Monday, January 9, 2012

Interview with Historical Fiction Author Kevin C. Mills

Kevin C. Mills is an author and award-winning journalist. He has been a sportswriter for some of the top newspapers in New England over the last two decades. His book Sidelined is an offbeat look at the misadventures and experiences of a sports journalist. His other two books, Son and Daughters of the Ocean and Breakwater, are novels based on the extensive research he has done on his family history. A third book in that series will follow. It is based on the privateering age during the Revolutionary War.

Our path in life can be dictated by nature. We get caught in the current. We get tossed by the wind. We get swept up in the waves. Sometimes, we need a Breakwater.” –Kevin C. Mills

Hello, Kevin. Welcome back to my blog. What is a Breakwater and what does it do? I don’t live near the ocean, so this is a new word for me.

That’s so interesting Linda because a breakwater has always been part of my life. We have a number of them in Maine but this book is based on one that marks the entrance to Rockland Harbor, on the midcoast. It is pictured on the book cover. The Rockland Breakwater is a mile-long granite structure that extends into the harbor with a lighthouse at the end. The breakwater itself was built to help block the waves from the severe storms. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, winter storms would ravage the interior harbor of Rockland and would subsequently cripple or at least hamper business and property. So the breakwater was built to make the harbor more secure and keep the violent seas as bay. It still serves that purpose today while also serving as a great attraction for people who like to walk the breakwater and get a great view of the harbor. This breakwater is also relevant to me and the book because my grandfather was an assistant lighthouse keeper there at one time. Of course, the word breakwater takes on a new meaning in this book, but you’ll have to read it to find out how.

The storms we face define a lifetime, but beneath the heartbreak lies a search for peace. When two characters, generations apart, seek their calm amidst the storms of life, they discover a truth they’ve longed to understand.” This is an intriguing description. What is your new book about?

Breakwater is based loosely on the life of my grandfather. He faced a great deal of adversity in his life but tried to persevere and maintain faithful to God. In this story, Hal Miller is trying to understand why his life has evolved the way it has. All this contemplation is sparked by a look back into his tragic past while he also deals with his wife’s decline in mental health. Hal’s story is paralleled with that of his grandson Clark, generations later. He’s frustrated with his life but reconnecting with a long lost love changes that. He struggles with his own insecurities while trying to navigate through a complicated relationship.

Breakwater is the follow-up novel to Sons and Daughters of the Ocean. Do you have to read book one to understand this book?

No. When I came up with this idea of writing historical novels based on my own family history, I saw a three-book series unfold. It was inspired by the Civil War trilogy by Michael and Jeff Shaara. Most of Breakwater is dated in the 1970’s and the mid-2000’s. Sons and Daughters of the Ocean was based in the 1870’s. Breakwater is based on the same family but generations later. Hal Miller is the son of Albert Miller, one of the main characters in Sons and Daughters of the Ocean. There are some characters that make a brief appearance from the first book. But Breakwater is not meant to be a sequel. It stands on its own. It is a very different book from the sea-faring tale of the one before it. I recently read the books back-to-back in order. It was nice to follow that family history in that way. But it is not a necessity. Many of the early readers and reviewers of Breakwater had not read the first book and it made little difference to them.

I love it when authors add real life situations to their stories, especially with historical fiction. Do you usually put real experiences in your books?

Absolutely. I say that I write historical fiction that is more like nonfiction. Sons and Daughters of the Ocean was based on family history and also utilized my experiences sailing each year on the three-masted schooner Victory Chimes. So much of that book had a realness to it. Almost all of it is based on real occurrences. Same with Breakwater. I have diaries and memoirs of my grandfather and father that gave me a great perspective on the life of my grandfather when this story was set. I was only five years old when he died. I think that realness brings truth to the story. And since this story is told in the first person, readers can get an in depth feel for who these characters are and how they live. I think being rooted in real life gives great credibility and power to the story. It isn’t something that was just made up. It was real. It happened. I think that makes the story that much stronger when the reader knows that and feels that.

Wow! As you know, I teach people how to write their family stories in workshops all over the U.S. called “Writing Your Family Legacy.” I firmly believe that we are the people we are because of our ancestors. Thank you so much for this wonderful interview, Kevin. Below is an excerpt from Kevin’s book. It will help you understand what a BREAKWATER really does to save a town! Read it! It’s awesome.

