Tuesday, 30 June 2009

An interview with Gary Dobbs

Conducted by members of the Black Horse Discussion Group.

Welcome, Gary, and thank you for agreeing to do this interview. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

My short stories a Man Called Masters and The Devil's Right Hand are on Beat to a Pulp. Also there's loads of my stuff at my blog Tainted Archive. And to get the ball rolling here is the first chapter of Tarnished Star by Jack Martin.

Hope this all goes well.

I saw echoes of Rio Bravo in certain parts of your book, and it was good to see one of my favourite westerns.

I've had it compared to both Rio Bravo and High Noon and I love both movies - it's nice to think that Tarnished Star occupies some middle ground between the both. So glad you liked it.

I especially like the old man, Em in your book and Stumpy in Rio Bravo. These are the men that built the Old West. The thugs laugh at them as being doddery old fools, but both Sheriff Chance and Cole in your book see their potential and don't laugh at them. The mark of a true man, I think.

Now that's perceptive. When I was writing Em I was very much thinking of the Walter Brennan type. Cole, I think, has some of Wayne in him but then I was thinking of a good man, a brave but not heroic man, someone who wouldn't look for trouble but would stand up to whatever was thrown his way.

There's a great tradition of an older side-kick - Roy Rogers often had one and then of course there's Clint Eastwood with the chief in Josey Wales. Physically though I'd say Cole was more your Jimmy Stewart type. There's also an older sidekick in my next novel Arkansas Smith but he is a lesser character, since Arkansas doesn't really have friends. But I think I'm drawing from the same well as in Tarnished Star.

That is the kind of hero that I like, one that doesn't look for trouble. Clint Eastwood and John Wayne play the kind of man that avoid troubles if they can. But, when it comes after them, they are much tougher and more competent than the troublemakers and dispatch of them pretty quickly.

I am fascinated to know what your acting colleagues think of your passion for the Old West?

I get teased some but that's okay since I'm always teasing back. It's not as if I walk around in a Stetson (only in the privacy of my own home) but I've had some great conversations about the west and westerns. David Tennent, Dr Who, for instance is a huge fan of Italian Westerns and every actor I've ever met thinks Clint Eastwood is a legend. And I think all directors would secretly like to make a western. The golden age of the genre is so far back now that there is a great respect and affection for the westerns that is growing.

Your work feels as if it's had a lot of research. Can you tell us how you do the research, how much and where?

I absorb a lot through reading other western fiction and I've read quite a bit over the years. I also have a decent library of factual books and of course the Internet seems to know everything. But I think much of the detail I use comes from the many western movies I have watched and books read.

I find the old west fascinating and if you've a passion for the subject then I think it is only natural that you will pick up details and facts. There is a very good monthly magazine that I get as an American import called WILD WEST MAGAZINE and it's great for small detail - things like most common coffee in the west, most smoked tobacco etc.

It's the little things that get me. Like you don't just brush a horse, you curry comb it first, and then brush. Do you ever worry if you have all of the facts straight or if someone who is reading your book and knows a lot about the Old West will spot a mistake?

I just dig up any facts as I need them. And I keep a filing system of old west facts.

Anything I'm not sure of I consult several sources - books, the net, my own files. It's the little details that are the hardest to find out but remember everyone has a basic idea of what the West looked like and felt like. Some of the best westerns - movies and books - wouldn't stand up to scrutiny from a historical west expert.

Getting gun details correct are the most important of all I think.

The canal system you describe sounds like the one in Arizona's Valley of the Sun. It was built by an Indian tribe now long vanished. I don't remember if it was the Hohokam or another tribe, but the canals served the invading white men well.

When I was writing the Tarnished Star I did base the canals system mentioned by those built by the Hohokam tribes. I think I read it in Dee Brown's excellent American West.

As far as I know, it's the only one of its kind. Phoenix was a late riser in the history of Arizona. The first capital was Fort Whipple. Prescott was the next capital. Phoenix came a lot later as it had nothing to lure people to stay before agribusiness got a good hold on the area. The Aztec Land and Cattle Company (Hashknife Outfit) ran about 80,000 head of cattle on the Great Colorado Plateau above the Mogollon Rim, but I think Pete Kitchen's San Bernadino ranch was the largest in central and southern Arizona but never came close to the Hashknife.

