Friday, March 25, 2022

7 Questions With Author Donna Everhart

Donna Everhart is the USA Today bestselling author of Southern fiction with authenticity and grit, including the Indie Next List THE EDUCATION OF DIXIE DUPREE, THE FORGIVING KIND, THE MOONSHINER'S DAUGHTER, and the Southeastern Library Association Award-winning novel, THE ROAD TO BITTERSWEET. Born and raised in Raleigh, she and her husband live just an hour away in Dunn, North Carolina. Her website is

1.      How and when did you get hooked on history?

My interest was likely sparked years ago while I was still in school. I recall enjoying history classes better than math or science. However, like many students, once I was no longer in a classroom, other interests took over, and in my case this was my job, marriage, kids, etc. I became interested again as I started writing novels.

2.      What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?

I share what I learn with members of my family and friends, for one. This leads to some pretty interesting, personal discussions, and so often there are gold nuggets uncovered in these conversations. One thing I love is discovering something that is relatively unknown, and then sharing it with anyone who will listen.

3.      How does history play a part of your professional life/career?

As a novelist of Southern historical fiction, it's obviously a critical piece to the project I am currently involved with. As I begin to uncover facts, dependent on what I am writing about, I am painfully aware the exploration and discovery phase are key. I know whatever I uncover will become the building blocks of the story. History always creates the foundation, the stepping stone into a story.

4.      Why is studying/knowing history important?

Generally speaking, as we go about our day to day lives, oftentimes there is a disconnect between the past and the present. Unless individuals are motivated to understand the "backstory," i.e. history, not only their personal past, but beyond that to the country's past, etc., current actions or directions taken might seem meaningless.  Every single thing about our present existence is based on personal/direct and indirect historical events. Everything that has happened in the past is a direct result of where we are today. One particular thing of late is how many people are now interested in the ancestry, where they came from, and who they are. This is great, and a stepping stone for further explorations.

5.      What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?

Pretty much anything from the mid-19th century up to the mid-20th century. I can't really put my finger on why this period pulls me in, other than I love the simplicity of the time. I am drawn to how people lived, worked, and socialized. I find it fascinating what they believed in, how they spoke, what they ate, and how they went about their day to day life. When I was growing up, all of Laura Ingalls Wilder THE LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE books were my favorites. Eventually I would go on to read massive tomes like SACAJAWEA, the captivity story of Cynthia Ann Parker called RIDE THE WIND, ANDERSONVILLE, and POCAHONTAS, and many, many other historical fiction books. Of course these were novels, with embellishments and made up story lines, but they were also filled with facts.

6.              What do your novels have in common? Is there a common thread running through them?

While they're stand-alone novels, if there is a common thread, it's that the they're Southern historical fiction. Generally, I like to take the current events of the story's time, and write about those challenges. For instance, in THE ROAD TO BITTERSWEET, the 1940 flood in the NC Appalachian mountains is the inciting incident. For THE FORGIVING KIND, racism, bigotry, homophobia, and cotton growing are focal points. (timeframe 1955) In THE MOONSHINER'S DAUGHTER, the illegal production of 'shine, and the history of the government sending revenuers to try and control are brought into focus. (timeframe 1960) In my latest, THE SAINTS OF SWALLOW HILL, I consider it a standout novel because I am writing about an industry many were unaware of - the turpentine camps of The Great American South, set during the Depression era.

7.      How important is historical research in your writing?

It's absolutely critical, and with the latest book, THE SAINTS OF SWALLOW HILL, the research was extensive, and intensive. I wanted historical facts I intended to include to be as accurate as possible. To achieve this I attended a demonstration on distilling pine gum into tar, pitch and turpentine, as well as using facts about this uncommon work documented in dissertations, and theses. I studied how labor camps operated, the debt peonage systems they used, the Depression era, and much more. In all of my books thus far, I have never had a reader come forward to say I got something wrong historically. (knocks on wood) I try to be meticulous, and question everything before I put it in a novel.


Friday, March 18, 2022

7 Questions with Wayne Ackerson, Prowling the Peach State


Wayne Ackerson was born in Corpus Christi, Texas but grew up around the world with a father who was in the navy.  He's been a college professor since 1990, teaching in Maryland and Georgia. In his spare time, he's a photographer, a minister, and enjoys reading, eating out, working out, and movies.  He earned his Ph. D. in British History from Temple University in 1999.

