Author Interview

Tell us a bit about your family ?

I have been married for over 40 years. My husband and I have two sons, a daughter-in-law, and two grandsons.

What is your favorite quality about yourself?

I am very detail oriented, which I feel is an essential ingredient when writing a series. For example, a character can’t have blue eyes in one book and brown eyes in another.

What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why?

My favorite quote is by Mahatma Gandhi: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” I think that pretty much says it all. If you want something to change, make it start with you.

What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?

I am very proud of my kids, and I’m proud of being honored with several awards for my writing.

What is your favorite color?


What is your favorite food?

I have several – seafood, Mexican, and Italian.

What’s your favorite place in the entire world?

I have several favorite places, including the beach and the mountains, but I’d have to say that Ireland is my absolute favorite. I love everything about it. My ancestors came from Ireland, and when I’m there, it feels like home. It is one of the most beautiful places in the world.

How has your upbringing influenced your writing?

My parents were always extremely supportive of my artistic pursuits. They insisted that I go to college, and now I’m glad they did.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I started writing at a very young age, beginning with poetry, expanding to songwriting, and then moving on to articles, short stories, picture books, and novellas.

When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing when I was in the third or fourth grade. I loved challenging myself by using words to describe things in a colorful, poetic way.

How long have you been writing?

I think since I was eight or nine. A long time!

When did you first know you could be a writer?

I knew I was pretty good at it when I started getting recognition in grade school. Some of my poems got published in the school newsletter.

What inspires you to write and why?

I get inspiration from nature, museums, music, and other writers. Because I write about the Civil War, getting outside and imagining what soldiers experienced helps me to visualize various scenes. I also listen to period music, visit museums to get a feel for what it was like to live in Victorian America, and read the works of other Civil War authors to see how they interpret that time as well.

What genre are you most comfortable writing?

 I’m comfortable writing many genres, but I find that writing historical fiction is challenging and interesting. However, I recently completed a murder mystery, and that was a lot of fun to write.

What inspired you to write your first book?

I went to Gettysburg and saw the battlefield for myself. I had never seen a battlefield of that enormity before, and the experience effected me so profoundly that it inspired me to write a book from a typical Confederate soldier’s perspective.

Who or what influenced your writing once you began?

I had some supportive college instructors who saw my potential and helped me to develop it.

Who or what influenced your writing over the years?

My family influenced me, as well as personal experiences. To me, human interaction is one of the most fascinating things to write about.

What made you want to be a writer?

I wanted to become a writer because I enjoy describing things and telling a compelling story.

What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?

Keeping details strait, and editing. It can be tedious at times, but it is rewarding to see the finished product.

Did writing these books teach you anything and what was it?

I learned about what the 4thAlabama went through, the horrors they witnessed, and the strength they displayed in order to survive. I also learned much about the Confederate cavalry, and the flamboyant J.E.B. Stuart, as well the suffering that took place in POW camps.

Do you intend to make writing a career?


What is your greatest strength as a writer?

I think that interpreting character interaction and dialogue is my greatest strength. Or at least, that’s what some critics have told me.

Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

I have on occasion, but to cure it, I go to a quiet place where I can concentrate on the plot without any distractions. I usually get through it pretty quickly.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

It is the fifth book in the Renegade Series.

How did you come up with the titles?

A Beautiful Glittering Lieis based on one of my favorite quotes. Confederate soldier Henry Morton Stanley explained the war by stating that it was a “glittering lie,” and I added the word “beautiful” because the War Between the States began as a wonderful, delusional exploit for both sides. No one had any idea that it would last four years and cost so many lives. A Beckoning Hellfirejust came to mind when I thought of how the protagonist, David, was lured into the war.A Rebel Among Uswas part ofA Beckoning Hellfire, but when the book got to be too long, I split it in half. And my son, Jeremy, came up with the title forDouble-Edged Sword.

Can you tell us about your main character?