Military presence in Arizona was fairly limited, probably only a few thousand soldiers. Biggest push was under General George Crook (famous for refusing to ride anything but a mule). So with Arizona's few thousand residents and few thousand soldiers, I imagine your city of Squaw is located where it can act as shipping centre for beef. Takes a lot of people to eat up 150,000 head of beef in a year (my family butchered one beef per year to feed six people) so I imagine that the animals were shipped to Eastern markets such as Chicago, New York, and so on. I could be wrong, but I imagine the Army bought more horses than it did beef. The Indian agents took a fair number to feed their charges, but again, a few thousand a year and at government prices.

I've saved your response - I'll use some of those facts one day.

You are probably right about Squaw's position on the map - I didn't specify in the book because it was easier not to. But I think it does have a Arizona - hot, humid - feel to it. And Yeah the Squaw Cattle Company would have been a massive operating sending beef out in every direction.

The Chicago Stockyards were the only major slaughterhouse operations in the mid to late 1800s. Two million head of beef were processed there in 1860 and seven million in 1890. If Gary's town of Squaw has rail links to Chicago, 150,000 head a year would be no problem. And he'd have powerful cattle barons to play prominent roles. Good bit of research on your part. Congratulations.

My question may sound banal, but does that pipe-rack in your study actually belong to Cole Masters? Or put it another way, are you Cole Masters?

I am a pipe smoker yes and maybe every character we create has a little bit of us in them. But I confess I did steal two of the pipes from Cole while he was hiding in Squaw caves - but don't tell him.

Is Cole Masters related to 'A Man Called Masters' - or is that just coincidence?

I just like the name Masters. Though seriously I think the character in the novel and short story are two sides of the same coin. Maybe they are related - maybe I'll discover that because I plan to use Jake Masters in a novel one day.

What made you decide to write westerns?

Westerns chose me. I live and breathe westerns.

Considering the well worked out framework of the story how did the idea for the story come to you? And what was your thought process?

Tarnished Star came from the Robert Hale guidelines and the fact they turned down two previous novels. And so I tried to write something that if it were a movie it could be shown on Sunday afternoon. There was no framework other than the fact that I knew Cole would win out in the end. Originally I had intended for the Em character to survive but the story didn't go that way.

How did you feel when your first novel was rejected?

Rejection ain't nice but you've got to shrug it off and start off all over again. I think the difference with TARNISHED STAR was that I decided to not worry too much about being totally original and wrote to the required formula. Once you set yourself boundaries then I think you can move about within these and find a voice that is yours alone.

What changes did you make to your approach?

I think it was easier to work in the 45,000 word limit the second time around. And from the first you come across some problems, like structuring the second act that by sticking with it, some understanding develops and then by the time you are writing another mind your subconscious is aware of the coming lull and you can prepare for it. I hope that makes sense.

Now that 'The Tarnished Star' has been well received. How do you feel about the future for 'Arkansas Smith'?

Although I'm mighty proud of Tarnished Star, I think Arkansas Smith is better. But only because I learned so much writing Tarnished Star that I carried that over. It is only natural in all crafts to improve as you go along. Reading Tarnished Star now - the only thing I would change would be the middle section which I think dipped slightly. But I'm proud of it and am over the moon with the reviews and the personal congratulations I've had from people that know me. The biggest kick of all this is seeing the Jack Martin name on a book - my grandfather would have been so proud of that.

I have to admire the massive belief that you had in your book to have rolled out months of publicity - and it worked - but for a first time writer it must have been a big gamble. Was there any stage where a doubt crept in?

I do have a massive about of self belief but yeah there have been doubts. Particularly when I kept getting rejections - I began to think I was deluding myself with this writing lark. But having a short story taken or an article would buck me up and I'd be going at it like a maniac again. I think that anyone who writes must have a belief in their own abilities. I know I'm not the best there is but I do one day aspire towards becoming the best I possibly can.

What have you learnt about the publicity game over the last year?

I set out to sell both myself and the book and I have been daunted by the amount of work and time my blog now takes. And there are times when I struggle with something to write about but thankfully those are few and far between. I have a passion for the West and love interviewing these writers - for instance when talking to other writers I feel like a ten year old kid given the freedom of the sweet shop. My blog does two things now - it creates publicity and gets me readers and also when I'm blocked with whatever story I'm working on I'll do a blog post which helps gets the creative juices flowing. And of course there' a great community among bloggers of which I enjoy very much.

