Monday, May 13, 2013

Interview with J.L. Bell of Boston 1775

Todd Andrik and J.L. Bell
Check out Todd Andrlik's interview with Bell at the Journal of the American Revolution.  The prolific blogger talks about his sideburns, the birth of Boston 1775, his favorite books about the Revolution outside of Boston, his use of Google Books, his connection with Nathaniel Philbrick, and the potential of a future book stemming from his posts at Boston 1775.

Here is a taste:

2 // Your first posts on Boston 1775 published May 13, 2006. What inspired you to launch your blog seven years ago? And, more importantly, what kind of coffee have you been drinking to give you enough energy to write almost daily since then? 

Back in 2005 or so, I was thinking about a website to share some of the fun little things I’d discovered about Revolutionary history. I talked about possibilities with a writing friend named Greg Fishbone (, who also did website design, and I realized that it would be much easier to build up the site gradually as a blog than to try to design it all from the start. Plus, with blogging architecture I wouldn’t have to learn all of HTML or go through a sixteen-year-old webmaster every time I wanted to make a change

I didn’t actually do anything more until I went to a workshop by another writing friend named Mitali Perkins (, and she urged everyone to start blogs on their special interests. So later that month I posted my first Boston 1775 essay.

As for coffee, I don’t drink it. I do, on the other hand, drink about six cups of tea a day. I probably wouldn’t have survived well in America in late 1773. 

3 // You’re one of the few bloggers I know who has sustained such an aggressive editorial calendar. What’s your secret and how do you choose/plan your content? 

I don’t really plan my content. Oh, sure, I stay aware of major anniversaries like the Boston Massacre, Battle of Lexington and Concord, Bunker Hill, and the Boston Tea Party. But many other significant dates sneak up on me until it’s too late.

Sometimes I post items that I’ve had saved on my hard drive for years. Sometimes a story or question catches my fancy on one day and I end up following a tangent for two or three more days, often longer than I expect. Sometimes a comment or email will raise questions that I can’t resist looking into, and then I want to share the results more widely.

At busy times I will gladly pilfer content—excuse me, pass on excellent research and writing from other websites. With links, of course.