Thursday, June 2, 2016

Lee Passarella ~ an interview and his novel ~ Cold Comfort, Ill Wind

Lee Passarella

TITLE: Cold Comfort, Ill Wind
RELEASE DATE: January 20, 2016
AUTHOR: Lee Passarella
KEYWORDS: YA fiction, historical fiction, Civil War fiction, military fiction, new adult, military, history
CATEGORIES: Historical Fiction/Young Adult/New Adult
ISBN: 978-1523323258 & 1523323256
IMPRINT: White Stag

Two Virginia brothers, Townsend and John Tyler Philips, are separated by the great war that breaks the Union apart. While Towns serves as a musician in the 51st Virginia Infantry, John Tyler attends Virginia Military Institute, hoping one day to fight for his country and be reunited with his brave younger brother. Neither could guess they would meet again on a bloody battlefield of that war, or that John Tyler would be injured and again separated from his brother Towns.

Now, recovered from his wounds, John Tyler joins General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, defending Petersburg against overwhelming Union forces, while Towns marches with Confederate General Jubal Early to the gates of Washington, then, hounded by the Union Army, back to Virginia, where the Rebels meet a tough new adversary, Union General Philip Sheridan. Confederate victories are soon followed by defeat after defeat, and for young Townsend Philips, a deepening crisis of conscience and will.

ONE LINER: Two Virginia brothers, separated by war, were once reunited on a deadly battleground of that war. Now, separated again, they continue the fight, hoping for final reunion.

Lee Passarella acts as senior literary editor for Atlanta Review magazine and served as editor-in-chief of Coreopsis Books, a poetry-book publisher. He also writes classical music reviews for Audiophile Audition and acts as associate editor for Kentucky Review.

Passarella’s poetry has appeared in Chelsea, Cream City Review, Louisville Review, The Formalist, Antietam Review, Journal of the American Medical Association, The Literary Review, Edge City Review, The Wallace Stevens Journal, Snake Nation Review, Umbrella, Slant, Cortland Review, and many other periodicals and online journals.

Swallowed up in Victory, Passarella’s long narrative poem based on the American Civil War, was published by White Mane Books in 2002. It has been praised by poet Andrew Hudgins as a work that is “compelling and engrossing as a novel.” While researching the history behind Swallowed up in Victory, Passarella decided that Civil War reenacting would give him a special insight into the conflict. As a re-enactor, he’s worn both the blue and the gray, as a private in the 125th Ohio Infantry and 42nd Georgia Infantry Regiments.



Q: Are you a morning person, or a midnight candle burner?
A: Well, I guess I burn my candle at both ends, if that’s the right image. Which it probably isn’t. But actually, I’m brightest and do my best work in the morning. That doesn’t stop me from doing work late as well. Which is fine, since if anything goes haywire in the evening, I always have the morning to set things right.

Q: If you could morph into any creature what would it be?
A: A turtle
            If you don’t mind me asking, why?   
A: They’re slow, yes, but that’s not all there is about turtles. They’ve always been a highly prized animal in cultures ancient and modern—a symbol of good luck in the East, and among the American Indians, a symbol of the earth itself. Many American Indian tribes depicted the world as being carried on a turtle’s back. And the fact that turtles have changed little since the age of the dinosaurs shows that even if they weren’t built for speed, they were beautifully designed for self-protection and longevity.     

Q: If you didn’t have to clean them, how many bathrooms would you have in your home?  
A: Probably as many as I have, which is three and a half.
                       How many if you have to clean them?
A: One. Luckily, I contract out the cleaning (mostly to my wife).

Q: If your life were a movie would it be considered an action film, comedy, drama, romance, fantasy or a combination?
A: The movie would have to be part comedy and part drama, sometimes on alternate days, sometimes on the same day. A wise man once said that life is a tragedy to those who feel and a comedy to those who think. What looks like near tragedy to me one day (or even one hour) often looks pretty different when I reflect on it later. I guess I’d be better off if I could cut out the feeling part and just laugh it up.

Q: How do you feel about exercise?
A: As somebody once said about work, it doesn’t frighten me at all; I can lie right down beside it. So with exercise: I admire those who practice it as long as they don’t dragoon me into doing the same. Actually, my exercise of choice is walking and I do quite a bit of it. I like to swim, too, when I’m not too lazy to schlepp over to the county aquatic center.

Q: Texting, love it or hate it?
A: I don’t get it and don’t do it. I communicate much better when I can edit what I have to say. Texting and instance messaging (IM) don’t give you much of a chance to do that.


