Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Talking Books with Geoff Armstrong, Author of Moments That Made America

Geoff Armstrong began his teaching career in 1965 after receiving a teaching diploma from McGill University’s Macdonald College. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Montreal’s Concordia University in 1967 where his major field of study was history. Armstrong credits writers such as Bruce Catton, and Thomas B. Costain, as well as the encouragement of his father who had little formal education, but a deep love of reading and of history, as the inspiration for his own life-long interest.

Throughout a 25-year teaching career he taught history at several grade levels and learned quickly that to reach the hearts of his students, history had to be made immediately and deeply relevant and accessible: that some event that took place centuries before those students were born had a direct and profound influence on every aspect their lives. He also learned that talking down or writing down to his students was a recipe for defeat. It is this awareness, shaped by a quarter century of teaching and countless questions by thousands of intelligent young people that has informed and shaped his writing.

You can visit his website at

Author: Geoff Armstrong
Publisher: History Publishing Company
Genre: American History

From its geological birth during the breakup of the Pangaea supercontinent millions of years ago, through the nation-shaping key events that led to its political independence from the British superpower, and other crucial, sometimes miraculous events that worked to create the nation, Moments That Made America: From the Ice Age to the Alamo explores those defining moments, both tragic and inspirational that profoundly shaped the nation and its people - crucial turning points that worked inexorably to mold and make America. These pivotal "tipping" events formed America's geographical, sociological, political and historical landscape. Part 1 culminates with the discovery of gold in California and the role it played in fulfilling America’s dream of Manifest Destiny.


Thank you for this interview!  I’d like to know more about you as a person first.  What do you do when you’re not writing?

There aren’t many times when I’m not writing and to be blunt, that seems like a question someone who isn’t a writer would ask. Do you have to be physically siting at a computer or holding a pen in your hand to be writing? How about the times you wake up at three in the morning with a writing problem you’ve been struggling with solved and are able to record it on a tape recorder, or come up with an idea while sitting in a hot tub. In my opinion, writing isn’t an activity. It’s a force of nature.

When did you start writing?
My earliest clear memory of actually recording something on paper without being forced to by a
teacher, was sometime around first grade when I decided I was going to start a neighborhood newspaper. As I recall, my first headline was about a missing neighbor’s dog being found. It was in pencil.

As a published author, what would you say was the most pivotal point of your writing life?

Making the decision, at some point in my life, to write what interested me whether it was ever published or not. The beauty of the Internet, with its built in “cosmic pressure” that anyone can “publish”, confirmed that decision was the right one.

If you could go anywhere in the world to start writing your next book, where would that be and why?
My home in Upstate New York where I can’t even see neighbors from my house at the end of a quarter mile driveway.

If you had 4 hours of extra time today, what would you do?
I can’t even imagine or remember what four hours of extra time would be like.

Where would you like to set a story that you haven’t done yet?
On a planet around some other star in the galaxy and it would be a history.

Back to your present book, (Moments That Made America), how did you publish it?
A good friend of mine decided he was going to be my agent. He wrote a query letter and stated sending the letter and a couple of sample chapters to publishers. He received a surprising number of interested responses. The best and quickest was from my publisher, Don Bracken at History Publishing Company in Palisades, New York.

In writing your book, did you travel anywhere for research?
I traveled all over the United States with a focus on those places where the pivotal events that shaped America took place. For example, the Gettysburg Battlefield was one of the first places I visited back in 1965. I could feel the presence of the Americans we died there. I never lost sight of the fact that most of them were younger than me. Over the years I have spent time at other places that, for better or worse, shaped the nation: Wounded Knee, Ford’s Theater, Antietam, Little Big Horn, Dealey Plaza, the beaches of Normandy.

Why was writing Moments That Made America so important to you?
I am a Canadian whose entire family lives in the United States. As a result, I spend almost half of my time in that country. Over the years I have become more and more appalled at how little Americans know about their own history and how little they understand about how difficult it was for the United States to exist at all.

Where do you get your best ideas and why do you think that is?
Occasionally, I wake up in the middle of the night with an idea. I keep a voice recorder nearby so that I don’t lose the thought. Often – okay, quite often - the voice on the recorder and the idea sounds as if it’s someone else waking up in the middle of a nightmare.

Any final words?
Never give up.

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