It''s also easy to be cynical - for instance some have said my WILD WEST MONDAY campaigns are an attempt to push my book but that's not so. I love westerns and want to see the shops full of them.

If I've learnt anything about publicity it's that you've got to keep on top of things. And always be positive even if you don't really feel like it. I think that in the future more and more writers will have to self publicise in order to be noticed. At the moment I'm trying to develop into podcasting and my goal is to eventually create a weekly show that is totally professional. I will get there - but it will probably end up being a monthly.

I feel the BHW line is not served as well as it should be and it should be reaching out to extend its current reach. A lot of western fans in say the US had never heard of the BHW's - now that's crazy. I'm proud of the fact that I've prompted a lot of folk to sample the books and think that my efforts, and those of others, will be good for us all. Several authors perked me up no end months ago when they wrote me to tell me they supported what I was doing which helped, at that point, as I was getting a certain amount of criticism. So I figure that if I turn anyone off they'll come back when I come up with something even they can't ignore.

We're all in it together.

You should indeed be proud of your book, Gary, and rightly so - yes, I've just finished it this afternoon! There are thousands of aspiring novelists out there who haven't finished writing a book, and there are probably as many who haven't had a book published by an established publisher. You've done that twice!

And I agree, you improve with each book; a writer should always be improving his craft by writing, writing and writing. I found that contributing and sub-editing a magazine in UK helped my writing enormously; simply by writing I found my narrative flow improved - as you perhaps have found with your amazing efforts on your blog.

What's your writing schedule?

I write every day - usually working on a couple of projects at once.

Do you outline or just have a story idea in your head when you write BHWs?

I do outline a story but only loosely. I have to have an idea of the end of a story before starting but other than that I let things develop as I write.

Do you plan to be a single pseudonym BHW writer, or get yourself a bunch of names and put out a dozen novels a year?

I only use the one pen name - Jack Martin for westerns but I have thought of maybe using another. I don't think I could manage a dozen books a year, though.

How much revision do you do? And what is your process for doing this?

I tend do major revisions twice - once after finishing as I don't worry in the actual writing and try and fly through the first draft. Then I toss it aside for a week or so to distance myself from it and revise once more. Then it's off to the publisher and in their hands until the proofs come.

But I guess there's no correct way and no wrong way - different ways work for different writers.

Who are your writing influences, western or otherwise, are.

On the western front - L'amour, Zane Grey, James Reasoner, Ralph Compton, George Gilman, Elmer Kelton and BHW writer B J Holmes really impresses me. I'm a huge fan of Ian Fleming because of his pacing and Stephen King for his characters. I read many genres and have influences from all over - Tom Sharpe, Clive Barker, Richard Stark, Spillane, Chandler - this list would be endless. But I think my overall influence would be for Louis L'amour because he churned out good character driven adventure novels. I've always felt character is more important than plot.

That's a great list of influences. Nice to see Richard Stark in there. I agree about character being more important than plot. Interesting characters in tough situations kind of create plot, don't they?

This has got me thinking and it's interesting. But the best worked out, most devious plot in the world would fall flat without realistic characters. A book like that would be more of a narrative puzzle than a novel. But good, well flushed characters can dictate plot and take the story down new roads that the writer, himself - herself, will be surprised by. That's what I like about Stephen King - I have found one or two of his books disappointing but generally I can read them all day because his characters are generally so good. And Elmer Kelton often writes sections that are nothing more than character sketches but then when things get going it's all the more real for the reader.

If I could ever create a character as rounded, as real and as complex as Ethan in The Searchers then I think I'd be a happy bunny.

I think that character traits should be consistent throughout and that a character shouldn't suddenly become heroic in times of danger when previously he/her has been passive.

Right you are. The character-based novel is about the growth of the character, I think.

I agree. I think as the character develops then the readers knowledge of that character goes right along with it. It allows the reader to better empathise with characters if they feel real rather than cardboard.

Thanks Gary for your replies. So what's next for young Clay from 'The Devil's Right Hand'?

I think he's on his way to becoming legend - but that's another story.

Ok all - the author weekend has been great fun. I'm signing off now and hopefully we'll do it again some day.

