A native of Gainesville, Florida, author Nick West attended the University of Florida where he became interested in writing. He is a veteran of the United States Navy, and together with his family, has owned and operated a landscape business for more than 20 years. He and his wife Kay and their children, Tammy, John and Christy, along with their families, all live on the farm where he grew up near Archer. He is the author of The Great Southern Circus and The Long Road Home.
The Great Southern Circus, his first book, is a collection of circus stories told to him by his grandmother, as they were told to her by her grandmother, Miranda Madderra, who performed with a horse-drawn caravan just prior to the Civil War. His second book, The Long Road Home, follows the main characters from The Great Southern Circus as they traverse the difficult and painful years of the American Civil War.
Visit the author and learn more about his work at his website.
Thanks for this interview. Tell us a little about what got you into writing?
I believe that all writers are avid readers. As such I have tremendous respect for those who are talented enough to draw their readers into a caring relationship with the characters in their books. I have found that after reading a good book, I often recall the experiences of the characters as I would good friends or family members. That is my goal as a writer. I have attempted to relate these stories in a way that future generations of my own family could relate to them as the real people that they were. My effort is to bring these wonderful people to life in my books so that even readers outside of my own family would feel as connected to them as I do.
What was your inspiration for The Long Road Home?
When The Great Southern Circus became available nationally on Amazon, I was contacted by a large number of readers who had become invested in the characters of that book. As that book ended, half the characters rushed to join the Union Army and the other half joined the Southern cause. Readers wanted to know what had become of these folks during the Civil War. This book answers those questions.
So the novel is part biographical, part fictional?
Biographical in the sense that these were real people who actually lived the events about which I have written, and fictional in the sense that I can only imagine most of their actual conversations based upon recollections as handed down through oral history for several generations.
For those readers who haven’t read your first book yet, is there something about the plot or characters they need to know in advance before reading The Long Road Home or is it a stand alone novel?
I have had readers who read The Long Road Home first, but invariably went back to read the Great Southern Circus to better understand the relationships. I would encourage folks to read the books in the order they were written to become more involved with all of these wonderful people.
How long did it take you to write the book and did you plot in advance?
The Great Southern Circus was a work in progress for years. I remembered the stories as they were told by my Grandmother and was determined to put them down in written form for future generations of my own family. The advent of the internet made it possible to not only verify that the events chronicled in the book actually took place, but also to connect me with other descendants of the same tour to compare notes and flesh out the other characters. This book took about a year to actually write and told the story of a two-year circus tour that ended when the Civil War broke out. The Long Road Home picked up the adventures of the same characters as they struggled to survive the terrible years of the war. This book also took about one year to research and write.
What was the research process like and what surprised you most about this dark time of American history?
The American Civil War is probably the most researched period of American history. No matter how small a skirmish or political event, someone has researched and written about it. I read countless articles, books and research papers as they related to the experiences of my ancestors during this dark period. I found many surprises (at least to me) along the way. For instance, at the beginning of the War, Lincoln was more concerned with the preservation of the Union than he was about slavery, which I was always taught was the major reason for the conflict. I also learned that racial prejudice in the North did not allow black men to even join the Union Army until late in the war. I had forgotten that our Nation was less than 100 years old at the time and that many of the States believed that the Union was voluntary and that they could simply “opt out” if they believed that the Federal government was causing them more problems than it was helping their individual cause. I also learned to respect even more the character displayed by, and heartaches endured by President Lincoln during this time.
What themes do you explore in your novel?
Romance, friendship, adventure, hardships in a historical context. This is an attempt to put into perspective the individual stories of each of these men and women as they were swept along by events beyond their control. These characters first met each other and became close friends during the hardships of a circus tour that lasted two years before the outbreak of the War. One man was the northern son of the circus owner and performer, one young black man who joined to circus to search for his sister who was still held as a slave somewhere in the South, one young Alabama girl (my 3x Great Grandmother) was a bare-back rider and a young man from Alabama who joined the circus just to be near her. This is primarily their story.
What has been the reaction from your friends and family so far?
Friends and family loved both books and I have been blessed by the fact that total strangers have discovered my books. From the reviews on Amazon and other sites they seemed to have enjoyed them as well.
Are you planning any local book signings or other promotional events you’d like to announce?
I have periodic signing events that I advertise locally and through social networking. I am also happy to personalize and sign books that my office will mail to anyone who phones in a request to 1 (352)495-9858.
What’s on the horizon for you? Is there a third novel in the works?
I am now working on my third novel.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers?
I am always happy to hear from readers who have enjoyed my books. They can find me on Facebook or E-Mail me at [email protected]
Thanks again for the interview and best of luck with your books!