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Tom Clavin: On the Voyage of Writing Historical Nonfiction

Bestselling nonfiction writer Tom Clavin discusses the bittersweet experience of publishing his newest co-authored book, To the Uttermost Ends of the Earth.

Tom Clavin is the author of 18 nonfiction books and has worked as a newspaper editor, magazine writer, TV and radio commentator, and reporter for The New York Times covering a variety of topics. His two most recent books, Blood and Treasure: Daniel Boone and the Fight for America's First Frontier (with Bob Drury) and Lightning Down: A World War II Story of Survival, were national bestsellers. Other bestselling titles include Dodge City, The Heart of Everything That Is, Tombstone, and The Last Stand of Fox Company. He lives in Sag Harbor, New York.

Tom Clavin: On the Voyage of Writing Historical Nonfiction

Tom Clavin

In this post, Tom discusses the bittersweet experience of publishing his newest co-authored book, To the Uttermost Ends of the Earth, his advice for other writers, and more!

Name: Tom Clavin
Literary agent: Nat Sobel, Sobel-Weber Associates
Book title: To the Uttermost Ends of the Earth: The Epic Hunt for the South’s Most Feared Ship and the Greatest Sea Battle of the Civil War (co-authored with Phil Keith)
Publisher: Hanover Square Press
Release date: April 12, 2022
Genre/category: Military/Civil War history
Previous titles: All Blood Runs Red
Elevator pitch for the book: The CSS Alabama preyed upon and sank Union ships all over the world. Finally, Lincoln ordered his navy to sink her, and the global quest of the USS Kearsarge began.

To the Uttermost Cover

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What prompted you to write this book?

We thought the tale of two ships roaming the oceans until they met in a great battle full of broadsides was exciting—plus, Phil Keith was a retired Navy captain and had a special fondness for sea stories.

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?

I’d wanted to write about the Kearsarge and Alabama for at least a decade, but other projects stepped in front. Finally, after All Blood Runs Red was so well received, Phil and I resolved to write a Civil War story. The time for Uttermost had come.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

An extremely sad surprise was Phil passing away from COVID only weeks after turning in the manuscript. He was a dear friend as well as a co-author. I missed him every step of the way as we prepared Uttermost for publication.

Tom Clavin: On the Voyage of Writing Historical Nonfiction

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

We surprised ourselves by deciding to tell the story from the perspectives of both captains, John Winslow of the Kearsarge and Raphael Semmes of the Alabama, with Phil writing the Winslow chapters and me taking Semmes. I think that led to a fuller portrait of each man, and we were further surprised by how seamlessly the chapters fit together.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

The enjoyment of a salty sea story filled with all kinds of characters in a theater of the Civil War few people know existed. If C.S. Forester had been an American, he would have wanted to write about the Kearsarge’s hunt for the Alabama.

If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?

Write every day. If it’s one chapter, one paragraph, or one sentence that life allows you, do it. The interaction between your mind and the page only works if you somewhat ruthlessly maintain that connection.

*****

Editor’s Note: To the Uttermost Ends of the Earth was co-written by the late Phil Keith.

Phil Keith (1946-2021) was the author of six books, including Blackhorse Riders, which won the 2012 award from USA Book News for Best Military Non-Fiction, was a finalist for the 2013 Colby Award, and earned a 2013 silver medal from Military Writers Society of America. He held a degree in history from Harvard and was a former Navy aviator. During three tours in Vietnam, he served with distinction and was awarded, among other decorations, the Purple Heart, Air Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, and the Navy Commendation Medal.

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