Thanks all, Gary

Next Interview 24 September - Ian Parnham

Review of Lanigan and the She-Wolf by Ronald Martin Wade

Review at Western Fiction Review

Monday, 29 June 2009

Bestselling Linford Westerns on Amazon - 29 June

1. Gunsight by Frank Gruber (Sep 1990)
4 Market from £13.68

2. Trail Blazers by E.C. Tubb (Nov 2007)
Amazon £8.99
9 Market from £8.99

3. Riverbend Ransom by Jack Reason (Jun 2003)

2 Market from £3.20

4. Campaigning by Jim Miller (Jan 1988)
Amazon £8.50
7 Market from £1.29

5. The Guns of Trask by Michael D. George (Jan 2002)
3 Used & new from £3.47

6. Hired Gun by Jim Bowden (April 1994)
2 Market from £1.06

7. The Devil's Peacemaker by Lance Howard (Jan 2002)
3 Market from £3.95

8. Ambush on the Mesa by Gordon D. Shirreffs (Aug 1986)
Amazon £8.50
6 Market from £8.50

9. Apache Butte by Gordon D. Shirreffs (Jul 1989)

1 Market from £7.25

10. Apache Kill by Matt Chisholm (Feb 1993)
3 Market from £28.93

Extract of the Tarnished Star by Jack Martin

Extract available at Black Horse Express

Latest reviews at Writealot and Dominic Fox

Review of Blast to Oblivion by Chap O'Keefe

Review at Hale Authors Blog

Review of Long Shadows by Terry James

Review at Writealot

Friday, 26 June 2009

Jack Martin's author weekend

Gary Dobbs invites readers to join him on his author weekend at Tainted Archive

A transcript of the interview will be available here later next week.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Black Horse Westerns - June 2009

The Tarnished Star by Jack Martin
All Sheriff Cole Masters wants is to raise a family with the woman he loves. However upholding the law in an era when gunfire speaks louder than words can be a risky business.Cole makes an arrest for the brutal murder of a saloon girl but the killer is the son of a wealthy rancher and it is clear the old man will do anything to see his son set free. Soon the peace of the small town is shattered with deadly force and Cole finds himself a lawman on the run for murder.The rancher wants Masters dead and the two deadly gunmen on his tail are sure they can do it. Soon blood will run as Cole Masters attempts to reclaim his tarnished star.

Death Range by Elliot Long
Bullet-scarred Jack Cain figured he was through cleaning up gun-crazy ranges and wild cow towns. He called it a day and headed for Montana to buy a small spread and raise cows. But a hundred miles' up-country, ten-year-old Ethan Wilder stepped out of the bushes and told him his ma was badly shot up and near to dying. Would he come take a look?Barely two hours on Cain was lucky to survive the hail of lead that sizzled out of the rocks right at him. Not only that, what followed that ambush turned out to be Jack Cain's surprising encounter with the grim reaper. Could he survive?

The .45 Goodbye by Dempsey Clay
Rich and ruthless Foley Wardlaw ruled the town, the mines, the valley and everyone in it - but for his wife. Rhea was beautiful and dangerous and when fast gun Ryan Coder came to town on Wardlaws' payroll to impose order, it instead proved the flame that touched off a powder keg of violence to threaten them all - even the deadly man of the gun himself.

Lanigan and the She-wolf by Ronald Martin Wade
A surprisingly composed father hires Shawnee Lanigan to track down the bank robbers who abducted his 18-year old daughter, Sara Beth. Later, Lanigan learns the gang is all female and is led by the ruthless 'La Loba'. Despite grave misgivings, he tracks the gang to a hideout in the west Texas mountains. There, he is staggered to learn the real reason for the girl's kidnapping.After reporting his failure to rescue the girl, he takes a job supervising security for a mining operation. Then he unveils a plot and must ultimately face a vengeful lynch mob. He knows that not all of them can make it out alive.

Showdown at Bonawa - Alan Irwin
Jake Bannister, ex-deputy sheriff, and his brother Ward, run the Diamond B cattle ranch in Colorado. When Ward goes missing and tries to buy quarter horses from the Circle Dot horse ranch in New Mexico Territory, Jake sets out to solve the mystery of his brother's disappearance.He finds Ward's body buried in the ground between Delano, in the Texas Panhandle, and the Circle Dot. He establishes who exactly had murdered Jake.Now, accompanied by Marian Redford, whose father had also been slain by ranch criminals, Jake set out to bring the gang to justice. Can they possibly succeed in this most daunting task? Lead will surely fly!

