveaway. Be sure to check at the end of the post for the giveaway guidelines.

Mason: How does a man come to write historical romance?

Jack: Men have been writing romances for centuries. Abelard and Heloise is a true story, of course, but Romeo and Juliet is not. Sir Walter Scott wrote Ivanhoe in 1819. How about James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans? Of course, when a man writes it, it is a historical novel; a woman, and it is historical romance.

Much of history is driven by the relationships between men and women. Cleopatra and Mark Antony come to mind.  It is reasonable to use this kind of relationship to tell the tale the author really wants to say. It’s a vehicle. Besides, I like historical romance.

Mason: Did you ever consider using a female pseudonym to pen your book?

Jack: No. I know there are men who do (and women who use male pseudonyms in science fiction), but I feel modern readers don’t buy books based on the sex of the author. What they are looking for is a good story. I hope I delivered that. Besides, it would be real hard to do book signings, as I look terrible in a dress (or so my wife says).

Mason: Your book is like Jane Austen meets Gone With The Wind in the Old West. What inspired you to take this direction with your book?

Jack: I am a child of the South, born and raised in Louisiana.
We were taught about the Civil War in school, just like every child in the country. But we also learned about Reconstruction, the fourteen-year occupation of the former Confederacy by Federal troops, which ended only because of the disputed Presidential election of 1876. Louisiana and South Carolina were the last states occupied, so this is a subject familiar to Cajuns.

My deeper interest began during a visit to the Vicksburg Battlefield. I had relations on my father’s side that served in the Louisiana regiments that fought at Vicksburg. Also, my mother is related to General Sherman of the Union, famous for his March to the Sea through Georgia. It was at Vicksburg that I found out that Sherman’s troops attacked the very bulwarks defended by the Louisiana soldiers. So, it can be said that my ancestors literally fought one another during the war.

I wanted to tell the story of Reconstruction, but not just the stealing of votes by the carpetbaggers and the lynching of former slaves by the KKK. The miracle of the United States is that we recovered and came together again as a nation, and a stronger nation than we ever were before. It wasn’t as rapid as Abraham Lincoln would have wanted, and the blacks in the South would continue to struggle for equal rights for a hundred years, but it did happen. It is a miracle because in many places in the world, ancient hatreds and conflicts are recalled in great detail and lead to unrest and even terrorism today, hundreds of years after the fact.

The story I wanted to tell would talk about healing the country, how Yankee and Rebel can come together. That is the story of PEMBERLEY RANCH.

Mason: Did you base your characters on anyone you know or were they a combination of people and imagination?

Jack: Well, most of my characters were defined by Austen herself. I tried to take their basic characteristics, put them in new situations, and see what they do.

However, I do have some original characters I like to use. My key “go-to-guy” is John Buford. He’s like Darcy, except darker and rougher. A lot more for ladies to fix.

Mason: You have 3 grown sons, do they share your interest in Jane Austen?

Jack: My middle son does. The other two—let’s just say not yet.

Mason: What would you say to teenage boys to encourage them to read historical romance?

Jack: Good writing is good writing, no matter the genre. I’ve been trying to convince my eldest, who enjoys science fiction, to try westerns and historical romance. What is Dune but a historical romance set in the future? Star Wars can be described as Zane Grey with laser beams.

If that doesn’t work, tell them it will help them get dates (same reason they go to chick flicks).

Jack, thanks for guest blogging here today. I enjoy your take on historical romance (novel).

Now for a bit of background on Jack. He’s a native of Louisiana living in the Midwest and is an economic developer by trade. He has been an amateur history buff and a fan of Jane Austen for many years. PEMBERLEY RANCH is his first published work. He lives with his wife in Minnesota. For more information, visit his website at http://webpages.charter.net/jvcla25/ and he can also be found on http://www.austenauthors.com/, where he regularly contributes.

Here’s what another author had to say about PEMBERLEY RANCH: “It’s Pride and Prejudice meets Gone with the Wind—with that kind of romance and excitement.”  —  Sharon Lathan, bestselling author of In the Arms of Mr. Darcy

Now for the giveaway. Be sure to comment on today’s post between now and 8 p.m. (EST) on Tuesday, Dec. 28, and include your e-mail address if it’s not included in your profile. Two lucky visitors commenting on Jack’s post will be selected by Random.org

What’s your take on men writing romance? BTW, Happy Winter Solstice!


  1. Jack, thanks again for blogging here today. It's always fun to learn more about authors and what inspires them to write.

  2. That's really cool that he writes based on Austen and that he writes romances. Some of the best romances were written by men. Dickens. Shakespeare. Hardy.

  3. Jack picked the perfect time in history for natural conflict in the book. You're so right--we're all just looking for a great read, not paying attention to the gender of the author. Thanks for coming by Mason's blog today. :)

  4. Mason - Thanks for hosting Jack.

    Jack - What a terrific setting and context for a novel. There were so many changes and conflicts right after the Civil War and so much potential in that time period for a writer of historical fiction. I wish you much success with Pemberley Ranch.

  5. Mason, You're awesome.

    Jack, I think your right in that today we don't care who writes what genre. Man or woman, if they do it right then a pen name isn't necessary.

    Thanks for the insight to your writing.

  6. This is a fantastic interview, and how fun to meet a fellow Louisiania writer! I've recommended this book to all my book club ladies--several of whom are from La. and all of whom love P&P. Also, and I wonder if Jack already knows Sherman was one of the original chancellors at LSU! That's part of the reason he spared the antebellum homes from St. Francisville to Plaquemine!

    Can't wait to read this book--it's been on my Kindle since your review, Mason! All the best, and Merry Christmas~ :o) <3

  7. I enjoyed this wonderful interview and am fascinated greatly with Pemberley Ranch. Much success and happy holidays.

  8. This captivating novel, Pemberley Ranch which is unique and charming would be a pleasure to read. The era and Western influence appeals to me.

  9. Men writing romance is new but hey why not?

    littleone AT shaw DOT ca

  10. Thanks for having me on, Mason

    LTM -- You're right, I knew that Sherman was at LSU. I'm glad someone spared the plantation homes. The Union Navy did not -- they liked to use the houses along the Mississippi River for target practice. Many grand homes were damaged or destroyed.

  11. I know a lot of men who read romance, too! My cousin told me when boxes of books would arrive for his platoon in Iraq, the romances always vanished first.
    wolferock AT earthlink.net

  12. I'd look bad in a dress as well.
    Writing anything with a man and woman relationship is tough - as I've just discovered by introducing the first female character into the sequel to my science fiction book. I'm hoping I don't really suck at it!

  13. Sounds like a wonderful spin on my favorite book! And I've got to like (and admire) an author who sticks to what they love to write without any apology. Go, Jack!

    Thanks for the interview, Mason and Jack!

  14. this book would be a great Xmas present for all our dear ladies!

  15. This book sounds like a wonderful read!
    I think authors should write what they want to write.
    chey127 at hotmail dot com

  16. Thank you for hosting Jack, Mason.

    Not for a moment did I suspect while reading your review of the book that it was not written by a woman. Cudos!

    And Merry Christmas!

  17. Thanks for the interesting interview. The story looks like one that I would enjoy.
    mce1011 AT aol DOT com


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.