Monday, July 22, 2019

Brad Livengood, Author of Liberty Man

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Today we are interviewing Brad Livengood about his historical fiction novel, “Liberty Man.” 

Tell us a bit about yourself. 
I am a 59 year old husband, father and grandfather with a passion for history and a love of the English language.

Describe the plot of your new book, “Liberty Man,” in a few sentences. 
“Liberty Man” involves a character named Gabriel Brower, living in Vietnam era North Carolina, and how he is confronted one night by William Kinney, who claims he was a soldier in the American Revolution. Once he gets over the initial shock of these events, Gabriel listens as William begins to tell him the often profound and harrowing story of his life, and his enduring search for his great, lost love, Sallie, through years of struggle and sadness, war and death.

Tell us about the protagonist, Gabriel Brower. 
Gabriel is what one might call an everyman type of character, who lives in rural North Carolina in 1971. He is a blue collar construction worker who struggles with alcoholism and a failing marriage. His identity is wrapped up in folk music, and the tragedy of loss, the death of his parents and of his best friend in Vietnam.

Who do you think would most appreciate “Liberty Man”? 
Anyone with an appreciation of history and a love of a great story.

How does Gabriel Brower deal with being thrust into the time of the American Revolution? 
At first, Gabriel reacts in disbelief and balks at the idea. But gradually, he senses that William’s stories are helping him somehow, not so much by imparting some great wisdom so he can deal with his own problems in the present, but by, in effect, holding up a mirror to Gabriel, so that he can see his own humanity in those people from the past, that people in every time and epoch are the same, with the same longings and desires, hardships and tragedies.

What can you tell us about William Kinney? 
William Kinney is a character based upon an ancestor of mine. The story I tell is loosely based on his life. He was born in 1733 in Scotland and grows to manhood with deep concern about the injustice of his homeland. He is a lover of books and learning, but has no sense of himself until he meets Sallie. He finds himself immediately enthralled and haunted by her beauty and grace. When he finds that she has been kidnapped by Major Carnavon, he begins a long, agonizing search for her. This consumes his life and leads him to the wilderness of North America and the often bitterly contested battlefields of the American Revolution.

What made you decide to set the story during the American Revolution?
William Kinney actually did fight in the American Revolution, so that decision was made for me. What was interesting for me was to bookend that time period with life in Gabriel’s Vietnam era. There are several historical parallels between the Revolution and Vietnam, most obviously the fact that the largest, most powerful side lost the war in each case, the British in the Revolution and America in Vietnam. But also there is the guerilla tactics employed by the upstart victors and the intense unpopularity and expense of each war on the home front of the losers.

Tell us about how your interest in historical fiction developed.
Fiction is an imagined reality. It is not just a creative arrangement of facts. There are so many things you can do with fiction. You’re telling a story on the surface, but you can layer it with all kinds of thematic elements below the surface. “Liberty Man,” for instance, is not just about individual liberty, it also concerns Christian liberty. It functions as a sort of oblique commentary on the Gospel, which, without being preachy at all, teaches us that all of Creation, human beings included, are longing for redemption. 

One of the strengths of your writing is that, although your book has an American Revolution theme, you touch on aspects of humanity that transcend time period, such as friendship and love and war and death. Was this something you set out to do before starting the book? Or is it something that evolved as you wrote?
Creating the humanity in a character, even a deeply flawed, unlikable character, is one of the challenges to writing fiction. The best literature achieves this. It shows us a universal expression of our own humanity that, as you put it, “transcends time period.” So yes, that was something I consciously set out to do and is always one of the goals of my writing.

What inspirations contributed to this book? 
The novel was inspired, in part by a box of original family letters I discovered, along with some very distinct conversations I had with my father and my uncle about family history and storytelling.

Can you share with us a bit about your writing process? Do you outline extensively before you start on the manuscript? 
I use a threefold process in writing. 1.) Define the parameters. Create basic plot outlines and characters. 2.) Advance the narrative. I try to write 1000 words a day when I work on a project in order to move the story forward each day. 3.) Polish the result. This is the hardest part, the endless revisions and editing, making sure everything makes sense.