The Outpost by Owen G. Irons
Cameron Black figured he was due for some luck. With a posse on his trail and the desert crawling with hostile Indians he finally managed to make it to the isolated army outpost. The trouble was the post was manned only by a skeleton crew of weary soldiers, among them three would-be deserters waiting for a chance to steal the army payroll.Also trapped inside by circumstances were a US marshal Black had known on the back trail, his young prisoner and a group of female camp-followers. Among them was Cameron's old-time lover.Even with the Comanches gearing up to attack the outpost, Cameron felt like making a dash across the desert, because there was nothing here but certain trouble.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Bestsellers on Amazon.co.uk - 22 June

1. The Hidden Apache by Mike Stall (Jul 2004)
4 Market: from £0.65

2. Plague Wagons by Jack Reason (Jan 2004)
4 Market: from £4.05

3. The Outlaw's Woman by Mark Falcon (Jun 2003)
4 Market: from £2.65

4. Silver Galore by John Dyson (Apr 2007)
Amazon: from £10.13
4 Market: from £6.68

5. Arizona Showdown by Corba Sunman (Nov 2006)
Amazon: from £10.13
8 Market: from £5.62

6. Guns Up by Ernest Haycox (Jun 1994)
5 Market: from £0.01

7. Misfit Lil Gets Even by Chap O'Keefe (Nov 2006)
Amazon: from £10.13
2 Market: from £6.25

8. Comes the Reaper by B.J. Holmes (Mar 1995)
12 Market: from £0.01

9. Hills of Blood by Frank Weight (Apr 2000)
5 Market: from £5.85

10. Rocking W by Gillian F. Taylor (Aug 1993)
5 Market: from £4.95

Friday, 19 June 2009

Linford Westerns - June 2009

The Revenge of Iron Eyes by Rory Black
Infamous bounty hunter Iron Eyes arrives in Silver Springs on the trail of two deadly outlaws who have already killed and maimed dozens of people inside the town's hotel before fleeing. Two other bounty hunters are also after the same prey, as Iron Eyes heads out into Apache country after the outlaws. Unlike the others in pursuit, what drives Iron Eyes isn't the prices on the outlaw's heads. This time it's personal: the revenge of Iron Eyes.

The Dakota Deal by Dan Claymaker
Escaped prisoner John McCallum's discovery of a deserted cabin and a dead body provides an opportunity to assume a new identity, and different clothing. But McCallam doesn't know the nature of the man he's become. The people of North Bend mistake McCallum for the notorious gunman, Frank Chater, hired to rid the town of the growing menace of Royce Chisholm and his sadistic sidekicks. Has he exchanged one prison for another? Or can he escape both?

Lightning at the Hanging Tree by Mark Falcon
Mike Clancey was the name inside the rider's watch, but many people during his travels called him Lightning. He was too late to stop a hanging, the men were far away when he reached the lonely swinging figure of a middle-aged man. Then a youth rode up and Lightning found out that the hanged man was his father. So why had he been hanged? Soon the two were to ride together in a pitiless search for the killers.

A Gunfight Too Many by Chap O'Keefe
Sheriff Sam Hammond, nearing his half-century, sometimes wonders just why he became a lawman. Then the troubles really begin: firstly he narrowly escapes death after a gun battle with rustlers; then the gun-handy range detective Herb Hopkirk shoots dead a rash cowpoke, cripples Sam's deputy, Clint Freeman, and pesters rancher John Snyder's daughter, Sarah. When a mysterious bank robber and a man-hungry widow add to his headaches, is it time for him to quit before he winds up dead?

Yuma Breakout by Jeff Sadler & B.J. Holmes
Horseless and down to his last dollar, out-of-work cowpuncher Nahum Crabtree ended up in the small town of Rios. After a spell in jail, he thought his fortunes had improved when a freighting outfit took him on, especially when one of his bosses turned out to be an attractive young woman. Yes, everything was going well - until he became unwittingly involved in springing a convict from Yuma Penitentiary. And that was only the beginning of his troubles...

