Friday, April 12, 2013

Karl A.Bacon: Glorifying God By Honoring History

Everyone's Story welcomes author Karl A. Bacon. I had the pleasure of meeting with him over lunch at an ACFW Conference and discovering Karl to be a warm and kind-hearted soul, and of course, an enthusiast of the Civil War. 2013 is the 150th anniversary of both the American Civil War's most bloody battle and President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address--a perfect time for Karl's guest appearance. Yet, Karl didn't set out to become a writer and he shares this below (thankfully, he did become a fine author of American history!). Plus, Karl has answered a few questions. Also, he's offering AN EYE FOR GLORY in a Giveaway. He's looking forward to hearing from you.

Book Giveaway:
Karl is offering 1 copy of his novel, AN EYE FOR GLORY, (which was a Finalist in the 2012 Christy Awards for First Novel) to 1 randomly chosen commenter. The winner will be announced between 4-6 PM EST on April 19th. Please leave your email address within the body of the comment. Thanks.

You can read a blurb on the novel here.

How God Took A Non-writer And Turned Him Into A Writer

by Karl A. Bacon

I was not born to be a writer. Rather, it was something that I took to most reluctantly. Other than one or two required writing courses in college, I was never schooled as a writer. To me writing was just about the least favorite avocation imaginable. However, I did possess a decent vocabulary, good grammatical skills and the ability to explain things in a logical manner, all of which served me well in writing several technical manuals during the years I worked in manufacturing.

The seed for An Eye for Glory was purchased during a business trip during the spring of 1998, in a used bookstore at Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee. While browsing through the history section, I discovered a hardcover copy of Infantryman Petit: The Civil War Letters of Corporal Frederick Petit in good condition. Petit was a young Christian soldier from western Pennsylvania who served in the 100th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment. During the Civil War, it is true that brother sometimes fought against brother, but as I read the letters Corporal Pettit wrote to his family and friends, it struck me that more often it was Christian brothers who were fighting one another, each trying his best to kill the other, and each fully convinced of the righteousness of his cause.

There was a story to tell and I wanted to tell it. But how? Other than one or two required writing courses in college, I was never formally trained as a writer. I prayed over the work, many times, that God would show me the way. Then I set three objectives for whatever I wrote. First, it must honor the name of Christ. Second, it must honor the men who fought in that war, both Union and Confederate. Third, it must be the finest work of literature this non-writer could write. I was well aware of my own unworthiness for the task at hand, but I pressed on. As I was writing An Eye for Glory, I was also studying the craft of writing, and the more I learned, the more rewriting I saw was needed.

The first draft of An Eye for Glory was finished in June, 2008, but as a first-time writer, I had no idea what to do with it. I prayed, "Lord, I finished it as I believe you wanted me to. Now what do you want me to do with it?" Within a few days I found the American Christian Fiction Writers website, became a member, and signed up for their annual conference in September. At the conference I was able to schedule an interview with an editor from Zondervan. I had never pitched my novel before, and never drawn up a proposal, but the editor liked my story and my proposal, and less than two months after the conference Zondervan committed to publishing it. Some would call this beginner’s luck, but I believe it was the gracious providence of God. 

Questions for Karl:
I'd think your background of manufacturing/business might lend itself to a technological and scientific perspective. If so, did this help you in researching the complexities of the Civil War for your novel?

Yes, sometimes it did help. I particularly enjoyed the research into the railroads that were in use during the Civil War. But there was a down side as well. I tended to get so caught up in the cool stuff I was learning, that I had to continually remind myself that my purpose was to add depth and realism to my story and not become an expert in nineteenth century railroading.

My engineering background really came into play in the rewrite process. When I set out to write An Eye for Glory, I did not set out to write a novel. In fact, I had never written anything longer than ten or twenty pages, so I didn't consider a full length novel to be within the realm of possibility. I simply began to write a story and see what became of it. That was in 1998. Ten years later I had 150,000 words, and very shortly learned that was way too long for a debut novel. It would need to be cut to about 100,000 words.
I decided a cold, objective, engineering approach would be a good start, so I developed a spreadsheet. I dissected my novel scene by scene, rated each scene from 1 to 5 for emotion, tension, character development, and importance to story. Scenes with low overall scores were cut, or greatly edited. Many fine (in my humble opinion) words never made it to print, but the process worked and my story was better because of it. 

In what ways can a reader of contemporary fiction appreciate AN EYE FOR GLORY?

