Today we have an interview with Isaac! Read below to find out more about the author of this book.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you became a writer.
I’m 16 years old and live on a homestead in the Ozark Mountains. I became a writer when I had my first thoughts for the story that eventually became Book 1 of the ‘Great Railroad Series.’ I got excited enough about it, even though I was no fan of writing at the time, I wrote the story down.
What inspired you to write this book?
One key piece that I wanted for the series was for all the characters to be real locomotives that existed in some point in history. The main character in the series (and the inspiration) came from an old book I have published in 1950 by Edwin P. Alexander. One of the locomotives he described in short detail with a photograph and scale drawings was St. Louis Southwestern (SLSW) #412 which as readers of the first book will know is the main character Andrew. What made him a good possibility was finding out the engine had worked in Northeaster Arkansas for the Blytheville, Leachville and Arkansas Southern which was a railroad that the SLSW acquired. Finding this main character proved to be a major catalyst.
What are your other hobbies?
I enjoy reading and have since I was a baby (no joke, I taught myself to read at 2). I also have enjoyed LEGO modeling railroading since I was a kid. Caring for homestead animals is always enjoyable too and well as experimenting and inventing things around the homestead to make life easier. (Current project includes a Stirling Motor Locomotive).
Who are the authors that influenced you?
Being an avid reader there are many. Several of which I gave credit to in the acknowledgements of my first book.
How did you go about researching your books before you wrote them?
I try to be as historically accurate as I can be writing books. I have a large collection of old railroad books and magazines which have been the inspiration for many stories. There is a historical society museum that I visit monthly to dig through the archive collection and journals of historical documents has helped me immensely – especially with book 2.
Do you have any additional books in the works?
Book number 3 of the Great Locomotive Series titled ‘The Turbine Locomotive’ will be released August 2018. I’ve also written manuscripts for books 4 and 5 of the series which will be released in the Fall and Winter of this year. Also, a younger kids version will be released August 2018 which is for early readers and is called “Li’l Great Railroad Series: Happy Engines Back to Work”.
If you could co-write a book with another author, who would it be and why?
I am co-writing a book as of the present titled: Homestead Friends for older children which should be out in 2019.
If your readers could take away one thing about your books, what would you want it to be?
For me, history is important. If history is ignored, its mistakes will repeat themselves and my motivation for writing is to get kids excited about history and research more.
How long did it take you to write this book?
I started writing book 1 of the series in October 2017 and book 2 began in January 2018. Books 3 – 5 were completed by summer of 2018.
This delightful book series about a small railroad continues with Book 2 of classic train stories. When a railroad further South sells four locomotives to the Ozark Mountain Railroad, the engines must learn to cooperate and get along with their new friend Andrew. Join in the fun and excitement as Andrew’s new friends embark on their first year of adventures as the journey continues!
Reviews for Book 1 – “Our First Locomotive”:
– Well written and engaging historical fiction! What if locomotives could talk? Beautiful illustrations show the grandeur of the railroad and their important and ongoing role in American commerce. Engaging character dialogue captures the reader’s interest and imagination. Look forward to future works in this series!
– The characters are wholesome, encouraging, and kind of heart; something that is very important to our family. The illustrations are beautiful and help spark the imagination as you read along.
– All my grandchildren are fascinated with trains. This was a wonderful story to read to all of them. They range in ages from 3 to 7 and were captivated just as I was to follow the journey of this treasured locomotive. Beautiful illustrations with a story to match. I look forward to reading more from this Series.
– Highly recommend! Wonderful reading for our sons, ages 5 and 9. Story line is engaging and pictures include authentic detail. Love the ties to actual history of the Ozark Mountain Railroad. Looking forward to other books in this series. Thanks to the author for including the free coloring pages on his website. And the Lego build is pretty cool, too!
– Though I believe it’s intended more as a read-aloud for younger children, both my 12- year-old and 9-year-old daughters loved this book. The story is engaging and the language is not dumbed down in any way. We are eager to read the next installment of Andrew’s adventures when it is released.