Rogue Law by Logan Winters
The corrupt town of Montero wanted Julius Lang as marshal, but he refused the work as too dangerous and no job for an upright man. When persuasion didn't work, the town took Lang's ranch from him. And when pretty Matti Ullman arrived to lay claim to his land, Lang, needing to earn a living, was forced into the marshal's job. So Montero got Lang as their marshal - and they expected compliance - but what they got was rogue law...

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Dales Westerns - June 2009

Logan's Gun by John Dyson
When John Dog Crandal and his gang of renegades attack the ranch belonging to Josh Logan and his pard, Randy, Logan straps on his Colt Lightning and swears revenge. When the down-and-out pair reach Stinking Springs they bump into an old pal, Paco Quinn, who offers them a lifeline running his stagecoach business. Apart from beating off murderous stage robbers, Logan has his hands full dealing with Quinn's crazy wife, Kate who has the hots for him. Then John Dog Crandal and his thugs attack the Quinns' home. Can Logan meet Crandal in single combat and deal with Kate's double-crossing treachery?

Gunfight at Dragoon Springs by Walt Masterson
Rancher Tom Bligh thinks his financial troubles are over when he sells his herd at Fort Yuma in Arizona, but on his way home to his ranch in the Dragoon mountains his gold is stolen in the stage-coach hold-up by the bandit known as El Mexicano. It is a case of get the money back or kiss goodbye to his ranch. With Emilio Chavez, a border patrol officer from Mexico, he sets out to track down the thief, and finds the beautiful gambler Frankie Lewis has more to do with the loss of his money than he had ever suspected.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Bestsellers at The Book Depository - 15 June

The list doesn't appear to have changed since last month.

1. The Tarnished Star - Jack Martin

2. The $300 Man - Ross Morton

3. Nightmare Pass - Lance Howard

4. Last Chance Saloon - Ross Morton

5. All Guns Blazing - Douglas Thorne

6. Draw Down the Lightning - Ben Bridges

7. Death at Bethesda Falls - Ross Morton

8. Return to Black Rock - Scott Connor

9. Silver Galore - John Dyson

10. Meredith's Gold - Philip Harbottle

All books available at http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/ where worldwide postage is free.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Monday, 8 June 2009

Bestsellers on Amazon.co.uk - 8 June

1. Misfit Lil Gets Even by Chap O'Keefe (Nov 2006)
New £10.13
2 Market from £6.25

2. Comes the Reaper by B.J. Holmes (Mar 1995)
11 Market from £0.01

3. Hills of Blood by Frank Weight (April 2000)
5 Market from £5.85

4. Long Shadows by Terry James (May 2009)
New £9.80
10 Market from £7.08

5. Rocking W by Gillian F. Taylor (Aug 1993)
5 Market from £4.95

6. Stampede at Rattlesnake Pass by Clay More (Jun 2007)
New £11.99
6 Market from £8.98

7. Lockwood's Law by Carter West (Nov 2000)
5 Market from £2.45

8. Thunder God's Gold by Leo P. Kelley (Oct 1991)
3 Market from £3.00

9. Misfit Lil Rides in by Chap O'Keefe (Jul 2006)
11 Market from £3.99

10. The Sharpshooter by Daniel Ransom (Aug 1998)
2 Market from £8.00

N.B. I've been asked to clarify Amazon's postal charges. I won't add this note again as the bestseller list is meant to be a bit of fun, so please don't hold me responsible if you pay an unexpected postal charge!

If you buy from Amazon, the postal terms depend on where you live. If you're in the U.K., you may get free postage. If you're not in the U.K., you will pay postage.

If you buy through the Amazon.co.uk third-party marketplace then please accept that I haven't checked these retailers' credentials. So the books could be in any state from chewed up by the dog, set fire to, and buried in the garden through to new. You will have to pay postage of £2.75 in the U.K. and more elsewhere in the world.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

An Interview with Joanne Walpole

Conducted by members of the Black Horse Discussion Group

Welcome, Jo, and thank you for agreeing to do this interview. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Terry James is my pen name when I'm writing traditional westerns. I chose it because I thought a western would look more attractive to its prime readership (men) if it were written by a man. However, my plans to maintain my anonymity backfired badly because all you nice people sucked me in and Joanne Walpole popped to the fore anyway.

Although I started writing westerns when I was a child of about 5 years of age and continued through to the age of 16, I had a big break so that I could experience life and write from the heart. This period of writing inactivity lasted into my 30s. Then, encouraged by my father-in-law, I started writing again in 2001 and haven't stopped since.

