I’ve Got Questions for Michael K. Brantley

Editor’s Note: This exchange is part of a series of brief interviews with emerging writers of recent or forthcoming books. If you enjoyed it, please visit other interviews in the I’ve Got Questions feature.

Galvanized by Michael K. Brantley
  • What’s the title of your book? Fiction? Nonfiction? Poetry? Who is the publisher and what’s the publication date?

Galvanized: The Odyssey of a Reluctant Carolina Confederate; Nonfiction; University of Nebraska Press/Potomac Books; May 1, 2020

  • In a couple of sentences, what’s the book about?

Every Civil War veteran had a story to tell. But few stories top the one lived by Wright Stephen Batchelor. He opposed secession and war, yet he fought on both sides of the conflict. During his time in each uniform, Batchelor barely avoided death at the Battle of Gettysburg, was captured twice, and survived one of the war’s most infamous prisoner-of-war camps. He escaped and, after walking hundreds of miles, rejoined his comrades at Petersburg, Virginia, just as the Union siege there began. Once the war ended, Batchelor returned on foot to his farm, where he took part in local politics, supported rights for freedmen, and was fatally involved in a bizarre hometown murder. The book also examines how the Civil War is still being fought today.

  • What’s the book’s genre (for fiction and nonfiction) or primary style (for poetry)?

It’s a hybrid of narrative historic nonfiction, the pursuit of research for a “non-famous” person, and a blending of memoir and a contemporary look at the conflicts that still haunt the United States over a century and a half later.

  • What’s the nicest thing anyone has said about the book so far?

“Michael Brantley’s Galvanized is a conscientious and sweeping hybrid narrative gathering together fragments of the author’s personal history—that of his great-great-grandfather’s life in nineteenth-century North Carolina—alongside elaborately researched accounts of the Civil War. When Brantley offers, ‘These were the stories that had become interesting to me, the stories about real people, regular people,’ he focuses our attention on the plural, people, and reminds us how interconnected our histories are and forever will be.”—Jon Pineda

And a couple of people emailed me to say they don’t normally read history, but loved it.

  • What book or books is yours comparable to or a cross between? [Is your book like Moby Dick or maybe it’s more like Frankenstein meets Peter Pan?]

It is sort of like Confederates in the Attic meets Company Aytch, plenty of history, from the common person’s view, with another thread of contemporary times.

  • Why this book? Why now?

It was supposed to be a chapter in my first book, but I couldn’t finish the research. Then, so many things like monuments and statues have come to the forefront of our time again, it makes it relevant. And, tracking down an ancestor has perhaps never been more popular with the surge of DNA kits and genealogy during this pandemic.

  • Other than writing this book, what’s the best job you’ve ever had?

It’s close between teaching journalism and creative writing at Barton College, which I’m doing now, or working as a professional photographer for 18 years at my own business.

  • What do you want readers to take away from the book?

I want people to realize that history has to be judged in the context of times and that the Civil War was too complex to be broken down into sound bites. It was a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight, and neither had the same values. The stories of the famous have been told; the common folks, not so much. I also want people today to take a look at the whole picture and not just “one side,” to be more understanding of people who might have different views. I’m not out to change anyone’s beliefs, just present information is a way that challenges them think in a way maybe they haven’t.

  • What food and/or music do you associate with the book?

Bluegrass music or old-time music, for sure, the kind of songs like Balsam Range’s “Burning Georgia Down” or “From a Georgia Battlefield” or the Infamous Stringduster’s “Three Days in July.” Simple, country food like grits and country ham and biscuits come to mind.

  • What book(s) are you reading currently?

George Washington on Leadership by Richard Brookhiser; Fenway 1912: The Birth of a Ballpark by Glenn Stout; I just finished John Ehle’s Time of Drums and Charles Frazier’s 13 Moons

Michael K. Brantley

Learn more about Michael at his website.

Follow him on Facebook.

Buy the book from the publisher, University of Nebraska Press/Potomac Books [there’s a discount code for free shipping and 40% 6NIN21]

Buy the book from Bookshop.org.

About the author

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