Catching Up With...
Jeff Shaara (B.S. '74), New York Times Bestselling Author
By Scott Atwell
- Shaara's new trilogy about the Civil War, which begins with a novel about Shiloh, will unfold over the next three years with release dates corresponding to their historic anniversary. Photo by Mark Wallheiser
He’s become America’s wartime time-traveler, taking readers on a journey through epic battlefields ranging from the American Revolution to World War II. Jeff Shaara pens historical fiction, and this writer is as true to the characters as he is to the setting.
“These are the stories as the characters themselves might have told them,” says Shaara.
“What I enjoy writing about is the average Joe suddenly rising up. The ordinary man in an extraordinary circumstance. Every war story has this.”
Now, 59-year-old Shaara is coming full circle, returning to the war that christened his calling. FSU creative writing professor Michael Shaara never lived to see commercial success of the Civil War novel that won him a Pulitzer Prize in 1975. It was Gettysburg, Ted Turner’s miniseries, that catapulted The Killer Angels into literary legend, and the younger Shaara into an unexpected writing career in 1996.
“Ted Turner’s people called and said they wanted to make more movies and that it would be great to take the same characters from my father’s book and go before and after. But they needed a story to start with.”
“What I enjoy writing about is the average Joe suddenly rising up. The ordinary man in an extraordinary circumstance.”
The son — an FSU criminology graduate who had never written before — volunteered. The movie treatment turned into a best-selling book titled Gods and Generals. The rest is, well, history: 11 books and three more on the way.
“I had wanted to move from World War II logically enough forward to Korea — and I intend to do that down the road — but I got interrupted by what we’re living now, which is the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War.”
The new trilogy, which begins with a novel about Shiloh, will unfold over the next three years with release dates corresponding to their historic anniversary. A Blaze of Glory is due out this spring.
“You wouldn’t believe the mail I get from people who say they are tired of hearing about Robert E. Lee and Virginia,” says Shaara, who recently moved back to Tallahassee. “A whole lot of war was fought in other places that no one ever talks about.”
Visit him online at www.jeffshaara.com.
Video by Florida State University Office of University Communications.