Isaac has always been fascinated with the railroad and history surrounding how it brought life to towns across the nation. He is currently a sophomore in High School and is an encyclopedia of railroad knowledge. His dream is to inspire children of all ages to learn about the impact of trains and perhaps one day build a line himself.
You can sign up for Isaac’s blog where he discusses the history of the railroad and often includes videos of interviews with local experts and museum visits. He uses this information to write the “Great Railroad Series.”
When he is not writing, you will find him in the Ozark Mountains enjoying all that life on a homestead provides. His beloved animals, LEGO trains, shooting sports, photography, art, science, survival skills, and reading are among his favorites.
I am happy to share my recent interview with author Isaac ben Levi. He is a young talented author that is a sophomore in high school already working on his third book in a locomotive series. He shares his expertise about the local Ozark Mountain Railroad from the point of view of a locomotive. The history of the railroad is told in the first book, Our First Locomotive, and continued into the second book. There is even a railroad terminology dictionary in the second book, Old Reliable Locomotives. It looks like a great start to the series and for any young train enthusiast to learn more about trains in the Ozark Mountains.
I had a chance to hear all about Isaac ben Levi’s hobbies, reasons why he writes, some train lore, and how he got his inspiration to write his books.
- What is your favorite memory from reading when you were younger?
Isaac ben Levi: I have many good memories of reading and so many from such an early age that I don’t have one favorite—they were all so good.
- Who was your favorite author and how did they influence you?
Isaac ben Levi: Early in my life, Rev. W Awdry’s work, though the copies I had were mostly abridged and editing. It was his work that first gave me the love of trains I have now and you can say he has a portion of the credit for me writing the “Great Railroad Series”.
- Do you have a writing routine? Share what works for you.
Isaac ben Levi: Generally speaking, because I am taking dual credits and finishing high school and going through college right now, I write in my spare time, early in the afternoon. I mull thoughts over in my head but mostly I write as I go—freelance except for the fact I have a large amount of reference material so I am consistent in the books. I am always reading and thinking.
- What subjects would you like to write about in future projects?
Isaac ben Levi: I will probably be writing older kid versions of a series being published by another author from the same publisher titled: Homestead Friends: Welcome Home, Sweet Harley –Book 1. Each book is about an animal on the homestead. It is written for little children and I will write from the point-of-view geared toward elementary aged students. I will probably write historical non-fiction material as well at some point and have many topics of interest.
- What is writing to you in one sentence?
Isaac ben Levi: Writing represents an outlet to share one’s thoughts with anyone who cares to view them.
- Do you plan to pursue your love of trains as a career? Maybe become an engineer?
Isaac ben Levi: My dream would be to own a Railroad Museum in the Ozark Mountain and introduce people of all ages to the wonderful history of railroads.
- Besides school, what do you like to do when you are not writing?
Isaac ben Levi: I enjoy physics and science and am working on several experiments and inventions. I also am setting up a narrow gauge railroad on our homestead to move the wood from the pile in front of the home to the back of our home for the wood burner. I’m sixteen and my parents are understanding. I also love my animals including birds, cats and ten dogs—seven puppies were just born a few months ago. I helped to deliver the two that were breech births.
- If you had the chance to build your own railroad line, how would you design it?
Isaac ben Levi: It would probably be a similar short-line to the Ozark Mountain Railroad if it were going to be a common carrier in the transportation business. I am currently planning to build a small estate railway on my homestead and separate from the wood hauling one. I am going to experiment on that railroad with an entirely new type of locomotive of my own design using a Stirling Engine/Hot Air Engine.
- While researching your books, what is the most memorable interview with one of the local railroad experts?
Isaac ben Levi: In speaking with a local history museum director, she shared the original files of author James R. Fair. I learned a lot about railroads and one that operated south of my home from his excellent writing and research material. It proved to be the basis for book two of my series.
- What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
Isaac ben Levi: My advice would be to write about what you love and then it will never seem like work. Personally, I have never enjoyed writing papers or projects for school, and then one day a story came into my head with all of the details in order. I just had to write it down. Then another, and another, and so on. It was never my plan or intention to be an author, but now I am passionate about it. My advice would be do what you love.
