©Moronic Ox Literary Journal - Escape Media Publishers / Open Books
Moronic Ox talks with author Arwen Bicknell
about her soon to be published book, Justice and Vengeance:
Scandal, Honor, and Murder in 1872 Virginia
Moronic Ox: Hello, Arwen, and thank you for taking time to talk with us about your new book. The story you relate in Justice and Vengeance is immediately absorbing. How did you become involved with the subject of this book?
Arwen Bicknell: It was a fluke, really. Prince William County has a summer “Explorer Passports” program where kids get credits for visiting various county parks and historic sites. We took my son to the Brentsville site, where he was bored out of his skull until the tour guide started talking about how these two prominent families were involved in a scandal during Reconstruction that led to someone getting shot and killed in the jail. We all perked up at that, and my husband and I immediately started Googling for a book to learn more about the incident, but none existed. So I wrote one.
Moronic Ox: Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?
Arwen Bicknell: It’s what I know best. I’ve been steeped in history my whole life. My father wrote a history of a Russian anarchist when I was in preschool; my mother dragged me to museums and historic sites as soon as I could walk well enough to keep up with her. I majored in history at college. My husband cemented our engagement by pointing out I’d be half-owner of his shelves and shelves of books. At this point, my dad and husband have both had books on history published; I figured I had to catch up!
Moronic Ox: How long have you been writing?
Arwen Bicknell: Since before I could write. My first opus was a picture book called The
Story of Arwen that was entirely crayon scribbles of me with my dog, my
parents, our house, my dolls—everything important to my 4-year-old self.
Moronic Ox: What was the hardest thing about writing your book?
Arwen Bicknell: Finishing it. For some reason, I couldn’t get myself over the hump of writing the last two chapters, and took any excuse I could find to avoid doing it. I finally checked myself into a local hotel one Saturday night, fired up my laptop, and wrote from 5 p.m. until 4 a.m. just to get it all out into a first draft.
Moronic Ox: How do you find or make time to write?
Arwen Bicknell: I’ve been getting asked this a lot since people found out I have a book coming out. What worked for me might not be a universal solution, but I found that just getting organized made a huge difference. Once I had a road map, I was able to break the job up into manageable chunks, and whenever I had a free hour (or afternoon, or a whole decadent day), I’d knock out a page, a chapter, whatever I could. It was gratifying when I could cross an item off the outline. That said, it took me three years to finish the project, so patience played a big role, too.
Moronic Ox: What are you working on now?
Arwen Bicknell: I’m looking at a few ideas. One is another Civil War story, about a Confederate woman arrested for being a spy who ended up marrying her Yankee escort to prison. I’m also poking around for details on a 1951 murder in California that marked the turning point in media coverage when television overtook newspapers.
Moronic Ox: Thank you, Arwen. We look forward to the release of Justice and Vengeance.
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Arwen Bicknell has spent her adult professional life as an editor and
writer for newspapers, journals, and think tanks. Currently communica- tions analyst for the RAND Corpora- tion, her previous job was at CQ
Roll Call, where she focused on political and legislative issues.
“Tell me a story” has always been her favorite request to make—and receive. She has edited several nonfiction history books, and she contributed to the interpretive display dedicated to James Clark at the renovated Brentsville Jail in Prince William County, Virginia.
Arwen was born in the Midwest and has lived on both coasts, settling in
Virginia in the winter of 2001and falling in love with the region as soon
as the snow melted and the dogwoods bloomed. She has been writing since she could hold a crayon and has been a Civil War
buff since her first visit to
Gettysburg in grammar school, going on to major in journalism and history at the University of Southern California. She now lives in Hay-
market with her husband, John, and son, Thomas, plus two cats and a dog. You can find her snarking about politics, history, and other matters on Twitter at @arwenbicknell
and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abicknell.
"With this meticulously researched and vividly written book, Arwen Bicknell
restores the once famous, but now largely forgotten, murder trial of Lucien
Fewell to its rightful place in the history of Reconstruction-Era
Virginia." —Michael A. Ross, *The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case: Race,
Law, and Justice in the Reconstruction Era*
“An exceptional work on one of the most famous trials to take place in Northern Virginia. Arwen Bicknell’s outstanding research has put to bed
many of the myths that have grown up around the Clark-Fewell Tragedy. Highly recommended.” —Bill Backus, *A Want of Vigilance: The Bristoe Station Campaign*