I’m excited to introduce you all to retired Captain Terry C. Pierce, the latest Heart Ally author. His book Without Warning officially launches on June 15.
HA: Why did you choose to work with Heart Ally Books?
TCP: A leading literary agency expressed interest in Without Warning, but they requested I cut the book in half, from 760 pages to 330 pages. They said none of the big publishers would buy my novel because I was an unknown novelist. I said no to cutting the length of the book.
HA: I have to admit to wondering if we could cut the book down, but as I read it through, I didn’t want to lose some of the stories that you’d woven throughout. Still, you could have published it yourself or gone with one of the many other publishers out there. Why us?
TCP: Margie Lawson’s Writer’s Academy rescued me and here is how. Previously, I had ordered two class lecture packets from Margie – “Visceral Rules: Beyond Hammering Hearts” and “Empowering Characters’ Emotions.” I loved Margie’s writing packets and I had employed many of her writing techniques in my novel. One day I received an email from Margie saying you were going to offer a class on indie publishing. I knew nothing about indie publishing, but I explored your website, Heart Ally Books. I loved Heart Ally’s approach to publishing and your willingness to take on an unpublished novelist. I also loved that you were selective in who you published. I sent you a query email and you responded immediately, requesting the first three chapters. After one day, you requested the entire manuscript. Fortunately, you and your husband had recently visited the Gettysburg Battlefield. A few days later, you offered me a contract to publish Without Warning.
HA: (laughing) I remember that query letter. I love teaching at LWA because it lets me share what I’ve learned with more authors than I can work with one-on-one. I have to admit, when I first read the query I was hesitant. The book is huge and I knew it would be a lot of work, but you were a Margie grad. Margie grads tend to be good writers. I asked for the first three chapters because I wanted to give you a fair reading before I turned it down.
I’m not a fan of war novels. That trip to Gettysburg was overwhelming to me because I realized how much I didn’t know about the battle. The subject felt dry and confusing to me. I started reading the sample you sent and was immediately hooked. I was worried that I might get to the end of the sample and not have the next page. Reading your novel became less about work and more about enjoying a good book.
I remember turning the last page on the book and stopping in shock. There had to be more. The story read so smoothly that I didn’t feel the word count. Your book was a delightful surprise.
What was the most surprising experience you had during the process of becoming an author?
TCP: I thought my manuscript was “polished” when you decided to publish it. I was wrong. The manuscript was a diamond in the rough. You encouraged me to work with your favorite editor – Lori Brown, call sign Grammarwitch. Like you, Lori is very selective in who she works with. I sent Lori a few chapters and then held my breath, hoping she would say yes. Indeed, Lori said yes, and then we started the editing process.
That process started in October 2019 and lasted until mid-May 2020. Lori edited the manuscript four times. During this process I worked with Lori from morning until early evening, seven days a week. After the third complete edit, Lori handed the manuscript over to you. You’d been watching us from a bird’s eye view. You then edited and formatted the manuscript, and gave it back to Lori, who did the final copy edit.
Working with Lori and you during this editing process was like taking a master’s degree in creative writing. I learned a lot about the craft of writing.
I was also surprised about how much daily attention you gave me. You know the publishing business and knew this was my first rodeo. Besides the editing process, there were tons of other things that needed attention, including creating an author’s website, finding an artist to draw the maps, preparing for the launch of the book.
Just when I thought things would slow down as we neared the publishing date, the pace picked up. Decisions had to be made on the color of paper, the font, the style of the page breaks and timestamps, etc. Heart Ally’s style is one of an Admiral embarked on your ship and you’re the Captain. Heart Ally is the publisher and your mentor, but insists that the ship is your responsibility and you get to make decisions. I was surprised about this.
HA: I’m a big believer that the book is the author’s baby. I want it to succeed, but at the same time it is important that the style and voice of a book be yours. I love working with Lori because she shares that approach.
Also, I have to admit: I’m particular about having my logo on a book. If I put my literal stamp of approval on a book, I want to be proud of it. It felt right having my logo on your book.
Let's talk about that book.
We've heard that nothing new can be said about the Civil War, and yet this book feels fresh. Your writing is excellent and you make the story come alive. You seem to have gotten to know these men deeply. Tell us a little about your research.
TCP: I’m not a historian, but as a doctoral student, we were taught how to do research using primary sources. Overall, I spent five years doing research using both primary and secondary sources. I first started out with General George Meade. My goal was to know where Meade was every minute from June 27, 1863 to July 3, 1863. This goal was a challenge because the primary sources for Meade have large gaps of time. So I had to research the primary sources of his corps commanders and aides. For example, when reviewing the sources on General Hancock, he might mention that on July 1, 1863 at 1:15 p.m. he visited with Meade. I would write this time down on a master timestamp document I was creating. Then I would read General Warren’s accounts of Gettysburg and he would mention another time where he and Meade were together, and I would record this meeting between Warren and Meade.
HA: Those timestamps became an important part of the book.
TCP: After I finished researching Meade, I did the same process with the seven infantry corps commanders. During this process, I learned about the heroics of Colonel Colvill’s First Minnesota Regiment and General Greene’s New York Brigade. Subsequently, I did deep dives on this regiment and brigade. I also learned about the role Colonel Sharpe played in gathering intelligence for Meade, so I did a deep dive on Sharpe.
Upon finishing the deep dives on all key Union characters, the story of Without Warning started to come together.
HA: Ah. That explains how the others came to be so much a part of the book. I loved the way the different characters came alive.
The book is titled Without Warning. I've heard you talk about “without warning” moments. I want everyone to hear your explanation of what a “without warning” moment is.
Take a moment and explain that to folks.
TCP: Without-Warning moments – the jarring pause between denial and fear. They happen to all of us. Some of these frightening moments are bigger than others. Our nation is currently facing a big one: the COVID-19 pandemic. A smaller moment is hearing a loud pop as your car tire crashes through a pothole in the road.
Big or small, these chilling moments all have something in common.
They hit without warning, and how we respond, either as a nation or as a person, depends on character. We don’t have time to work on our character during these without-warning moments. That’s why character is so important to all of us as we face unforeseen challenges.
HA: That concept of “without warning” moments has stuck with me throughout the last year and impacted my own decisions as these moments have hit all of us.
Throughout the publishing of this book, you made choices in the team you worked with: an unknown publisher, a relatively unknown editor, a new artist. For all of us, working on your novel presented “without warning” moments: good ones! Whenever any of us started to hesitate, you were also there for us, encouraging us that the character and skill we had developed over our lifetimes was exactly what we needed in this moment.
Terry, it has been a delight publishing Without Warning, and I’m looking forward to the sequel!
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