In history as in all of life “there is nothing new under the sun.” The American Civil War with its Christian versus Christian savagery simply serves as the context for the story I needed to tell. But the historical context is secondary to the progression of the main character, Michael Palmer. Who is this man with half-hidden face on the book cover? He could be anyone. He could be you or me. In An Eye for Glory, Michael's ultimate struggle is not for physical survival, because we know from the outset that he is writing his story twenty years later for his children. His struggle is not against a flesh and blood enemy, but against his own doubts and fears, against his own heart, and sometimes even against God. This internal fight has always been, and always will be, part of every Christian's walk of faith. 

Although you've put countless hours into working on AN EYE FOR GLORY, studying history and visiting historic sites, did you ever let the fiction loose and have fun with the creative process? Any tips on how to do so for the research purist?

One reason it took so long to complete the book is that I couldn't just sit down and start writing where I had left off. After a time away from the writing, it took time to return to that time and place, to “get into character” as it were. I think many writers will know what I mean when I say that there were times during the writing of this novel that I became Michael Palmer and I allowed him direct the creative process. One of those was during the Battle of Gettysburg, where Michael finally gets to shoot it out with the enemy. I wrote that scene from start to finish in one sitting, imagining every little detail of what he was feeling, and letting his actions and emotions drive the words on the page. I can assure you this was not what I consider having fun, but it was most rewarding, and the  resulting powerful scene still brings tears to my eyes.

So here's my advice for the research purist. Treasure the history and honor the men and women who lived and died making that history. Your story has to ring true in every aspect. Your fictional character's story has to appear natural and be seamlessly integrated into that history. It is indeed high praise to be asked if your character is based on a real person. The history has to be real because your reader may know the history better than you. Finally, the closer you are to your character, the more believable your character will be, and your readers will remember him or her for a long, long time. I consider Michael Palmer a close personal friend, for in his story I learned much and lived much, even though we've never met, except in my imagination. 

Is there another time period that you'd like to visit in your writing, and why?

I have not seriously considered writing about a different time, because the Civil War period still fascinates me. There is so much history to draw story from, so much first-person content widely available, with more being discovered all the time. And so I am currently working on a Civil War trilogy. The setting is entirely in the South, and although the story line and settings are very different from An Eye for Glory, the fascination remains.  

Karl's Ah-hahs To Tweet:

“…doubts and fears…has always been, and always will be, part of every Christian's walk of faith.” (Tweet This)

Your story has to ring true in every aspect.” (Tweet This)

“…the closer you are to your character, the more believable your character will be…” (Tweet This)

Author Bio:

Karl Bacon grew up in the small picturesque town of Woodbury, Connecticut, and now lives in Naugatuck, Connecticut with his wife of thirty-five years, Jackie. After graduating from Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, he returned to Connecticut and found employment in manufacturing. "Just a job" turned into a professional career, much of which was spent working for a Swiss machine tool company. In 2000 he started his own business to provide services to manufacturing clients across the USA. This change also allowed time to develop his writing craft.

From youth Karl has been a serious student of the Civil War. The draft of An Eye for Glory took ten years from conception to completion. Thousands of hours were spent researching every detail, through copious reading, internet research and personal visits to each of the battlefields, so the novel might be as historically accurate and believable as possible.

An Eye for Glory was named a Top Inspirational Fiction Pick for Spring/Summer 2011 by Publishers Weekly. It was also a 2012 Christy Award Finalist for First Novel.

You Can Find Karl At:


  1. The civil war is one of my favorite periods and was disappointed when it fell out of favor with fiction publishers. I've visited both the Chicamunga and Gettysburg battlefields and found them both powerful spiritual places.

    I'm heading off to Amazon now to pick up a copy of Eye for Glory.

    1. Jean--great to see you here! I love learning new about my friends--never knew you enjoyed the Civil War era. Happy reading!

      Do stop by later for Karl's reply.

    2. Fascinating post. I live in Corinth, MS which had a battle right after Shiloh--twenty miles away. We have an interpretive center and lots of Civil War artifacts. Not far from me is the Davis Bridge site where the Battle of Davis Bridge was fought. I would love to win An Eye for Glory. pat at ptbradley dot com

    3. Pat, that's something you live so close to one of the battlegrounds. When I visited Gettysburg a few years ago all I could think of was how massive an area it was, and how peaceful, and then tried to imagine all the fighting that took place there, on the same ground I was standing on. I can only pray that our country--all nations, may never see blood spilled again.

      Thanks for your visit.

    4. Jean: I have found the battlefields at Antietam, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and Shiloh to also be spiritually moving. I think this is due to the efforts of generations past to preserve these sites.