He is a Southern farm boy who is trying to become a man. After enlisting in the Confederate cavalry, he experiences suffering and loss, and he is conflicted between his obligation to his family and his desire for adventure.

How did you develop your plot and characters?

Because I wanted to focus on a young Confederate soldier, I started with the main character, built his family around him, and added his home and friends. The first book I wrote in the Renegade Series isA Beckoning Hellfire. That story expanded into two sequels:A Rebel Among UsandDouble-Edged Sword. I then went back and wrote a prequel, which isA Beautiful Glittering Lie.A Becharmed Callie Christmasis a short story involving one of the minor characters in the series. It takes place during the winter of 1862.

Who designed the covers?

My publisher, Westwood Books Publishing, LLC, provided the cover art for the Renegade Series. Stanford Books assisted in creating the cover for A Becharmed Callie Christmas. Mr. Dan Nance painted the cover art forHorses in Gray: Famous Confederate Warhorses.

Who is your publisher?

Westwood Books Publishing, LLC published the Renegade Series, which includesA Beautiful Glittering Lie,A Beckoning HellfireA Rebel Among Us,andDouble-Edged Sword, and Pelican Publishing Company, Inc. publishedHorses in Gray.

Why did you choose to write these particular books?

I wanted to tell the story of typical Confederate soldiers, and how the war impacted them and their family. Many Southern states did not want to secede from the Union, and this story explains how a typical farm family got drawn into the conflict.

What was the hardest part about writing them?

The battle scenes and POW camp scenes were the most difficult to write. I wanted to make them as realistic as possible, which meant I had to go into detail about graphic gore and emotional trauma.

How do you promote these books?

Besides writing my own blog,, I participate on other blogs, and post frequently on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and some other social media outlets. I attend conferences, do speaking engagements, participate in reenactments, and hold book signings. Because my advertising budget is limited, I have done a little bit of display advertising, but mostly, I have promoted it through local media. I have also entered the book in several contests.

Will you write others in this same genre?

I am writing another sequel to the Renegade Series. I will probably write more books about this time period since, to me, it is one of the most fascinating in American History.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

The main message is that, even though terrible things happen, the power of the human spirit will always prevail.

How much of the story is realistic?

A Beautiful Glittering Lieis based on the journal of adjutant R. T. Cole, who was a soldier with the 4thAlabama Infantry Regiment. Most of the situations and characters described in my books are based on real people and events. The main characters are fictitious, but their experiences are also based on fact.

Have you included a lot of your life experiences, even friends, in the plot?

Yes. I think that every writer incorporates personal experiences, and my writing is no exception. The main character, David, and his best friend, Jake, are loosely based on my son, Jeremy, and his best friend, Ben.

How important do you think villains are in a story?

I think they are critical to the suspense of a story. Every great novel has a great villain to go with it.

What are your goals as a writer?

My primary goals are to entertain, teach, and tell a good story.

Do you have to travel much concerning your books?

I make it a point to visit the places I write about in my books in order to make them authentic. Getting the terrain right and imagining the placement of armies on various battlefields helps me to visualize what actually took place at these sacred places.

What books have most influenced your life?

Black Beauty, Gone with the Wind andCold Mountain. I love reading inspirational stories, classics, stories featuring strong character arcs, and books that affect my psyche.

Can we expect any more books from you in the future?

Yes. I am writing another sequel to the Renegade Series.

Have you started another book yet?

I have started several. Some are ready for publication, and some are still in the works

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I see myself as a more experienced author with several more titles under my belt.

What are your current writing projects now?

I am working on another short story to go with the Renegade Series, as well as a young adult novel about Prohibition and my hometown, Sioux City, Iowa.

What contributes to making a writer successful?

In my opinion, perseverance, marketing, getting out and meeting people, blogging, and attending conferences.

Do you have any advice for writers?

Take criticism with a grain of salt. Most reviews are just opinions. Expect to receive both good and bad reviews, and use constructive criticism to improve your writing skills.

