Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Interview with Andy Kutler, Author of The Other Side of Life
Please join me in welcoming Andy Kutler, author of the new historical fiction time-slip novel The Other Side of Life, to A Literary Vacation! His book is already garnering rave reviews from readers, including Pulitzer Prize winning authors, and it looks set to become a smash hit. Andy's stopped by today to do an interview that I hope you will enjoy, and, as always, be sure to continue after the interview for more information about The Other Side of Life, where to pick up the book and much more!
While Andy's writings have appeared in The Huffington Post and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The Other Side of Life is his first novel. Andy's interests include travel, military history, his Wisconsin sports teams, and most importantly, spending time with his wife and two children. You can learn more about the author at www.andykutler.com and can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.
Good morning Andy! I have become a huge fan of historical fiction time-slip novels as I love seeing how more contemporary characters interact with the past and the people who lived during that time. In The Other Side of Life you have your main character, a man who nearly lost his life at Pearl Harbor, go back in time to face fighting in the Civil War. Where did you come up with the idea?
I needed the story to originate around 1940 or so, and what happened to the USS Nevada at Pearl Harbor struck me as a perfect setting to introduce my protagonist, Mac Kelsey. Readers will get their first glimpse at the core of this man as he reacts to the first bombs falling, and see the trajectory of our country, and Kelsey’s life, completely change in those moments. Going back to the Civil War, with his knowledge of future outcomes and events, will shed further light on his character. A central theme in most time-slip novels is the extent a character’s action can alter the course of future events. My story tracks with that, but in what I think is a wholly unique way. I’ll have to save that surprise!
Oh I love surprises in novels! One of my favorite aspects of time slip novels is seeing just how much someone's actions in the past can affect the future and in what interesting ways. On the historical side, what draws you to historical fiction? Are there any particular times in history you gravitate towards or do you just enjoy history in general?
Like most readers, I’m drawn to really creative stories with compelling characters, but I also love to learn new things. As much as I think I know about history, particularly American history, I’m still constantly learning more. And there are so many extraordinary events that have remained relatively obscure and deserve a spotlight of their own. That is why I included the story of the USS Nevada in my book. As for particular historical periods I am drawn to, I really enjoy any major episode in American history, from the Revolutionary War through the Cold War. I generally stick to American history, but I do enjoy novels set during the Napoleonic wars, and I’m now trying to learn more about World War I, which I know so little about.
YES, I 100% agree with you regarding those hidden gems of history that need to be brought into the light and explored! I tend to gravitate towards European history myself (especially British History) but just this year have become drawn to America's Civil War. With all the books I want to read and my busy schedule there isn't enough time in the day to ever get to them all! What does a typical day in your life look like? When do you fit in time to write?
A typical day? Scheduled chaos! I have a day job, and I’m there by dawn every day. I get home in the late afternoon, try and get a run in, pick up my kids at school, and cook dinner when I’m not shuttling them to their baseball/softball/you name it activities. I write in the evenings, and on a really good night, I squeeze in an hour of Game of Thrones or Modern Family. There is literally not a minute for me to waste, but honestly, that time crunch keeps me focused and on-task. It’s crazy, but it works for me.
Wow, you are BUSY! I'm always amazed how you wordsmiths are able to find the time to write, especially when you incorporate a day job, family life and the extraneous tasks that come in to play when a book gets published. Speaking of that, a lot of authors have become huge on social media, not only promoting their work but interacting with their readers and offering up giveaways, book recommendations, etc. Are you a big proponent of using social media in this way? How do you prefer to interact with your fans?
Absolutely. I have had a few exchanges of my own with highly-successful, best-selling authors, asking them for advice, or even just letting them know how much I enjoyed their writing. I’m always amazed that these authors find time not only to answer my notes, but with thoughtful and engaging responses. My view is, if these literary giants can make time for me, then I can certainly make time for anyone who has gone to the trouble of purchasing and reading my book. I’ve really expanded my digital footprint in recent weeks, not only launching my web page but also using Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter to engage with readers. Still, I do have a soft spot for good old-fashioned email. I appreciate that personal touch.
It is wonderful you take the time out of your busy life to interact with your readers! I can tell you, from the reader's perspective, that makes a HUGE impact on us....authors are our rockstars!! I'm sure this is no surprise to you, however, since I’ve noticed that a lot of authors are also big readers. When you have time for leisure reading what sorts of books do you gravitate towards? Have you read anything good lately?
I am passionate about reading, and no matter how disorienting my life can be, I make time to read. It’s one of the things I enjoy most about traveling – the ability to consume entire novels in a few days. Historical fiction is my genre of choice, and I recently finished Jeff Shaara’s “A Fateful Lightning”, which is a novel about Sherman’s march through Georgia and South Carolina near the end of the Civil War. Loved the book, and love Shaara’s style of telling a story through the eyes of a handful of real-life historical figures. I also enjoy more contemporary thriller novels – Lee Child, Alex Berenson and Joseph Finder are at the top of my list.
Oh, I haven't heard of Shaara's "A Fateful Lightning"! It sounds amazing and I've added it to my crazy-long wish list! Are you working on any future books at this time? If so, can you tell us a little about it?
I’m sort of in the Cocktail Napkin Phase and hope to advance soon to the White Board Phase. Since my ideas are still being developed, I don’t want to reveal anything. But one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received is to write about those things you are most passionate about, and that will very much be the case with my next effort.
