Jim Kissane began writing stories decades ago, but he didn’t publish his first book until last year.
Now, the Lutz man is wrapping up a second book and is planning to write a total of 13 books in his independently published series called “The Story of Industrial America, 1850s to 1950s.”
The first book, “Railroad Stories Volume One,” is a collection of short stories covering a broad range of topics.
The accounts range from the exploits of a gentleman train robber, to the creation of Swanson TV dinners.
He shares poignant stories. One tells the tale of a young mother and her baby, who froze to death after getting off at the wrong stop. Another shares the desire of a repentant criminal who wants to return to his mother, but can’t because law enforcement is looking for him.
The historical fiction book is arranged by stand-alone chapters.
The stories offer a human touch — while mixing in facts from the news of the day. Many stories provide descriptions of equipment found on trains and in rail yards and paint a picture of the overall role trains have played in moving people and freight.
One story offers a detailed account in the crucial role the milk trains played in bringing fresh milk to market. Another describes the meticulous nature of the work of a trail walker — who walked miles each day seeking out any potential hazards to keep the tracks safe.
Kissane said the stories aim to preserve a part of history he doesn’t want to be forgotten.
His planned series of books on Industrial America is also motivated by keeping alive stories that he heard in his youth from relatives and family friends, who often did dangerous work in railroads, mining, steel mills and construction.
He plans to include 13 books in his industrial America series, plus another book on America’s westward expansion.
He’s loved railroads since he was a kid
Kissane grew up in Elmira, a city in upstate New York that was a hub for five major railroads.
His dad worked for the Delaware Lackawanna & Western (DL&W) and his grandfather worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR).
They took Kissane to visit the rail yards, giving him an up-close view of the railroad life.
Because of his dad and grandfather’s connections, Kissane enjoyed rides in the cabs of steam and diesel locomotives, and got to ride in cabooses. He met conductors and brakemen on the trains, and hobos in the rail yard.
One of his early jobs involved working for the General Railway Signal Company, a 100-year-old manufacturer of railroad signaling and switching equipment — used by all of the railroads.
Later on, as a volunteer with the Railway Historical Society, he had a chance to help restore vintage locomotives and rolling stock.
He was involved, as well, in the restoration of an abandoned rail line running through the heart of Pennsylvania’s historic Oil Creek Valley, which culminated with the creation of the Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad (OC&T).
Plus, he and his wife, Nancy, served as conductors on steam locomotive excursions, helping people to enjoy a railroad experience that in today’s world, is not easy to find.
All of this serves as a backdrop, to explain Kissane’s deep desire to preserve the history of those early railroad days, as well as share stories about other industrial sectors that influenced the shape of America.
He began working on his books before he realized what he was doing.
“I’m a first-time author. I really didn’t know what it was that I was setting out to do,” Kissane said.
Nevertheless, when the pursuit began to publish a book, he’d already written hundreds of stories.
“Several years ago, I started writing a little collection of anecdotes and short stories, and I felt this was information that was too important to let pass after my lifetime,” he said.
“I wanted to record it for posterity, exposing some of the amazing and interesting people and events and ideas that occurred during that period, 1850s to the 1950s,” Kissane said.
Of course, writing the accounts was just a start.
The work also involves editing and rewriting, deciding which stories should go in which book, additional research and so on.
He praised his wife, Nancy, for being vital in his writing pursuits.
He expressed that gratitude in the introduction to Volume One, when he wrote: “I could not have created this book without her guidance, encouragement and assistance in editing it and putting it together.”
He credited Robin Moore, a self-publishing consultant, who helped put him on the pathway of publishing for a worldwide readership, on the Amazon platform.
The twin goals of Kissane’s work are to share history and to create human connections.
He said he wants his stories “to make you laugh, or cry, or make you say, ‘Oh, my!’”
He also hopes to stimulate readers’ imagination, encourage conversations and activate people to talk about things they hadn’t realized before, he said.
The accounts he writes welcome readers into a bygone era — revealing what people were like at that time, and offering a look into what they were doing.
“A lot of this is based on the stories that are still very memorable to me, that I heard when I was younger,” Kissane said. Other stories involve people he’s met along life’s path, or that he learned about during his research.
If you want to be a writer, write
Kissane is new to publishing, but he’s no stranger to hard work.
He belongs to a writing accountability club — where writers help each other keep focused. He estimates he writes 4,000 words to 6,000 words every week.
When it comes to marketing though, well, he put it this way: “I will be the first person to admit, I am the world’s worst marketer.
“This is a whole new venture for me. I am just throwing myself on the mercy of the market and hoping that by word of mouth, people want to have me show up for museum events, or historical societies, or things of that nature,” Kissane said.
His measure of success won’t be the number of books he sells.
“I have had in my heart the desire to have my work published, ever since I was a kid,” Kissane said.
“I’ve always wanted to be a storyteller. I always wanted to write a book.”
If it’s not the number of books he sells, how does Kissane define success?
“It is the reality that I undertook something that’s been sitting on my heart for a long time, and I accomplished it and I did it well,” he said.
Author Jim Kissane is engaged in writing a series of books about Industrial America, from the 1850s to the 1950s. He set about the task because he was worried this history would be forgotten and lost forever, and he wants to do his part to be sure it isn’t.
The series is titled “The Story of Industrial America, 1850’s – 1950’s.”
The first volume, (Railroad Stories, Volume One) is available on Amazon.com. It costs $15 for paperback and is also available on Kindle.
Kissane is planning 12 other books in this series, plus one about America’s westward expansion.
Kissane welcomes the opportunity to share stories about Industrial America, about his path to independent publishing, or both, for clubs or organizations seeking a guest speaker.
You can reach him at .
Published April 05, 2023