Do you have any specific thoughts that you want to say to your readers?

You won’t succeed unless you never give up.

What do you do to unwind and relax?

I swim, walk, sing, play guitar, and garden.

What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing?

I have met some wonderful people that have become lifelong friends, and I have advanced my writing career by winning several prestigious awards.

If you could leave your readers with one bit of wisdom, what would you want it to be?

Always strive to become a better writer. Attend classes. Seek professional advice. Read other authors who write in your genre. And keep going!

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When you wish to end your career, stop writing, and look back on your life, what thoughts would you like to have?

I don’t think I will ever stop writing, but I hope that my works will make an impression on people. I’d like to leave a legacy behind, something that my kids and grandkids can be proud of, and something that I can be proud of as well.

(For A Beautiful Glittering Lie)

We are so proud to announce that A Beautiful Glittering Lie: A Novel of the Civil War by J. D. R. Hawkins is a B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree. This assures readers that this is a book well worth their time and money!

G. Indiebrag, B.R.A.G. Medallion Committee

This is a very good book! From first to last, it was exciting and thoughtful.

Writers Digest

Civil war tore families apart, and many of those families fought to stay together every step of the way. “A Beautiful Glittering Lie” is a novel of the American Civil War, as J.D.R. Hawkins writes of the Summers family and the rift the war brought to their family. Drawing on her heritage to tell the tale, Hawkins presents an insightful and riveting read of a family at war. “A Beautiful Glittering Lie” is a strong pick for historical fiction collections.

Able Greenspan, Midwest Book Review

(For A Becharmed Callie Christmas)

It’s nearly Christmas time so it’s time to get in a holiday mood! However, this is not your typical Christmas cookie-cutter story. It’s a tale set against the backdrop of the looming Civil War. The evocative portrayal of the pre-Civil War Southern atmosphere is outstanding, and the author skillfully weaves the opulence of the Copeland estate with the tension of the times. Despite minor pacing issues, the novel successfully transports readers to a bygone era. It’s an interesting and different take on Christmas novels and some readers might not like it because they want a more classic Christmas story, but this was spot-on for me. Excellent book!

Vine Voice

(For A Beckoning Hellfire)

A Beckoning Hellfire is an excellent book!… Hawkins does an excellent job of portraying David’s emotions, showing everything a young soldier would experience on his first tour.

I enjoyed reading this book … Ms. Hawkins intrigued me sufficiently to read volume two.

Midwest Book Review

… Ms. Hawkins does a very good job of developing David’s character arc; transforming his revenge driven exuberance to kill a few Yankees into the suffering and pain of seeing death and destruction all around him. Ms. Hawkins also does an exemplary job with her battle scenes, though brief, they are very well done, and she pulls no punches when it comes to showing her readers the blood and gore of a Civil War battlefield.

James D. Miller, Reviewer for the COCWOC Civil War Blog

(For A Rebel Among Us)

For a girl who likes history, reading about life during the Civil War was just icing on the cake for this sweet romance. The story really was engaging and well written, and I could picture myself in that time period. Very well researched and detailed, and it was pretty honest of how slaves and freed men were treated back then. I don’t know why this stuck with me, but in other fiction books I’ve read of the Civil War, when it came to the issue of slaves, the South was bad and the North was good and treated all freed slaves as free white men, which wasn’t always the case.

It begins with a family of girls in Union territory finding a Confederate soldier injured, and how they nurse him back to health. The oldest sister gets him to stay one time, then asks him to stay longer with a proposition. Great story line and the characters were all likable. While Anna and David were the main characters, Maggie, the younger sister, and Patrick, a neighbor, helped make the story better.

I loved this book! It’s a longer book, so she has the time to work in details from her research. This was the first book I’ve ready by J.D.R. Hawkins, and I look forward to reading more historical pieces from this author.