Q: When did you start writing and why?
A: I started writing little stories in elementary school. Why, is a puzzle to me since as a very young child I didn’t really like reading. But sometime in middle school I started to consider writing as a serious avocation or even a vocation, and then I started to read just about every fiction and nonfiction work I could get my hands on in an attempt to learn the nuts and bolts of writing. For years, it seems, I wrote in imitation of this or that writer until I was able to find my true voice. When that true voice came, strangely enough I found it in poetry rather than in fiction or nonfiction. And now, later in life, I’ve come returned to fiction.

Q: What do you think is the hardest part of writing a book?
A: Creating incident. A writer just starting out, and even a more seasoned writer, sometimes forgets that what makes a reader want to continue reading a book is the element of surprise, the feature that causes the him or her to turn a page. Coming up with incidents that will surprise and delight, leading naturally to the next surprise, the next cliff from which the hero or heroine hangs, is a true art

Q: What is your favorite part of writing?
A: Whether I’m writing fiction or poetry, the greatest thrill is getting an idea that has legs and then spinning it out, often swiftly so that the ideas stay fresh. That can be very exciting. The hard part comes when you return to your inspiration and see that all is not as rosy as you thought it was. But usually, your instinct and inspiration were on target, and what you’ve produced can be honed and perfected. Too many young writers fail to realize that good and careful editing is what turns raw inspiration into a finished product. And it takes much longer and requires many more iterations than writers are often willing to expend on a piece.

Q: Describe your favorite heroine? (This doesn’t have to be one of yours.)
A: I wouldn’t say that Scarlet O’Hara is a favorite heroine, but she is remarkable to me in the fact that she is so endlessly unsympathetic. She does manage to gain the reader’s admiration through her sacrifices to bring Tara back to life after the war though, of course, even here her motives aren’t entirely pure. But she squanders the reader’s sympathy soon after in behavior towards her two husbands that is breathtaking in its ruthlessness and exploitation. Yet she is such a fascinating specimen of womanhood that she enthralls the reader first to last. Now, that’s some writing!


Q: What are you working on now? Would you like to share anything about it?
A: I wish I were working on something right now. But I need a bit of a break to get my thoughts together. However, my last book was a sequel, and the plot, especially the ending, more or less demands a sequel. So that’s the plan, though I haven’t embarked yet on either the research or the writing.

Q: Do you have a new book coming out soon? Tell us about it.
A: I have a poetry chapbook coming out soon. Well, it was supposed to be out by now since the publisher’s announced release date was January 8. Trouble with the printing is holding things up. I think it will be a nice little book once it appears.

Q: How can we find you? Do you have a web page, FaceBook page or any buy links?

A: Yes, I do. Here are the links.   

