I’ve been watching the classic Ken Burns documentary The Civil War and got sidetracked by the main historian used throughout the series, Shelby Foote. This linked video of a tour of his work area in his home in Memphis has quite a few gems from Foote. It’s nearly universal that we all like to see how writers work, and this interview is not a disappointment. This interview was recorded about 5 years before Foote died in 2005.
Interesting fact: Foote was a last minute addition to the Burns documentary but became a core part of the series in the final edit. He also became a sensation from his witty facts and stories (well, as much as a sensation as you can become from being in a Ken Burns documentary).
Sales of Foote’s fiction and non-fiction books, especially his three-part series on the Civil War, took off after his appearance in the documentary, making him a nice bag of money.
His three-part narrative had sold around 30,000 copies since the first volume came out in 1958; in the year after Foote appeared in The Civil War, he’d sold 400,000 sets. “Ken,” he told the director, “you’ve made me a millionaire.”
The first 30-40 minutes of the three hour segement are worth watching but all of it is a wonderful look at Foote and his work.