  2. Karl, some great tips on how to do effective research. Thank you.

    I can only imagine what the "Battle" scene must have been like. WOuld have liked to have been a fly on the wall whilst you wrote that.

    Having visited Washington DC last year I learnt so much about the Civil War and such. I also found the Lincoln Memorial a strangely emotional experience.

    Elaine, once again, well done on having another fascinating author on "Everyone's Story".


    1. Ian, thanks for the sweet words--you know you just made my day, right?

      I hear what you say about the Lincoln Memorial (a site I visited on a Jr. High class trip). Lincoln was truly one of the most important people in this country and when you think about it, the world, because he set such a strong, revolutionary change for freedom into action.

      I always appreciate your visits.

    2. Ian: I'm headed to Washington next Saturday, and you're right, the Lincoln Memorial is a moving memorial, much more so, I think than the Jefferson Memorial.

  3. Karl,
    Thanks for your inspirational story of God working in your life. This is coming from a guy who was labeled a special education student in school, and now a special education and history teacher. God just worked his miraculous wonders in my life to make that all possible. As an educator of history, naturally I am a huge fan of historical fiction and nonfiction. I cannot wait to read your book "An Eye for Glory" since I recently went through all of those same struggles while fulfilling Gods will in my life by returning to school full time, working full time, and with a wife and three kids at home. Thanks for reminding me about how all things are possible with God and that His will will be done.

    Your Brother in Christ,
    Chris Mason

    1. Chris, welcome to Everyone's Story. Your personal story is one of the things I enjoy the most about blogging: having people share their own unique stories of triumphs through life's rough splotches. I'm glad you persevered! I too have overcome many naysayers who said that i'd never amount to anything or have questioned why I wanted to do what I wanted to do.

      Hope to see you again.

    2. Chris: Your story is a great testimonial to God's enduring grace and mercy. And the cool part is, He's not done with any of us yet.

  4. An inspiring story if I ever heard one! Thanks for sharing it:)

    1. Katie, thanks for your visit today. I'm glad you enjoyed Karl's segment. Check back later to look for his reply. Blessings.

  5. Karl is a fantastic writer who knows how to paint word pictures using all the colors. AN EYE FOR GLORY is an amazing book that captured my attention from page one and held it tight to the end. Do yourself a favor and get your hands on AN EYE FOR GLORY.
    Thanks, Elaine, for this excellent interview.

    1. Larry, thanks for your visit and kind words on the segment. Sounds like Karl has quite the fan club :)

    2. Thanks, Larry. You're a great publicist, and best of all, you never send me a bill.

  6. I have never thought of myself as a writer until I finally understood that it was God prompting me to write my stories. I really enjoyed reading about your journey to a completed novel. You have a knack for capturing athe attention of your reader.

    1. Lilly, thanks for your visit. We all have special stories to tell, and like you, I believe that God wants us to share these stories to encourage one another and to show that as unique as we are, we have common threads that unite us. I hope this common denominator is our love of God. And isn't it nothing short of awesome to know that God loves each one of us and our individual stories?

      Hope to see you again.

    2. Thank you, Lily. When God gives you the story he will also be their every step of the way. There were several times, because of the at times soul-wrenching nature of the writing, that I thought I no words left in me, but the Holy Spirit kept driving me back to it. The story would be completed in spite of my weakness.

  7. Elaine, what a fabulous feature of a very talented and knowledgeable author! Thank you so much for the wonderful interview and preview of his book! I love Civil War history, both fiction and nonfiction. Thank you for offering this contest!

    1. Nancee, and I thank you for your visit and sweet words. Karl writes with such passion, honoring this important era in US history.

  8. A little earlier than expected (due to being home from work with possibly broken nose, or at least bruised) I'm wrapping up this week's visit with author Karl A. Bacon.

    Thanks, Karl, for a wonderful week on Everyone's Story. Many viewers from around the world have visited with you. And from the moving testimonies shared here I can tell that you've stirred many hearts about the importance of glorifying God by honoring history. This week, as we've seen yet another significant horror unfold on American soil, with fears stoked, I can only hope that we turn our trust to God. We must never forget what happened during the yesterdays, whether on 9-11, the killing of Martin Luther King, Jr., the Civil War, or the American Revolutionary War. So, heartfelt thanks, Karl, for capturing an important part of American--and world--history.

    Thanks too for the Book Giveaway of AN EYE FOR GLORY. And the winner of this Karl's novel is...

    Chris! Congratulations, Chris. Both Karl and I will contact you shortly.


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