Interview with Author John Trammell

John Trammell

ED- Late last year the Publisher of The Eerie Digest joined the prestigious Virginia Writer’s Club and has since met many exciting authors, some of which now have graced the pages of this magazine. One such author is John Trammell, who has an extensive background in the field of Education. John, like me, you have encouraged students to become acquainted with the art of writing. You, however, have gone much further than that. Please describe the courses that you teach and the many students that you assist.

JT-I teach diverse courses, ranging from creative writing at the University of Richmond, to research methodology at Virginia Commonwealth University. But my full-time job is at Randolph-Macon College, where I help students with disabilities and teach courses about disability and Otherness. For example, a popular course I teach is called “Monsters and Modernism,” where we actually dissect the cultural construction of monsters and demons and explain them in practical terms.

ED- Please tell our readers about the many schools that you have taught in.

JT-In addition to the schools already mentioned, I have taught for the Hanover County Public School system, in Lunenberg County, Virginia, and at Philipsburg High in Pennsylvania. I also guest lecture at many places, like Jagiellonian University in Krakow Poland, or at Innsbruck University in Austria, to name more exotic locales.

ED- Tell us of some of the many accomplishments that you have achieved.

JT-In terms of writing, I am very proud of the winning essay I write about 9/11, which attempted to contrast heroes with villains, and ask some very troubling questions about the difference between the two. When I wrote a regular column for the Washington Times, I was surprised to receive two death threats after writing an article on the slave trade in Richmond. I was very proud to sell my second novel “Return to Treasure Island” since my students help write the end of the book. Although I have won numerous awards and recognitions for writing (and some for teaching), these are the kinds of things I tend to remember and value, because they demonstrate the power of writing and teaching to impact people.

ED- Your teaching has been displayed in articles in a number of prestigious publications. Please tell our readers about these and where they can find them.

JT-I hate to say it, but if you Google my name in quotations marks (“jack trammel”) many of recent articles and columns will come up. You will also meet a semi-well-known race car driver who is as far as I know unrelated to me directly. You can also go to academic search engines and databases and find scholarly articles on disability and teaching and learning. Finally, I think many of my books are available on Amazon. Check out “Gray” for example, a ghostly murder mystery set in Richmond.

ED- You have also produced an enormous quantity of articles in reference to The Civil War. Please describe your passion for history and the many articles that you have written about this period in our country’s past.

JT-I’ve lost track of Civil War publications—I wrote an entry for the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, I review books for Louisiana State University, and I wrote dozens of columns on the Civil War for the Washington Times—but my passion for and interest in the Civil War stems from the fact that it is so unique in human history. How many losing revolutions have their heroes emblazoned on the postage stamps of the winning side? (Robert E. Lee postage stamps) How many “lost causes” can still openly fly their flag (although I respect the negative race issues that can bring up) after losing the war? We Americans somehow managed to have a horrendous Civil War and still come out okay with each other—for the most part, and with the caveat that race still isn’t resolved. But what other civil war can compare to ours? Do you see Oliver Cromwell on British coins?

ED- Tell us about the many publications that you were cited in for your work in this field.

JT-Sadly, when I Google myself (which sounds quite vain, but has a practical purpose in protecting your copyright), I see that my Civil War writings are now incorporated into text books for history students, and reprinted frequently in magazines or on web sites. I wish I got royalties for that!

ED- You have also dealt extensively with poetry, fiction, and creative writing. Please describe this aspect of your life.

JT-I love history, and I love higher education and scholarly research and writing. But in my heart, I still want to write the next great vampire novel (half finished at this point), or write a sonnet that actually sounds like a sonnet is supposed to. I believe that creative writing sets us apart as humans, and I believe that the collective catharsis that it supplies in a world of pain, suffering and vice, is a welcome relief and well-spring of optimism that benefits everyone. I don’t think there can be too much emphasis on it. We need, in fact, to allow our younger students lots of encouragement and freedom to explore their creative writing voices, without the criticism that comes through grammar and standardized testing formats, and without too many strings attached. Rules are okay in academia, and serve an important purpose in allowing people to communicate efficiently. But in creative writing, rules are made to be broken.

ED- Your latest work is entitled ‘Down on the Chickahominy’. Please tell us about your novel.

JT-This book is actually an ethnography. I discovered, quite accidentally, that this tributary to the bay once had a thriving and unique waterman’s culture that is now almost extinct. I found letters, photographs, and survivors to interview, and this book attempts to recapture that lost culture. Everything happened on the river—mail came, people were married in flat boats, went to their graves by boat, etc.

ED- Tell us about the waterman that inspired you to write this novel, and the history of the area that you uncovered.

JT-Bill Buck was my primary informant, although I interviewed several dozen people including Chickahominy Indians, or more properly, First Americans. The history is a story of a river that is not the same river it was before the dam was built in 1943 to support the war effort. That river, and that way of life, are now gone.

ED- Where can our readers find your work?

JT-The History Press has “Down on the Chickahominy,” which is also available through the normal retail outlets. I also have a struggling website:

ED- please tell us about all the organizations that you belong to and some of the awards that you have been recognized with for your writing.

JT-I can’t speak highly enough of the Virginia Writer’s Club (the oldest such organization in the nation), and the Virginia Poetry Society. Young writers should learn to affiliate with other writers as soon as they leave the crib. Although writing can be a solitary endeavor, writing is always for an audience (even if it is just you, or your mirror self), and the way to become a successful writer is to meet those who are writing and publishing, and to imitate them, and give them your material to read, and to learn as much as you can.

ED- John, it has been an honor and a pleasure to be able to present you to our readers. We deal with many students and have recently built a relationship with UCLA. Are you available as a speaker, and if so where can you be contacted.

JT-I frequently speak on an array of topics, and would love to visit. I can be reached best at

ED- John, I want to thank you for the time for your interview with The Eerie Digest. You are most inspiring and I am sure that our readers will want to learn more about you in the near future. Many thanks, and much luck in all that you do.

JT-Many thanks to you. And I didn’t even get to talk about my special speaking topic of late, which has been a workshop designed to help novelists design the best kind of monsters in their horror stories… It’s actually based on the academic work from the “Monsters” class mentioned above!


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