Well you definitely have my interest piqued! I'll be on the look out for what you have to come and am happy to experience The Other Side of Life now that it is out. Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by A Literary Vacation and share your insights with us!
Everyone please see below for more about The Other Side of Life. Doesn't it sound wonderful?!
Publication Date: August 11th, 2015
Publisher: Neverland Publishing Company LLC
Library of Congress Control Number: 2015909320
Genre: Historical Fiction
December 1941, Pearl Harbor. A peaceful Sunday morning turns into a devastating attack on American soil. Naval officer Malcolm "Mac" Kelsey is severely wounded while defending his ship. A flawed man abandoned long ago by his alcoholic wife, Kelsey has been mired in despair and hopelessness following the accidental death of Lucy, the young daughter he considers the only redemptive aspect of his life. Near the point of death, Kelsey is brought to what he believes to be an afterlife where he is offered an opportunity to shed his past memories and embark upon an alternate path in another place and time. Eager to escape his torment and begin a more tranquil existence, Kelsey accepts, only to feel quickly betrayed as he soon finds himself back in the midst of battle, this time as a Union soldier at the dawn of the Civil War.
Through Antietam, Gettysburg and four years of relentless fighting, Kelsey attempts to cast aside his painful past while trying to survive the horrors of combat. He crosses paths with compelling figures on both sides of the conflict determined to persevere and return to those they left behind. Idealistic Ethan Royston, promoted from the enlisted ranks, believes in preserving the Union but is plagued by insecurity and self-doubt. His closest friend, West Point-trained Cal Garrity, remains loyal to his home state of Virginia despite his misgivings about the virtue of the Southern cause. The war will divide these friends, just as it will divide Garrity from his adoring wife, Emily, the charismatic and headstrong daughter of a prominent Norfolk shipbuilder, forced to face the onset of war alone.
Each will endure unimaginable hardship and brutality that will forever reshape their core beliefs and values. Each will find their strength and resolve tested as they search for self-purpose, humanity, and reconciliation. Most of all, Mac Kelsey will discover the very essence of life and death, and whether the new beginning he has long coveted will bring him the inner peace he has so desperately sought.
Andy Kutler is a writer living in Arlington, Virginia. A native of Madison, Wisconsin and a graduate of Michigan State University (B.A.) and Georgetown University (M.A.), he has previously worked on the senior legislative staff of two United States Senators before serving as a senior policy officer with the U.S. Secret Service. He is working today as a consultant to the national securitycommunity.
“The Other Side of Life imaginatively mingles brutal scenes of Civil War battlefields with thought-provoking moral issues. It describes the conflicted loyalties and sufferings of that tragic era and the spiritual growth of the book’s hero—a naval officer wounded in the Pearl Harbor attack—and those he becomes close to when he is transported to the past. The swift-moving, compelling narrative grips the reader from first page to last.” -- Bernard Weisberger, historian and author of America Afire: Adams, Jefferson, and the Revolutionary Election of 1800
“Andy Kutler has written a thoughtfully imaginative adventure across time, approaching the Civil War from a fresh perspective while creating memorable, compelling characters. The story flows beautifully and is consistently challenging.” -- Ivan R. Dee, Publisher, Now and Then Reader (nowandthenreader.com)
"Andy Kutler's war scenes are gripping, his characters vulnerable and honest, and his story ultimately triumphant -- an exciting journey back into two levels of the past." -- David Hardin, author of Emblems of Woe: How the South Reacted to Lincoln's Murder
“Employing some new twists on the novelist's technique of time travel, Andy Kutler sends a naval officer bombed at Pearl Harbor back to the Civil War. Among his comrades in a Union cavalry regiment he absorbs the enduring values of trust, loyalty, love, and selflessness during the chaos and tragedy of a war that took place a half century before he was born. Readers will find themselves immersed in this story and captivated by its principal characters.” -- James M. McPherson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom and The War That Forged a Nation
“Profound, smart, and entertaining – the path through The Other Side of Life is an amazing journey through history.” -- Joe Weisberg, Creator and Executive Producer of FX’s The Americans and author of An Ordinary Spy
“Andy Kutler has created a fascinating fictional account of the service of the 6th United States Cavalry in the Civil War. While the book is a work of historical fiction, Kutler nevertheless faithfully recreates day-to-day life in a Regular Army cavalry regiment during this country’s greatest and most decisive conflict. If you have an interest in understanding the travails of the common cavalryman during the Civil War, then you will enjoy this book. Kutler is a fine writer, and it shows in this, his first novel.” –- Eric J. Wittenberg, award winning author and Civil War cavalry historian
"As an ardent student of both history and anything that features time travel in any way, you can color this reader delighted and impressed. The worlds Kutler describes feel lived in and personal; familiar events feel freshly re-imagined. Never have stoicism and perseverance been so epically heroic. Stoicism is a word, right?" -- Ben Karlin, Emmy Award-winning writer and executive producer of The Daily Show and Modern Family
"In The Other Side of Life, Andy Kutler employs his feel for history and great imagination to transport a Pearl Harbor casualty back to the Civil War -- a vivid, novelistic evocation of drama and trauma in 19th and 20th century America." -- John W. Dower, historian, author and recipient of the Pulitzer Prize Award and National Book Award for Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War