I had a great time this morning doing an interview with J.C. Hulsey who does the Wild West Showdown podcast.
He contacted me last week about being interviewed for the podcast, and so last night I spent some time making notes so that I would be prepared for the interview.
The notes really focused on my new Westerns – Too Long the Winter and Redemption at Two Rivers Station.
These books are going to appeal to more readers than the Jackson Speed novels. I mean, let’s be honest, Jack Speed is a fun character, the novels are set against a very rich (and accurate) historical tapestry, and I love the Jackson Speed novels.
But not as many readers are going to be interested in a womanizing coward as a “hero.”
My new novels are selling pretty well, so I think obviously Mr. Hulsey’s listeners are going to be more interested in hearing about these.
So my notes in preparing for today’s interview focused almost entirely on the new novels.
What did I end up talking about?
You guessed it: Jackson Speed.
The interview didn’t feel so much like an interview. Mr. Hulsey and I just had a conversation, and the conversation naturally flowed toward one thing rather than the other, and I completely forgot about my notes.
But here I am with all these notes and nothing to do with them, so I thought I would share here some of what I prepared in an imagined interview.
I’ll call this “Answers to the Podcast Never Given.”
Q. WHY DO YOU WRITE WESTERN NOVELS?
I have always had a fascination with the time period.
My dad is an armchair historian, and in particular he’s always had an astounding knowledge of Civil War history. Growing up, I remember thinking there was no way I’d ever be as knowledgeable as my dad. It’s still a challenge to me to include anecdotes or facts in my novels that my dad didn’t previously know, and once or twice in a novel I’ll manage to surprise him.
The Civil War leads naturally to the American West – what we call now the Old West or even the Wild West, and my interest in this place and time in American history very much developed naturally.
So I’m drawn to that time period of the 19th century from the Mexican-American War, through the Civil War and to the close of the 1800s. That time period takes you from the time of Manifest Destiny and exploration through the War Between the States and into the expansion period.
Not only was it a definitive period of American history, but it was also a time of some really amazing characters. You’ve got so many fascinating and true stories of lawmen like Dangerous Dan Tucker and Seth Bullock and Bass Reaves, and the lawmen were seldom as interesting as the outlaws. And a lot of those folks blurred those lines.
Q. WHAT IS IT ABOUT THIS TIME PERIOD THAT IS SO INTERESTING TO YOU?
You also had people who had this really amazing spirit of adventure and willingness to take risks.
Not everybody, of course. Most folks just stayed put in the town they came from, but there were tens of thousands of people who sold everything and set off on an adventure.
Someone back east who sold everything traveled six months across the country, sometimes not really even knowing where they would end up. They faced dangers and obstacles that folks today can’t imagine and wouldn’t dream of taking on if they could.
I’ll tell you a quick story along those lines.
I’m working on the last book in a series of four novels that were inspired by a story from my family’s lore.
Sometime in the mid-1800s I had an ancestor, maybe a cousin to a great-great grandfather, who set out West. The family never heard from him again.
One day his trunk was delivered home with no explanation. No note, no idea who sent the trunk home. Nothing. No one in the family ever knew what happened to him.
That’s a story that has stayed with me over the years and really captured my imagination, and it’s the starting point for the series I’m finishing now.
Q. WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE AUTHORS?
One of the reasons I’m drawn to writing Westerns is that I read Westerns.
Louis L’Amour and Robert B. Parker are among my favorite authors. Robert Parker was probably better known for the “Spenser” novels that inspired the TV series “Spenser for Hire,” but he’s also written some great Westerns.
I love Owen Wister’s The Virginian – a novel that also inspired a TV series back in the 60s.
Robert Utley wrote some fantastic non-fiction books about the Lincoln County War that read like novels.
I’m also a fan of Glenn Tucker and Shelby Foote as Civil War historians.
Q. WHAT DO YOU HOPE READERS TAKE AWAY FROM YOUR NOVELS?
My goal when I write a novel is to just simply tell good stories. I want to entertain my readers. If you’re not careful, you might learn a little history (especially from my Jackson Speed series which is heavily footnoted with historical context).
But really what I want to do is just entertain folks so that when they finish reading one of my novels they feel satisfied with the way they spent their time.
I charge $3.49 for most of my books, so it’s not a huge investment in terms of money. But it’s humbling to me to think that people are spending their time with my novels, and I don’t want them to regret that. So when I am writing a novel, that’s what I’m thinking about – I’m thinking about a commitment to the reader that I’m going to do the best I can to write a novel that is worth their time.
So … According to my notes from last night, that’s absolutely how the interview went. I was able to talk all about my interest in American history and my new Western novels and I hardly even mentioned Jackson Speed at all.
When the podcast airs, I’ll post a link and you can decide for yourself whether or not I accomplished anything resembling my goals.
I think, actually, the most interesting thing I said in the podcast is that I’m a professional doorman for my dogs.
I need to wrap this up now because I hear someone scratching at the door.