Interview With Author Joseph Connole

# Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!

My name is Joseph Connole, though my friends and family call me Joe. I have three articles and one book. It all started in 2009 when I was a graduate student at the University of Dallas pursuing a Master of American Studies. I was taking a class on the Civil War and had to write a research paper. It came down to two topics, baseball in the civil war or American Indians in the civil war. I don’t recall what sparked my interest in getting that paper published but whatever it was I’m glad I did. “Why They Fought: American Indian Involvement in the Civil War” was published by Whispering Wind Magazine in 2011. That same year I took a class on World War II, once again I needed a research topic for a paper. I was pretty certain I wanted to go back to the well of American Indian involvement in US wars but I don’t recall why I chose the Comanche. Either way, my paper “A Language You Will Not Understand: Comanche Code Talkers” in WW2 was published by Whispering Wind in 2012. While all that was happening I was contacted by an acquisitions editor for the University of Tennessee Press about my Civil War paper. One thing lead to another I expanded my paper into The Civil War and the Subversion of American Indian Sovereignty published by McFarland Press in 2017. In 2020 my third paper, “A Terrible Truth: The Tonkawa Massacre of 1862” was published by The Chronicles of Oklahoma, the official journal of the Oklahoma Historical Society.

# How do you deal with creative block?

Someone might think that authors of non-fiction don’t have to worry about creative block, but we do. I get to a point where I can’t read history anymore and I have to put it down and read something else. I usually go for fictional works that are told in the third person. These have the added benefit of helping me with my narrative style. My go-to books for whenever creative block set in during the writing of the Civil War were books like Harry Potter, Twilight, the Millennium Trilogy, and Beautiful Creatures. I’ve recently expanded my selection to include more narrative historians like Dan Jones and Jill Lepore. My recommendation for any author dealing with creative block is to find outlets in material totally unlike what you are working on.

# Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?

So my publisher designed my book cover and I didn’t have much say in its design. As for titles, I like descriptive titles. I’ve used the Bible for inspiration as well, that is where I got the title for my Comanche title. I went through many titles for my book and landed on the title by accident. I tend to take the same approach with chapter titles, I like titles that are descriptive but succinct.

# How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?

In my professional line of work, we learn that all feedback is a gift. I’ve learned that feedback isn’t about the author as much as it is about the work. I have three Amazon reviews and the first one I received was written the same day my book was published. I looked at other reviews the person has written and found the same review on other books about American Indians. The other two came from a friend and my sister. I’ve also received two academic reviews. I honestly don’t mind negative reviews since I’ve received so few. Reviews mean your book is being read.

# What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?

I came into writing my book with optimism. I had never thought of writing a book before being contacted by the University of Tennessee Press. I didn’t know what to expect while writing but I thought I had done enough research when I wrote my paper. Little did I realize, I had so much more research to do. I spent the next five years trying to write a book while also working full time.

# Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?

My first two papers and my book were written with a specific goal in mind. For the papers, I wanted to make good grades as a graduate student. The book, I was writing it because I was approached about writing a book by a publisher. When I was writing my book I fretted about being called a Native American Historian, or military historian, or even worse, a Civil War historian. I came into Native Studies completely by accident, I could just have easily chosen a different topic for my research paper in the class I took on the Civil War. I still struggle with the idea of being a white male writing about Native Americans. But I’ve accepted that my research focuses on American history during the middle to late 19th century and my interest in telling the stories of Native Americans, particularly as it relates to their mistreatment by the United States government, has grown stronger over the years. My paper on the Tonkawa Massacre was the first time I wrote something purely for my own pleasure. I wanted to get it published, but I was never approached about writing such a paper and it wasn’t for school. There was also another motive, through the course of writing my book I realized that I want acceptance by academic historians as a legitimate historian.

# What are your plans for future books?

While I was writing my last paper on the Tonkawa Massacre I came to the decision I was going to write a book on the Tonkawa, focusing on Tonkawa/US relations from the early 19th century through to the as recent as I could get. Sadly, I haven’t done much over the last two years to make that happen. Research has been slow for me. To complicate matters, I moved in 2019 to North Carolina, and then in 2020, I moved again to Mississippi. The constant moving distracted me from my research and I’ve had a hard time getting back into the flow. I hope that I will be able to regain my focus and continue with writing my second book.


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