Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Interview with Peachill founder, Jeff Hortman

Today is a bit of a different interview. It’s with Peachill founder, Jeff Hortman about the historical fiction, Hannibal Barca: The Lion of Carthage.

Peachill is a new publishing company that brings together a collaborative team of creative professionals to build books in full view of a community of supporters. We believe that authors, and those with a great idea, deserve the opportunity to receive all of the resources, support, and coaching that their story needs to find its voice in the world today. Every untold story has the right to be heard.

My name is Jeff Hortman and I am the founder of Peachill, as well as the creator of this book. Although six creatives came together from all over the globe, in various roles, to bring this book to life, we consider “Peachill” to be the author. We will also publish books under an individual author’s name, if that author both is the creator of the project and the main writer. If you have an idea for a book, please submit on our website.

Please tell us about your current release.
Hannibal Barca is the story of history’s greatest African general. A genius tactician, Hannibal crossed the Mediterranean Sea to pose the last serious threat to the city of Rome, before it grew to become the sprawling Roman Empire. But Hannibal was much more than a footnote in military strategy. He came from the most proud and storied clan of ancient Carthage and was motivated by a deep sense of duty to his family and his city. Inheriting a mistrust of Romans due to their role in his father’s death, Hannibal was quick to action when the standing treaty was broken. He left his mother and wife to represent the family in the Carthaginian Council and marched his army of men and elephants through modern Spain, France, and down through the Alps to surprise Rome on its doorstep. This true story of the Second Punic War pits Hannibal against a legendary and worthy adversary, Scipio Africanus, and tests the strength of the Barca women at home, as they fend off the political vipers from the shadows of the council chamber. Friends become enemies. Prisoners rise to command. And sacrifices are made on altars across the known world. Hannibal is the fire that seals the fate of the Mediterranean.

What inspired you to write this book?
I’m fascinated by history, by the lessons that seem to apply time and time again with different contexts but the same results. I’m particularly intrigued by historical perspectives that flip-the-script on the traditional western narrative. What better script to flip than the classic tale of Greco-Romans as the brave heroes of the ancient world. In Hannibal’s story, Rome is the aggressor. The betrayer of their word. They are also the proud and the dumb, as Hannibal spends the initial stage of the war wiping the field with any army the Latins march his way. But human nature is a tricky beast to master. Hannibal’s success across the sea tempts jealous rivals at home and certain victory turns into a self-destructive tailspin for the city of Carthage. Despite the hatred of his enemy, Hannibal finds common ground with the young general, who finally rounds the Roman forces into form, and fights to preserve his family and civilization.

Excerpt from Hannibal Barca:
241 BCE, Battlefield Outside of Carthage
            Carthage, the prize of the Sahara, was blanketed by a smoky haze. The watchtowers that still stood gazed through the cloud and over the smoldering bones of the fallen city. The skeletons of the shops, baths, amphitheater, temples, and villas gasped their final smoky breaths, and the streets lay desolate, teeming only with blood and the last hungry wisps of fire.
            The carnage of the city pointed north to a great battlefield, where the city’s purple-clad protectors had fallen. Only a few were alive enough to crawl away, struggling on shaky arms and legs past the bodies of their comrades and enemies alike.
            Spears stood on end, buried in skulls and hearts. A legionnaire’s head rested several feet from his corpse. Another man gasped under the weight of his dead horse, moments from death. Whether clad in Carthaginian purple or Roman red, they had met the same end. Every breath of wind seemed to carry another plea to Eshmun or Apollo, another soldier’s final breath. A moan leaked into the air and floated away.
A boy walked methodically through the battlefield, weaving his way through the armored mayhem surrounding him. His younger brother followed a few paces behind him.
            A lion fed on a corpse nearby, unnoticed by the boys.
            “Close their eyes,” the boy said. “Take any metal you can carry.” He lifted the bronze armor from the dead man at his feet, pulling until the body rolled over and gave up its breastplate. He stumbled under the weight of the heavy armor, but he didn’t drop it. He was stocky and strong. He placed the armor over his own shoulders and straightened the breastplate.
His eyes carried an expression of grim determination as he folded the purple-cloaked soldier’s arms over his chest and closed the eyelids. He worked with keen focus, surveying his surroundings with every movement he made.
            His brother pulled a knife from a fallen soldier’s belt with thin, shaking hands. His handsome features wore a mask of bravery, but his eyes flickered with fear as he looked down on a pale-skinned Roman whose face had frozen mid-contortion.
            Spying the younger brother, the lion began to creep near. When the boy finally looked up, panic flashed across his face.
The lion crouched low to lunge at him.
            “Hannibal!” the boy shouted for help, closing his eyes.
            The lion sprang forward.
[End excerpt]

What exciting story are you working on next?
The next story is also historical fiction. Our collaborative team is nearing completion of a tale about the fall of Constantinople in 1453, as told from the perspective of an Italian mercenary paid to help defend the city from the Ottoman Turks. The mercenary’s past comes back to haunt him as rival factions in the city jockey for power and riches ahead of the inevitable defeat at the hands of the superior Turkish force.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ve always enjoyed writing in various formats, so, in that sense, I’ve identified with being a writer as long as I’ve identified with being much of anything. The first time I felt validated as a writer was when I was signed by an agent in Los Angeles for a screenplay I’d written. The screenplay never sold, so there’s a lesson in putting too much stock in validation. I find myself most motivated by the possibility of the blank page, a new world to jump into and help create – and find myself taxed to exhaustion during the final edits. Like something has been pulled out from the inside, bone by bone. That being said, I would describe ‘story’ as my true passion. Story includes writing, but I’m just as fascinated with structure and process and analysis. Story is also much larger than the written word and I follow that passion for story in other elements of my life as well.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I do not write full-time and that is by choice. At various times, I have tried that lifestyle and I find myself less productive. I continue with my day-to-day and let the story brew in the subconscious, down in the back of the mind, and then when I get an hour in front of the computer…it just pours out. I find it very helpful for both initial drafts and for getting the proper space to execute honest editing. You have to be able to step away to gain a reader’s perspective for the edit.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Sometimes when I’m a bit stuck, or want to feel the rhythm of footfall, I’ll walk around the house and dictate a few pages.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I never had a single dream career in mind, but rather several interests that I dreamed of pursuing. I was always a bit jealous of those who had a one-track mind, but I guess we all have our way.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Are you looking for a publishing partner? I hope you’ll reach out at jeff@peachill.com We build communities around stories, help authors navigate the complex and over-crowded world of self-publishing, and dedicate ourselves to being a true publishing partner.


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