I've been published twice previously under my own name, a romance western and a Civil War drama, both of which I withdrew from publication in 2007 so that I could have a fresh start in the western genre. I like the works of Louis L'Amour, Lee Younger (and his various pseudonyms) and Jack Edwardes and have spent the last 18 months exclusively reading Black Horse Westerns by different authors. If nothing else, it's shown me that the brand is diverse.

You can find an excerpt here or if you're not in the mood for reading there's a shorter audio excerpt on Youtube. Please feel free to fire away with anything you want to know about Long Shadows, my western interests or my writing in general. I've pressed my enthusiasm button and I'm ready and raring to go.
I'm curious why you decided to pull the books written under your real name since you were writing the westerns under a pen name. Do you have any plans to rerelease those books?

To be honest, I was disappointed with the sales of the previous two books. Because I went e-pub, the only coverage they got was whatever I could stir up on my website and on forums. That's not really my cup of tea so the sales were all but non-existent. Long Shadows was actually accepted by the e-pub (in a longer format) but being disillusioned I withdrew it before anything was done with it. For a while, I was adamant that I was finished with the publishing world and then one day I remembered Black Horse Westerns and decided to send them Long Shadows. The rest as they say...

As for what I'll do with the original two, I've edited one and started on the other but I don't really have any idea what to do with them so they're in my redundant WIP file.

Keep that redundant WIP file - you never know... I've had two books WIP for over 20 years and then got round to rewriting them and they sold.

It must have felt great opening that package when the books arrived. And the reviews have been so positive.

It was great and a story in itself. I happened to know the postman who delivered the author copies and I made him stand there and wait while I ripped open the parcel so he could be the first to see the shiny new hardback! Don't worry, he already knew I was bananas!

You have said before that you thought up the title for Long Shadows on a walk. Could you add to that anecdote and say how those two words developed into a story?

As you say, the title Long Shadows came to me when I was walking the dog one afternoon. I'd been working with another title but as the story drew to a close it didn't seem to fit (can't remember what it was). I wanted something that would link the past with the present. I toyed with a lot of ideas and then I just happened to see my long shadow ahead of me and it was a 'Eureka' moment.

What did you think of the cover of Long Shadows? I know Hale just use stock images but do you think they chose one that reflected the feel or any scene within the book?

I like it although it doesn't represent any scene in the book. However, it is 'dark' and I think that mirrors the feeling of the story and therefore anyone picking it up and choosing to read it based on the cover art, shouldn't be disappointed.
What resources do you use for research? Any good websites?

I use the Internet a lot and have a long list of sites saved in my favourites. Books I use include The Wild Wild West of Louis L'Amour which is good for weapons amongst other general things, and The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the Old West by Candy Moutlon. I also have books on the Texas Rangers, outlaws, stagecoach travel and a number of other topics.

How did you research the memory loss aspects? What impressed me is that you included things like reconstructed memories, an area that has vastly improved with the use of photographs and video footage.

Basically I decided how much I wanted the character to be able to remember and then trawled the Internet looking for memory loss information (preferably medical sites and not just Joe Bloggs going off on one), e.g. the types of injuries that can cause it, the long term effects, and treatments that might have been around at the time. I didn't become an authority on it but I wanted to make sure that somebody reading it would find it realistic without it taking over the story like a medical lesson. The fact that you commented positively on it in your recent review, really made my day.

I'd really like to know how you and other non-U.S. writers get the feeling, lingo, place, and times of the West into your writing. Could you elaborate?

I've always watched and read a lot of westerns. With the Internet, a whole new line of resources has opened up to me, not least of which is my group of American friends. If I have a concern about the correct word to use e.g. vest instead of waistcoat I can drop them an e-mail and they'll set me straight. Anything I want to know about flora, fauna or history I can find on the Internet. I think it also helps that I've now visited the US a few times. The food and the language were a real eye opener.

Know what you mean. You're braver than I. Personally have a terrible time putting protagonists (and antagonists) in places I have never lived. I wrote my BHW No.5 based in the fictional town of Longhorn. Fortunately, the town is based on a real town as is the geography, so I didn't get lost. Still had to draw out a map so I wouldn't send someone off to the south when he was supposed to be going north, or west, or east. Good on you.
A friend of mine asked an intriguing question the other day - how do you relate to the characters you create? The way he put it was this: Many books consist of stereotypes - but once in a while you come across a book that has what he calls 'real' people in them. That just happens to be the feeling that I got with your characters.