1.         How and when did you get  hooked on history?

Well, I was born in Texas but grew up in England, and I think living there is what did it.  You couldn’t go anywhere or do anything without being surrounded by history.  World War Two was still a big part of their cultural life, and it seemed like every TV show was about World War Two in some fashion (this was the early 70s).  I would just say that I have always loved history, for as long as I can remember.

2.         What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?

When I started college, I was a Psych major, but ended up with a double major with Psych and History.  Then onto an MA and started teaching college, then got my Ph.D. in History.  I’ve been a history professor since I was 24, back in 1990. 

3.         How does history play  a part of your professional life/career?

To say it’s important is an understatement.  It’s what I do, every day as a history professor at Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville, GA.

4.         Why is studying/knowing history important?

I am a big supporter of a broad-based, liberal arts type of education.  I believe that as citizens we should be generally well-rounded and well-informed.  In some ways, this is knowledge for knowledge’s sake.  I also believe that trends repeat themselves, and so it is useful to us to know what those are.  And of course there are practical skills which come from the study of history, such as understanding cause and effect, change over time, and being able to think critically about sources and information.

5.         What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?

There isn’t much I dislike.  My specialty is 19th century Britain, British anti-slavery in particular.  I wrote a book called  The African Institution (1807-1827) and the Anti-slavery Movement in Great Britain which came out in 2005.  I love the Tudor-Stuart period, and ancient Greece and Rome.  I love south Asian history, which is mainly what I teach.  I enjoy anything to do with aviation (my dad was a Navy pilot).  There’s just so much to like in all these areas!

6.         What is Prowling the Peach State and how did it come about?

Prowling The Peach State is a podcast that deals with Georgia history, very broadly defined, with an emphasis on things off the beaten path.  It just seemed like a fun idea to try and do.  I don’t for a minute think I am discovering “new” things, but maybe some of the locations are ones that many people don’t know much about.  I try to put the topic or location in a broader context as much as possible, be entertaining, and also be interesting and informative.  Georgia is a state with all kinds of stuff in it, and through the series I hope to teach Georgians a few things about their relative backyards, and I’d also hope to encourage out-of-staters to visit.

I also have a companion Facebook page where I post photos I’ve taken on location, random stuff to do with that month’s topic, as well as lesson plans (questions, really) for teachers who might want to use the podcasts with their students.

7.         What can lovers of history expect in the future from Prowling the Peach State?

Well that’s a secret!  What I can say is I have a long list of topics/places I want to cover.  Most will be serious, but there’s a few bizarre ones in there too.

Friday, March 11, 2022

7 Questions with Peach Orchard Publishing Founder Joe Goldsberry


Joe Goldsberry founded Peach Orchard Publishing in September of 2021 as purely a passion project. Peach Orchard Publishing is focused on sharing audio versions of historical firsthand and official reports to the public.   In order to do this, he must first publish an annotated version of the public domain works online. He is creating those annotated versions and constantly working on bringing the audio versions to the public.  Peach Orchard Publishing also supports independent authors by giving helping them find a publishing platform in which to share their work. 

Peach Orchard Publishing is a 100% veteran-owned small business.  We strive to support the veterans in our community. Joe and his dog and publishing partner, Phinn, live in Frederick, Maryland.   Find more info here .


1. How and when did you get hooked on history?

My Mom, on a summer vacation trip when I was 11, drove me from Chicago, Illinois to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  I bought a Union Cap and a toy musket.  I spent those few days keeping the Rebels from the wall at the High-Water Mark.  It just stuck with me.  My first major in college was Journalism.  It didn’t take me long to realize that History was the only possible degree for me.


2. What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?

After a lot of research, turns out my Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Grandfather fought in the American Revolution.   His Great-Grandson was a bushwacker in the 13th Kentucky Cavalry (CSA).  Turns out, I have a bit of rebel in the blood.  On the other side of the family, we sent Illinois boys to fight for the Union at Vicksburg.  So, the two sides may have crossed paths and swords at some point.  My Grandfather fought at the Battle of Coral Sea and earned a Purple Heart.  I was a Naval Officer in Operation Enduring Freedom (and took part in the Jessica Lynch rescue operation).  Still, the Civil War is my passion, my hobby, and studying it keeps me out of traffic. 


3. How does history play a part of your professional life/career?

There was a time where I gave leadership walks of the Gettysburg Battlefield as part of professional development for a Federal Agency.   The pandemic has put that to an end unfortunately.  To fill that gap in my soul, I started Peach Orchard Publishing.  Someday, I hope to retire from my current job.  As part of my third adolescence, I intend to become a Battlefield Guide.  Until then, I’ve got the Peach Orchard.  Currently, I’m creating YouTube content from Tillie Pierce’s “At Gettysburg.”   It chronicles what she saw as a 15-year-old during those horrible three days in July 1863.  