“Dear God, what was that?” Clarence shouted standing bolt upright from the bottom of the trench, where he had managed a fitful sleep of a couple hours. It was early morning; the first light of dawn filtered weakly over the pocked landscape. But he could see a big black cloud of smoke and dust rolling in from the southwest, the upper reaches of the cloud tinted a reddish-gold by the rising sun.
“What in hell!” John Tyler chimed in, now standing to peer cautiously under the head log at the top of the trench. Far away, there was the sound of cannon fire and then the crackling of rifle fire followed by even more distant-sounding shouts and screams. “Couldn’t have been somebody gettin’ off a lucky shot at one of our powder magazines. What was it?”
All of Company D, 59th Virginia, was awake now, the men tossing water from their canteens into their faces, pulling up suspenders, hauling on jackets, and accoutering themselves with the usual gear: cartridge belt, haversack, canteen, waist belt with bayonet and cap box. Lieutenant Alex Creighton came down the line of the trench, more flushed and animated than John Tyler had seen him lately. With his fighting blood up, he almost looked like himself again.
“Men, the Yanks have tried something, God knows what it is! Get accoutered and line up. Stay on the ready.”
Sergeant Rathburne followed, shouting at the few slackers still fumbling for shoes and coats. “You heard the lieutenant!” he growled. “Get your gear on, get in line, keep mouths shut, and LISTEN FOR ORDERS! We’re going to have to move quick, and I don’t want any of you tiddling yourselves or skedaddling for the sinks when we get the order to GO!”
Clarence couldn’t help grinning at this very different order of sergeant from the one he’d been as Cadet Third Sergeant Brown.
“Take that smile off your face, Private Brown!” John Tyler hissed with mock sternness.
“Mouths shut!” Clarence returned, mouthing rather than saying the words out loud.
As usual on the verge of some military action, the waiting was awful, the minutes ticking by like hours, sweat beading up on brows and rolling with unexpected coolness down backs, under the layers of cotton and wool the typical soldier wore. All the while, the sound of gunfire, of shouts and the occasional piercing Rebel yell, grew louder and louder.
The sun was now well above the horizon, the day growing hotter by the minute. Private Joe Farrell, who had suffered from diarrhea for several days, collapsed with a groan and was carried to the field hospital in the rear.
And then the call finally came: “Company D, file right.”
The men quietly marched through the trench to the covered way, then back to a staging area in a field behind the lines. Lieutenant Creighton and his sergeants lined them up, while Captain Mosby and Sergeant Major Blount passed up and down the rows of men, snapping commands, sharing words of encouragement.
Over on the left of the field, a small man on a large horse rode out of the woods. He intently scanned the horizon, pointing here and there while Captain Mosby craned to see what he was pointing to, then nodded in acknowledgement.
“That’s Billy Mahone,” a private lined up beside John Tyler whispered, pitching his head toward the diminutive general on the horse. It was no wonder he was called “Little Billy.” “Tough feller he is, don’t matter if he is a shorty. There’ll be hell to pay today!”
“For who?” Clarence asked sheepishly.
Then Alex turned and shouted, “Company D, attention! Shoulder—arms! Right face. For’ard march.”
It was about to begin.
* * * *
The 59th marched down the Jerusalem Plank Road, a major thoroughfare that was usually crowded with supply wagons heading to the front and ambulances taking the wounded back to the hospitals in Petersburg. Now, several mobile batteries sped down the road past the marching soldiers, the guns and caissons bouncing over the rough spots, the drivers fiercely whipping on their teams of sweating horses.
“A feller can get killed around here!” Clarence grumbled as a team sped by, almost at his elbow.
Ahead, they saw two or three gun batteries already set up along the road, firing at some point in the distance. The 59th swung to the left, along a smaller road that led directly to the line of Confederate trenches. Fanned out across the fields to their left were more gray-clad troops moving forward, shells occasionally falling among their ranks. But the 59th was angling away from them, to the south, marching to the right of one of the gun crews that had raced past them earlier on the Jerusalem Plank Road and was now spewing shells at an as-yet unseen enemy.
The Yankee batteries had begun firing on this part of the field as well, shells raining down toward the marching troops and the cannon to their left. But the range must have been too great because the shells were falling all around without any seeming pattern—no harm done yet.
Then Lieutenant Alex raised his sword and shouted, “Men, at the double quick! Forward!” There was the enemy, just ahead.
“Michigan boys,” muttered one of the soldiers in the rank behind John Tyler, obviously familiar with their regimental flags. The Michiganders halted and raised their weapons, firing a volley at the approaching 59th. It ripped through their ranks, men falling to the right and left of Clarence and John Tyler.
“Company D, halt!” Lieutenant Alex screamed hoarsely over the din of battle. “Ready, aim, fire!”
The volley seemed even more devastating to the Michigan troops, men falling up and down the line. “Close ranks. CLOSE UP RANKS!” Sergeant Rathburne yelled, his face a savage mask.
The soldiers of the 59th quickly reloaded, ramming home their cartridges, fitting on the percussion caps, then firing at will, both sides now hammering away at each other continuously. John Tyler felt a miniĆ© ball rip through the shoulder of his coat, another glancing off his waist belt. “My God!” he whispered.
To his left, the soldier who knew General Mahone fell down, hit in the forehead, and John Tyler was splashed with something he couldn’t even think about. A hot tear rolled down his cheek, and he cried, “God! You bastards!” as he loaded again.
He wasn’t sure how it was possible, but the Michiganders still came on, striding across the field between the two sides, a field that was quickly becoming littered with the dead and wounded.
At last Alex shouted, “Fifty-ninth, charge bayonets! Give ‘em hell and a half!”
The blue and gray lines smashed into each other with a force that reminded John Tyler of two huge beasts colliding. Bayonets jabbed, gun butts cracked against skulls. Officers discharged their pistols at pointblank range or else slashed at heads and arms with their swords.
John Tyler swung his Springfield rifle, captured from a Yank who may have lost it in just such a fight to the death as this. No time to think about that now. Private Phillips—Corporal Phillips after today—struck out at a big-bearded Michigander, catching him on the jaw with a blow that tumbled him into a heap of his own dead and dying comrades.
The Michigan troops began to waver, then broke for the rear, the 59th close behind them, now joined by the 26th Virginia and 23rd South Carolina. As they closed in on the Yankee lines, increasing artillery fire came their way: just more ways to die. But there was no stopping them now. The troops in gray edged closer to a swirling mass of blue-clad figures trying to defend themselves in what was quickly becoming an inescapable deathtrap.

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