Thank you for joining us in the Book Loft, Dr. Hopkins. Is there a story behind your book, Journey to Gettysburg?
The Battle of Gettysburg holds a special place in my heart. I was eleven years old when my father first took our family to visit that famous battlefield. We wandered that hallowed ground from Devil’s Den to the site of Picket’s Charge. In 2013 I was in Gettysburg for the 150th reenactment of the battle. That was my fourth trip to that small Pennsylvania town. It was there that Journey to Gettysburg began to be written in my mind. I should add that twelve of my ancestors fought in that conflict, eight for the south and four for the north. So, in a very real sense, when you walk on that battlefield you have stepped into the history of my family.
Which character in your new release most interested you while you wrote?
The main character in Journey is Matthew Mason, a 15 year old boy who has been raised by a Quaker mother. I like a “coming of age” story and this one begins with our young hero living a sheltered life on an isolated farm with his mother and ends with him standing on the porch of a northern Virginia farm house defending it from renegades with a Henry 60 repeating rifle. In between those times our young man goes through a rapid maturing process that could only happen in the midst of family crisis and, perhaps, war. The early story line shows his close relationship with his mother. Later, he shows the independence and strength of his “coming of age.”
What started you on your writing journey?
About a decade ago I wrote a piece for the “On My Mind” column in the local newspaper. The subject was illegal immigration. A week later the editor called and asked me if I would like to write a regular weekly column for the Sunday Editorial Section. After about a year the column was picked up by the Scripps newspapers and then in 2011 GateHouse Media picked it up. It is now published regularly in more than 400 newspapers across 29 states.
After writing the column I wondered if I could write books as well and so I began with a book of columns that came from my weekly effort. Journey to Gettysburg became my fifth book and my first fiction-based-on-fact story. Since then I have written The World as It Was When Jesus Came and am now working on the sequel to Journey. Obviously, I am enjoying the writing effort and the new friends I am meeting along the way.
What kind of books do you enjoy reading?
I readily admit to being a Grisham fan. I like his easy to follow formula with the late book courtroom drama. I also like anything related to history. My favorite book of all time was entitled The Armada by Garrett Mattingly and he wrote another called Kathryn of Aragon that kept me turning pages well after mid-night. Other books that pop into mind include, The Client, Charm School, and Men are from mars and Women are from Venus by John Gray.
If you were a style of music, what style would you be?
I would be a jazz man. In what seems like another lifetime I played trumpet in the university of Missouri marching band. That put me on the football field at halftime when visiting teams came to town playing John Phillip Sousa march music. However, on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons I would take my trumpet to the Italian Village, a teen hangout near the University campus, and play Louis Armstrong “stuff” with a group of jazz musicians. I never lost the urge to play jazz.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
In the summer between my freshman and sophomore years in college, I looked for summer work and ended up bending metal in a steel fabrication plant in Kansas City, Kansas. I may be the only former college president in history who was/is also a member of the Steel Workers Union.
Are there spiritual themes you like to write about?
I have just completed a manuscript called The world as it was when Jesus Came. It is focused on the history of the 400 years before the birth of Christ. I have taught both history and scripture for many years. Tying the two together gives one the best chance of being able to help others gain a more complete vision and understanding of the scriptures and their vital message. That manuscript should be published in the late fall.
Share a verse or Scripture passage with us that is special to you.
“…and Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2: 52)
I have spent most of my life in the education of young people. In a very real sense I have felt a calling to teach that has been with me since my teenage years. Luke 2: 52 tells me about the “learning years” of Jesus and one can imagine what Jesus was taught because of what he could do at the time he began his ministry at age 30. Jewish tradition tells us that the mother is in charge of teaching the basics, reading, writing, and arithmetic until about age 13. Then the father takes over to begin teaching the skills needed to earn a living. One just must believe that Mother Mary and Father Joseph would have been excellent teachers in order to have turned out such a fine young adult. Of course, God may have had something to do with it as well.
When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
I am currently working on the sequel to Journey to Gettysburg that continues the story of young Matt Mason and the love of his life, Ami Ruth. It includes the difficulties faced by the Quaker community of northern Virginia through the reconstruction years following the Civil War. Crisis points in the story include the exorbitant taxes levied by the Union even though the banks were closed and no one had money to pay, the underground railroad, the Ku Klux Klan, and the political infighting in the region brought on by the effort toward self-rule as the state of Virginia was brought back into the Union in 1870.
Thanks for sharing with us today!
Connect with Dr. Mark L. Hopkins at his Amazon Author Page.
Dr. Hopkins is giving away a copy of Journey To Gettysburg. To be entered in the giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You can enter the book giveaway twice—once on each Spotlight post for the author. Please note: The giveaway is for U.S. addresses only.