1. What inspired you to write this book? 

My inspiration for writing this book came from the logbook of the whaleship Stonington. In the Spring of 2012, a representative from Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, Connecticut came to a faculty meeting at the school where I worked (The Williams School in New London, CT) to speak about the Seaport’s plans to invigorate its website by inviting local teachers to research and develop the stories behind some of the artifacts in the Seaport’s vast collection. Part of the application process for these internships, which included stipends, was to submit writing samples based on three items we could choose from a list that the Seaport provided. One of the items that caught my eye was the Stonington’s logbook. What drew me

further to it was that the Williams family, the namesake of the school, had owned the ship. As I began reading the log for my initial research, I came upon a section that ceased being a record of whaling and became instead an account of the ship’s direct involvement in the Mexican-American War. I had found a story within a story, and I was excited to tell it.

2. What exactly is it about and who is it written for?

The book is about the adventures of the whaleship Stonington and its months-long participation with the US Pacific Squadron in the California campaign of the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848. After serving as a troop ship, gun ship, supply ship, and transport ship from September, 1846 to January, 1847, with its crew performing a wide variety of duties on land and at sea, the US Navy releases the Stonington from service, and the ship is involved in yet another series of adventures as it makes its way home to New London after being at sea for over three years. I wrote the book for anyone who enjoys a good adventure story based on historical facts. Those with an interest in maritime/naval/military history will find it particularly compelling. 

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

First of all, I hope that readers have a good time reading the book, with its mixture of serious, humorous, perilous, and tender moments. Next, I hope that they come away with a solid understanding of the integral role that the Stonington played in the California campaign. Additionally, I hope that they gain an appreciation for the significance of the Mexican-American War and how its aftermath led directly to the US Civil War.

4. How did you decide on your book’s title and cover design? 

When I first started writing the book, its title was Tempered by Fate. I was working from the very beginning of the logbook and the start of the Stonington’s multi-year voyage. I soon realized that it was going to be some time before I got to the part of the story that I really wanted to tell. So, I made a “course change” and went straight to the San Diego section. 

The publisher developed the cover design and kindly requested my approval. I was thrilled with the overall look. The photo is of the Charles W. Morgan, the last remaining wooden whaleship in the world. It is a main attraction at Mystic Seaport, and because there are no photos of the Stonington, I had used the Morgan as a model. When I did my final day of research at the Seaport, just before completing the book, I found the Bill of Sale for the purchase of the Stonington by the Williams & Barns whaling firm. That document contained the dimensions of the ship, and they turned out to be nearly identical to the Morgan. A fortuitous find! 

5. What advice or words of wisdom do you have for fellow writers – other than run!? 

Stay focused but not rigidly so. Be willing to explore tangents that may produce useful ingredients. Stake out a quiet space to do your writing where it won’t be necessary to hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign.

6. What trends in the book world do you see — and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading? 

I believe that people still appreciate and desire the multi-sensory satisfaction that comes from having a physical book, which leads me to see the book publishing industry as being on a healthy track. 

7. Were there experiences in your personal life or career that came in handy when writing this book? 

One of the most important and useful traits I acquired in my life is the discipline I learned through piano lessons and the practice regimen required to learn and perform a piece well. I was able to stay on task (for the most part!) while writing my book, working for hours at a time. 

8. How would you describe your writing style? Which writers or books is your writing similar to? 

My writing style is relaxed storytelling interspersed with intriguing historical information, similar to that of Erik Larson. 

9. What challenges did you overcome in the writing of this book? 

The main challenge I overcame was filling-out the characters despite a dearth of conversational dialogue within the primary sources. 

10. If people can buy or read one book this week or month, why should it be yours? 

People should make Course Change their one book to read or buy because it’s such an entertaining adventure story that hasn’t been told before. Along the way, they’ll learn about an important period of US history that is often overlooked. It also makes a great gift! 

About The Author: Peter J. Emanuel, Jr. has been an educator and musician in New London County, Connecticut, since 1978. From that time, he has been a piano teacher, accompanist, and pianist/vocalist. Emanuel earned a Bachelor of Science degree in education from the University of Connecticut in 1977 and a Master of Arts degree in history from American Public University in 2012. He began teaching at The Williams School, a private college preparatory school in New London, in 1991. His initial position at the school was director of music, but his course load always included at least one history class.  In 2009, Emanuel began working on a master’s degree in history with the hope of becoming a full-time member of the Williams history department. That aspiration became a reality in 2014 when his course load shifted completely to history. From 2017 to 2020, it was his distinct honor to serve as history department head. He retired from The Williams School in 2020. For more info, please see: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100011770930732 

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