Is there an author that had a major influence on you while you were growing up? 
I grew up reading the great narrative historians such as Francis Parkman, Samuel Eliot Morrison, Douglas Southall Freeman, Shelby Foote and David McCullough. But along the way I found that great fiction could forever pull you deeper into the resounding mysteries of the human condition. I am a great enthusiast of “Moby Dick,” but also things like “A Tale of Two Cities,” “Crime and Punishment” and a host of other classics.

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Author Brad Livengood.
How long have you been writing? 
I have loved composition since I was a small child. My parents even kept of couple of my very embarrassing early stabs at writing from grade school.

Who was your favorite character to write? 
You generally fall in love with a lot of your characters since they are fragmented representations of some aspect of yourself. Probably my favorite is the villain of the story and William’s arch-antagonist, Major Carnavon. It has been noted that all villainy comes from Satan in the Bible, including John Milton’s version of Satan in “Paradise Lost.” Major Carnavon exhibits this same prideful nihilism as he applies himself to his mysterious, nefarious quest, which is at the heart of the narrative. The character represents the evil of the world’s system, which is traceable back to chapter five of the Book of Genesis. It is William’s final confrontation with the Major that is the climax of the novel.

What genre do you read most frequently? 
I still read mostly history, but also quite a few novels.

How do you think you've evolved as a writer since when you first started? 
Writing prose can be a very musical thing. It has a cadence and a rhythm to it that is highly artistic and pleasing to the ear. It is in this area that I believe I have most improved. I have learned to listen to the sound of my own words. Are they clear and concise? Do they have a flow, a movement, a pattern? That is what I’m looking for.

What are your goals as a writer for the next ten years? 
I would like to continue the story of William’s family and write a series of novels based upon their experiences.

How have your readers responded to the book so far? 
The response to “Liberty Man” has been dramatic and overwhelmingly favorable. I must say that I have been pleasantly surprised at how well people have liked and related to the story, but also how many people have asked when my next book was coming out.

Is there any aspect of writing you don't like?
Nobody is particularly crazy about the editing and revision aspect of writing. But I take it as a necessary part of the discipline of writing, and think of it as another step toward the goal of a finished work.

Have you ever had writer's block? If yes, how'd you deal with it? If you have not had writer's block, why do you think you haven't?
I don’t recall having writer’s block probably because I do certain disciplinary things to avoid it, to enhance my creative mode. I write at the same time every day. I have learned to just let my thoughts flow without editing, which can come later. I do not sit at a computer while writing, but write longhand in a composition book. I don’t know about anyone else, but these practices help me to stay on point.

Is there anything else you'd like potential readers to know about your book?
“Liberty Man” is at its core about the essence of storytelling, which is a part of every culture in every epoch on every corner of this planet. Everybody has a story to tell. Stories have this amazing power to heal and restore. We cannot maintain basic human community without stories. So if anyone is looking for an unforgettable story, then “Liberty Man” is worth your time. It is a good read.

An excerpt from "Liberty Man":
January 30, 1781
We march as silent practitioners in the eternal madness of war, slashing through a sea of Carolina mud. Willingly we profane the sanctity of life. Willingly we emerge from the dawn as objects of loathing, as we turn our backs on home and abundance to join in this miserable carnival of torment, this final eclipse of light. 
We are called to a halt, although still in formation. We rest our chins on the tompions of our weapons. General Davidson and his staff splash by us on their horses, directing us toward the Catawba. The British are upon us. I imagine the might of their tread like the rumblings of an earthquake coming toward us, sweeping all in their path. It is whispered that we are to hold them at the fords of the river. This is a preposterous assumption, for we have barely one hundred fifty souls in our column. The reality soon becomes clear. We are to be sacrificed. 
The men are nervously conversational. Some whisper of home and their families. Some speak quietly of death, as if they do not wish the fates to hear of their conversation. Andrew muses about honor, concerned, like many, of how he will meet the onslaught. Do we die ingloriously, crumpled in the mud? Or shall our bones be remembered, our memory admired? 
“Quiet in the ranks,” our captain shouts. “We are close enough to give away our position.” 
I am so weary that I stumble and lean against Scipio. I feel I am dying in small increments.
More Information
Buy “Liberty Man” on Amazon.
Follow the author on Facebook.
Buy “Liberty Man” on Book Baby. 

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