Isaac ben Levi’s Great Railroad Series has two books currently published: Our First Locomotive and Old Reliable Locomotives. The third is due out in August of this year. Plus, he has a new series releasing soon entitled The Li’l Great Railroad Series with its first title called “Happy Engines Back at Work”. The new series will also release in August. Isaac ben Levi’s books are available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. For more information on Isaac ben Levi and his books, visit his website at: https://greatrailroadseries.com.
This was the only locomotive to operate on the Cotton Plant-Fargo Railway, a six-mile stretch of the former Helena and Northwestern Railway from Cotton Plant to Fargo connecting with the St. Louis-Southwestern Railroad at Fargo. The Cotton Plant-Fargo Railway operated from April 1952 into the late 1970’s and was the last vestige of the old Missouri and Northern Arkansas to be abandoned.
Engine #1, was built by Plymouth in 1928, builders #2932, for Ohio Seamless Tube Co. It was sold to S J Groves Co and sold as Cotton Plant-Fargo 1 in 1952. It was a 20 ton.
Can you help us find out what happened to it after the official abandonment in 1983? Any leads would be greatly appreciated!
Isaac, Welcome to Homeschooled Authors. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a 16-year-old, born and raised in the suburbs of Indianapolis, who now lives and writes in the Ozark Mountains. I’ve been homeschooled my entire life and am now a sophomore. When not reading, writing, doing school work or homestead chores, you’ll find me researching railroad history, model railroading and target shooting. I also love spending time with my family and animals.
Everyone’s homeschooling experience is different. What do you think made yours unique?
My experience is unique because I’m an only child. This allowed my chief instructor (mom) to devote her full time and attention to me, and I got the full benefit of it. My dad taught me how to be a man, and many other practical life skills as well.
How did being homeschooled prepare you to write?
Being homeschooled prepared my attitude in writing a book. That is, desiring wholesome content that is family friendly, and allowing parents to not worry about having to “censor” or about anything inappropriate. Being homeschooled also brought me a love for history, and this definitely influenced my choice of era (about 1948) and subject (a steam locomotive)
What caused you to start writing?
That is a rather interesting story, because up until recently, I didn’t enjoy writing. My desire to begin to write was a good example of the power of having a story that I really wanted to tell, and wanting to tell it until I finally sat down, wrote it for a little while, and then discovered that I enjoyed writing.
What inspired Our First Locomotive?
There were several factors that influenced the decision to put pen to paper and write. The way things truly began was wanting to write a book series about a railroad through the Ozarks. What really started the ball moving was finding a photograph, and drawings, in an old book from 1950 of Cotton Belt #412. In reading that section of the book I found that the locomotive had formerly operated in Arkansas, and probably was retired in the era I wanted the book to be in. So, it was a perfect fit. Worked in an area reasonably close. Likely retired in about the right time. In addition, I just flat out liked the engine.
Would you give us a synopsis?
The book is 5 short stories about the retirement and sale of Cotton Belt #412 followed by his use in the construction of the Ozark Mountain Railroad. The book ends shortly before the line opens, just after the engine is named after one of the line’s initial investors. (Coincidentally, my great-great-grandfather Andrew).
Who will enjoy Our First Locomotive?
Parents and children who desire wholesome entertainment as well as train lovers of all ages. Being a train fan myself, I’ve tried to, with the exception of the trains talking, make the stories as realistic as possible to the way a real American railroad operated.
Do you plan to write more books?
Most certainly. I am working on book 2 in the series as I write this, which should be out soon. I hope to venture into non-train subjects sometime in the future (fiction and non-fiction both).
Where can people connect with you online?
GreatRailroadSeries.com is where you’ll find my blog and information about upcoming books.
Great Railroad Series: Our First Locomotive – Kindle edition by Isaac ben Levi.
Do you have any final thoughts?
With only one book published, I have much to learn and am grateful when others are willing to share.
In all things, I seek the Lord’s will.