Click here to read my review of Stoneman’s Raid by Chris Hartley and please enjoy this interview with the author.
Q: What made you decide to start writing?
Hartley: In short, reading. I read (and still read) all the time. Early on, I came to admire the authors of the books I read. Not only did it spark my interest in becoming a writer myself, but it also helped me learn how to write. During my high school career, some teachers complimented me on my own writing and encouraged me to do something with that in my career. I took their advice and went on to get a journalism degree in college. I found that I enjoyed it to the point that I use it both in my day job in marketing communications and in my avocation of writing about military history.
Q: Why did you select the subject of George Stoneman and his famous raid of April 1865?
Hartley: I grew up in Wilkesboro, (NC) one of the communities that Stoneman’s raiders struck in 1865. It occurred to me that there was little written about this raid, even though it was probably the biggest single event in that area during the Civil War, so I set out to correct that.
Q: As a Southern man, did you find it hard writing an account of one of the most famous and destructive Union raids through the South and particularly through Western North Carolina.
Hartley: Not at all. I enjoy research and let the facts stand for themselves, whatever my personal feelings may be in the matter.
Q: Your two books are both about military history, particularly from the War for Southern Independence. Which were you first a writer or a history researcher?
Hartley: It is a bit of a chicken and egg sort of thing. True stories about normal people doing great things appealed to me, and my parents encouraged that by giving me plenty of books about history and also taking me on trips to historical sites. Thus, I fell in love with history about the same time that I began to write.
Q: Does your military history interest as a writer extend to other periods?
Hartley: It does – I am very interested in all periods of American military history.
Q: I see your previous book, “Stuart’s Tarheels: James B. Gordon and His North Carolina Cavalry in the Civil War” has been recently re-released by McFarland Publishers after years of being out of print. Was writing about the most famous Confederate soldier from your home town a labor of love?
Hartley: There’s a theme here. I like to dig into topics no one knows much about – and also into topics that are “close to home.” So, my Gordon project, in many ways, it was not unlike my Stoneman’s Raid project. General Gordon was one of those unknown actors on the big stage that is the Civil War. He also was born and raised in my hometown, so I set out to learn about his life and times and put it on paper.
Q: Do you have any other projects in progress?
Hartley: Yes – I’m taking a break from the Civil War to dive into another passion of mine, World War II. I’m writing the story of a draftee from North Carolina who died in one of the ugliest battles the U.S. Army ever fought, the Heurtgen Forest. I’m lucky to have access to the soldier’s letters home from both training and the front, and it is shaping up to be a sad but powerful story of that battle and what it did to one family. The soldier was my wife’s grandfather.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add before we conclude?
Hartley: Thanks for the opportunity!