Succotash, Amazon Review

I lack adequate words to explain how much I enjoyed reading this book. Well researched and written, ‘A Rebel Among Us’ is destined to become a classic in the historical fiction genre. Follow along as David Summers finds his way into the hearts of Anna and her family, and your own. An impossible choice, an impossible love, and an amazing story.

Liliyana, Amazon Review

(For Double-Edged Sword) 

This book gives a vivid picture of the South after the Civil War. Best of all the author gives us an inside view of the people left to live the horrid post-war situation.

The prime characters are David, a proud Southern who fought in the war, and Anna a determined young girl from Pennsylvania. This book is a continuation of their love story as described in A Rebel Among Us.

Anna and David, decide to return to the South to break the bad news of David’s father’s death as well as that of his best friend, Jake.   The year is 1865 and David is appalled by the ruins he witnesses as they head for Alabama. He sees firsthand the poverty and desperation of the people.

Although Anna had agreed to accompany David to his hometown, she feels very out of place there. People look at her with anger as they see her as a Northerner responsible for their sorry plight. David too fares no better as they consider him a traitor for having married a Yankee.   The young couple has to face many difficult moments but their true love wins out.

The author, while giving us many historical facts, introduces us to interesting characters. Kit, David’s father’s friend proves to be anything but a true friend and causes the family preoccupations as they come to doubt his intentions.  Callie, Jake’s girlfriend is convinced that David will marry her but she refuses to accept the fact that David is married to Anna.  Ann too has a problem with Stephen, a neighbor in Pennsylvania who wanted Ann for himself and believes David took her away from him.

The plot gets involved and David and Anna are forced to cling to each other for comfort. Will there be a happy ending for them, after all?   I invite you to read this intriguing book and find out.

Elaine Bertolloti, author of Florence and Me

Raw, emotional historical fiction that highlights a barely discussed period in American history. Double-Edged Sword follows a newlywed couple as they weave their way through the chaos and turbulence that followed the War Between the States. The novel offers a somewhat painful glimpse into the social and economic transformation of the South during Reconstruction and the opposition and violence it spawned. Author J.D.R. Hawkins does not gloss over the controversies of the era — or the cruelty. An entertaining history lesson!

Author Jessica James

(For Horses in Gray: Famous Confederate Warhorses)

Horses in Gray – A Gem Not to be MissedJ.D.R. Hawkins’ work is like a rare gem – something that doesn’t come along often but to be prized when discovered. The work’s rarity derives from its unique subject matter, its detailed research, and its reader-friendly story-telling.


Notable throughout the entire book is Hawkins’ reverence and passion for horses. She covers in this book a subject I have never before seen in my readings of the American Civil War. Many stories have been told, some true and some not-so-much, of the exploits of Civil War generals. Largely forgotten, except in a few obscure cases, have been the exploits of the horses who made their heroics possible.

Horses in Gray is so well documented that it could easily pass as a Master’s Degree thesis. However, the author never lets the documentation get in the way of providing a fascinating read. One becomes keenly aware of the strong bond between horse and rider that is never weakened by long marches, harsh weather, or the noise of battle. She presents the horses as loyal servants with personalities as unique and varied as those of the men who rode them, and the masters as caring owners who treat them as faithful companions, not mere tools of battle.

Interwoven into the stories of the Confederate war horses and their riders are insightful vignettes of the actions they shared. Some of the actions were major ones such as the battles of Fredericksburg, Manassas, and Pittsburgh Landing, others largely forgotten except among military scholars and Civil War buffs – notably raids by John Mosby and Turner Ashby. As a student of the war, I was never before aware of the extent to which horses “changed sides” as the result of being captured or that General Grant, himself, rode a captured horse named Jeff Davis.

The author of Civil War novels such as A Beckoning Hellfire and A Rebel Among Us does not disappoint with her foray into non-fiction. If you consider yourself even a casual student of the Civil War, or if you are a more serious scholar, Horses in Gray is a must read. I rate it five stars and look forward to more of Hawkins’ work.

Greg Seeley, Goodreads author, Henry’s Pride