That's very nice of you to say. Thank you. When I'm writing characters I like to give them real character traits and emotions, not just some romanticised personality type. When they say or do something I always to try to put myself in their shoes and ask 'is this really how they'd act?'. I also feel it's particularly important to keep a character true to his nature right to the end. I get really annoyed when I'm reading a story and a character I've come to know suddenly does something totally at odds with who they are for no good reason.

I read your extract and it had a good beginning, hooks the reader and we get to like Ros immediately, especially sympathising with her plight of being afoot. My book of Cowboy Wisdom says, 'There were only two things old time cowpunchers were afraid of: a decent woman and being set afoot.'

I've got your book already and it's 2nd in my pile to read. So I'm really looking forward to reading it.

I like the old time wisdom and I hope you enjoy the book. I'm always curious about a writer's routine. What's your typical writing day like?

I like to write for an hour in the morning when I get up. At the weekend I can pretty much spend two days writing if I've got something I want to get down. If I don't feel inclined to work on my WIP, I tend to ignore it and play with my blog, catch up with friends on e-mail. It's all writing, so I'm happy.
We all know of your love for the TV series Alias Smith and Jones but what is it about this series that made it stand out from all the others that were around at the same time? And who is your favourite character: Hannibal Hayes or Kid Curry and why?

I have no idea why AS&J was the one I noticed. Maybe it's the humour or the fact that I would have liked them as brothers (I was an only child). I vaguely remember watching The High Chaparral and Bonanza but over the years these haven't stayed with me.

Favourite character - Hannibal Heyes at a pinch. He's smart, good at cards and a bit of a lady's man. Kid Curry has some good points too, especially his impulsiveness and that lightning quick speed with a gun coupled with the fact he doesn't kill (except in one episode Smiler with a Gun when the baddie absolutely asked for it). What's next from Terry James?

What's next? Well, just for once I can give you a definitive answer. I'm writing another western called Yesterday's Rain. It's about 2/3rds complete and although I seem to have run myself into a wall with the plot, I'm optimistic it's only a temporary hold up while I backtrack to see where it all went awry.

I love that title - Yesterday's Rain and after Long Shadows - you'll have to keep all your titles weather related (OK allow me that shadows is weather related) -Tomorrow there'll be Thunder, perhaps. But seriously it's a wonderful title that could mean so many things.

And it does, I assure you. Not a bad idea about theming my titles.

You say that you are 2/3 through your next novel, but have hit a problem with the plot. Does that mean that you write with the flow or do you use an outline?

I have a mental outline, scenes I can picture, but apart from that I write with the flow. I think that's possibly the problem with this current WIP; there's one character who was intended as a minor player who has turned into someone too interesting not to have a major part.

Consequently I don't know how his starring role will fit into the story I had in mind. However, once I figure out where he made his grand entrance, I'll be able to rejig what I've done to accommodate him.

Can you tell us some more about the plot?

It's another story of revenge with a twist (I tend to like that storyline). The main characters are an ex-jailbird, his deranged nephew, a gunfighter/gambler/drifter and a girl. A death/murder appears to link them all together but one of the characters has an ulterior motive that skews the predicted outcome. I'll tease you with the opening paragraph:

"Well, Jethro, you've served your time and paid your debt to society, so keep your nose clean and with luck you and I won't see each other again." The craggy faced warden, a short man of wide stature and very little hair, pushed back his chair and stood up behind his cluttered desk. "Here's the watch and the twenty-three dollars you had on you when you were brought in," he said, handing over a lumpy brown envelope. "The rest is the stage fare to get you back to Wagoner where you were sentenced."

Liked the start - and I hate cliffhangers and I want to know what happens next.

Sorry, I did say it was going to tease you. :-) Thanks for an interesting read, Jo.

Thanks for a lovely weekend. I've enjoyed answering your questions. So, to be as far removed from my western persona as I can be, I'm going to say ttfn (ta ta for now).

Next Interview 4 July - Jack Martin

Review of Poseidon Smith: Vengeance is Mine by Jack Giles

Review at The Dominic Fox Scene

N.B. This Robert Hale book was published shortly before the BHW imprint started.

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