Prologue: A Mighty Fortress

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
our helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.
—Martin Luther

With just one step, it hits you like a fist.

The wind’s roar and the crashing seas hint at the coming fury. I don’t truly absorb the full brunt of its rage until I step clear of the banking that shields me from the ferocious easterly gusts. The wind nearly knocks me backwards with the first potent blow. I solidify my balance and move forward cautiously, but it reaches in and steals my breath away. The rocks are slick and treacherous. By the time I actually reach the start of the granite Breakwater, the angry waves are crashing over, sending spray soaring into the air. I glance out over the stone barrier and watch the sea rumble like a cauldron. The waves rear back and lunge ahead to crash violently into the granite wall before me.

The wind screeches and howls at a frantic volume. Gulls that attempt to fly can only hover sideways and drift helplessly with the wind. The rain pours down, icy and stinging like liquid daggers on my near-frozen skin.

The other side of the Breakwater is nothing but calm. The sea is flat and peaceful. The tormented ocean and the turbulent walls of water are barred from disturbing the tranquility of the harbor. Nestled safely around this quiet haven, the city rests amidst the storm. The Breakwater is like a thousand angels poised to combat the evil intent, the furious force of wind and waves. The barrier breaks the spirit of the storm, one crashing wall of water at a time.

When the storm moves on, the valiant barrier stands proudly in its victory. It makes me wish my heart was as strong, as relentless, and as able to survive the potent powers that destroy. But it isn’t. It is battered and weary from the fight. With each storm, I simply hold on and brace for the next wave.


Judy said...

Breakwater looks very good. I love the cover, it looks calming, but I know it is not.

I live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with plenty of water and I know what it can do.

Interview was fantastic, I really enjoyed


jkey said...

Great interview. I love Kevin's work weaving our family history into these books, and providing an insight into life along the coast of Maine. Can't wait to see what the "third" book is in this series.


Jamie said...

I have walked this breakwater as well as watched it from the deck of the Victory Chimes from the time I was a small child.I was lucky enough to have known Captain Guild as my mother worked for him on the Wentworth but that is another story! Love your work Kevin!! Living in Virginia is not the same as Maine!


karenk said...

i'm interested in reading this story...thanks for the chance :)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Dennis Stafford said...

You had me with the titles. I am a sailor and love the ocean. I sailed off the coast of Maine once and found it to one of the most beautiful places I had ever been. I also like your themes, God, family history and whatever part the ocean will play in your writing. I look forward to reading them. Are they on ebooks?
I also write. I write Christian Fiction and Christian sci-fi.
Come see me.

ruthhill74 said...

Thank you for a great interview. It sounds like a great book.

cheralyn said...

I live in Maine and I love to read stories about the coast. Breakwater sounds very interesting. I definitely want to read it! cheryllynne(at)rocketmail(dot)com

misskallie2000 said...

Hi Kevin, I remember reading about breakwaters yrs ago and do know how important they are to the coast line. I love the ocean and large lakes and would love to live on either. Breakwater sounds like a wonderful book and one I would love to read. Thanks for stopping by to chat and share with us.

misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

Kat said...

Wow, sounds interesting! Having never lived by the ocean, I love reading books that give me a glimpse of what it is like to live near one. Thanks!

katsaddress AT gmail. DOT com

Harriet the Spy said...

Congratulations to Kevin! This was a great interview. I live in Maine (although not on the coast), read voraciously, and have had long spells when I read only Maine authors and/or books set in Maine. I'll be glad to add Breakwater to my list!


My Hyer Space said...

Great interview - I enjoy the historical fiction books also. Love that your are writing about family members experiences. Thanks

Sherry said...

The breakwater has always been one of my favorite places to visit when I make the yearly trip to Glen Cove Cemetery, which is right around the corner, across from the Samoset Resort. I can almost hear the foghorn now...

LAWonder said...

"Breakwater" sounds like my kind of book Would love to own it.

Linda Weaver Clarke said...

Congratulations, Karen K. You are the winner of this awesome book. I know you'll enjoy it. Stay tuned, everyone, for more book giveaways each week.