4. Why is studying/knowing history important?

It’s often said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.  This is true.  As a war veteran myself, I find the story of redemption a better fit.  At one point in time, these battlefields were the single most violent place on earth.  Men spent days with the intent of tearing each other and the earth apart.   Now, the trees have regrown, the monuments stand in silent remembrance.  We walk the trails, heads bowed, voices soft.   There are no screams, there is no bloodshed.  There is a sense of tranquility.  In these once torn, horrific fields lie a lesson in redemption.  Something once terrible is now peaceful.  If the ground can be redeemed, so can we all.


5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?

The American Civil War is my everything history.  I was raised in Springfield, Illinois.  We were all Lincoln all the time.  That period is America’s greatest drama, set to the sound of canons.   


6. How did Peach Orchard Publishing come about?

I named the company after the Peach Orchard at Gettysburg, where crazy-pants Dan Sickles moved his entire corps forward, directly into the path of Longstreet’s Confederates.  I started Peach Orchard as a passion project.  It’s not for money, it’s for love.  Sitting at home, the pandemic helped birth the company.


7. What are your goals for Peach Orchard Publishing and what’s coming up to look forward to?

I started out wanting to publish eyewitness accounts and an occasional cookbook.   I am also making YouTube videos of the accounts on the grounds with they walked.  More importantly, while researching titles to publish, I came across something very interesting.  There are several internet sites where ghostwriting services were offered. For a small fee, you can pay someone to write a novel, and then publish it under your own name.  I was shocked.  I found that there are many minority women putting their works up for sale and allowing someone else to claim credit for their word.  I wish to give these women an opportunity to publish under their own names, their own works. I want to give these women the platform, voice and recognition they deserve.   


Friday, March 4, 2022

7 Questions With Art Levy, Author of Made in Florida


Art Levy is a Florida Trend associate editor. He writes the Of Counsel law column, the Florida Originals column and many of the magazine’s Icon features. A graduate of the University of Florida’s journalism college, Levy joined Florida Trend in 2005. Before that, he worked for newspapers including the Tampa Bay Times and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Over the years, his stories have won more than 20 awards. His newest book, Made in Florida, is a collection of published interviews with important Floridians, some famous and some not so famous.

1. How and when did you get hooked on history?

I grew up in Philadelphia during the 1960s and 1970s, a time when the city supported several major newspapers, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Bulletin and the Philadelphia Daily News. So, as a child, I read a couple of newspapers a day, starting with the comics and sports, but also reading the local, state and national news sections. Newspapers are a first draft of history, I think, so I was immersed in history from the time I could read.

2. What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?

When we study history, we learn from the experiences of others – and then we use that information to determine what sort of person we want to be and what sort of person we don’t want to be.

3. How does history play a part of your professional life/career?

I’ve been a journalist since 1984. I hope my job –  from writing thousands of newspaper and magazine stories to writing the book “Made in Florida” – has helped readers better understand their world. I’d be thrilled if many years from now a scholar uses my work to learn more about 21st Century Florida.

4. Why is studying/knowing history important?

History shows us what’s important and helps us make better decisions, not just in a global sense, but in our own lives.

5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?

I spend so much of my time on modern-day Florida, but I would love to learn more about Florida’s past. My family immigrated to Philadelphia in the early 1900s from Eastern Europe, so I’m also curious about that area and era.

6. What is “Made in Florida” and how did it come about?

After spending most of my career writing feature stories for newspapers, I joined Florida Trend, a statewide news magazine, in 2007, as an associate editor. Early on, I started traveling the state interviewing prominent Floridians for an interview feature called Icon. The 90 interviews in “Made in Florida” were originally published in Florida Trend. Since the University Press of Florida published the book in 2019, I’ve continued to interview people, even during the pandemic, and I’m up to about 130 interviews and counting. The full title of the book – “Made in Florida: Artists, Celebrities, Activists, Educators, and Other Icons in the Sunshine State” – gives you a sense of the wide diversity of people I’ve interviewed over the years.

7. What is it about Florida that makes it and its people so unique?

Florida is a big state, divided into distinct regions that could literally stand alone as separate states: South Florida, Central Florida and North Florida/Panhandle. So, when you have a state this big and this diverse, stuffed with 21.5 million people of all sorts who generally moved here from other places – then you’ve got a state that has just about everything – good, bad and in-between. Maybe, it’s Florida’s ever-expanding diversity that sets it apart from other states.