One of the fun side benefits of being a writer is becoming the subject of a student’s “due tomorrow” school report. Kids write and e-mail with their questions on an interview they need to do with a 'working' author. Here’s some of the most common queries I receive and the answers. Just in case you or a kid close to you wanted to know....
Q. Did you always want to be a writer?
A. Nope. I never wanted to be a writer. I aspired to be a rancher, then a preacher.
Q. How did you get started writing?
A. My wife, Janet, submitted a couple short stories of mine (developed from sermons) to magazines, after she attended a couple writers’ conferences at Mt. Hermon, CA. I was 32 at the time and shocked they got in print…in His magazine and Young Ambassador. I even got paid for them. Never thought about writing as a pursuit before that moment.
Q. How long does it take to write a book?
A. Of course, it depends on how long the book…and how much research is required ahead of time. After that’s settled, I spend 2 to 6 months of actual writing. I've been known to write a book in six weeks, if that's the deadline.
Q. Do you do your own art work?
A. Are you kidding? I’m doing good to draw my hat on my autographs.
Q. Where do you get your ideas?
A. From history, pioneer journals, traveling through the West, listening to the tales of folks I meet. Most often out of my weird and wonderful God-given imagination. Ideas flourish everywhere, every day. It’s up to me to spy them out. Sometimes they seem to pop out of nowhere. I once thought of a story idea about the Secret Society of Professional Squirrel Hunters…called SQUISH…with their code word “nuts.” But I don’t have time to develop the plot. You can use it if you like.
Q. What kind of doors has being a writer opened for you?
A. I’ve traveled a lot. I’ve gotten to speak in front of lots of folks in numerous places. I’ve made friendships around the world. I’ve been featured on radio shows and done interviews on TV. I’ve always got a ready-made special gift that I created to hand to special people I know and meet. And I’m privileged to leave behind a recorded heritage of my stories and beliefs to my kids and grandkids.
Q. What are the most fun things about being a writer?
A. To read the fan mail that comes every week. Getting to know my readers as friends. Exploring every dirt road and trail out West for research purposes. Hearing about my books found in spots where I might never go…like on prison bunks or in South American villages or at Siberian Wild West Club meetings (yes, it’s all true). And also…the moment of discovery when the plot takes a turn I never expected.
Q. If someone writes to you, do you write back?
A. Always. But it might take some weeks. I can be contacted through Bly Books, P.O. Box 157, Winchester, ID 83555… or firstname.lastname@example.org
Q. How do you decide on book titles?
A. By brainstorming lots of ideas…sometimes as many as 100. Or the title comes first…from a song or a play on words or something somebody says. Other times, it’s a joint effort with a publisher. We try to manufacture a title that explains the story, will satisfy my sort of fans, and has an appeal that might attract a new reader.
Q. What’s the hardest part about being a writer?
A. Discipline. Discipline. Discipline. There’s no one around to tell me to get to work. I’ve got to set my own agenda and hours and stick with them. The old adage “if you snooze, you lose” fits this enterprise very well.
A. Read good writers. Write something every day…a journal entry, letters, a scene, a chapter, a story, an article draft. Attend a writers’ conference where you can talk to editors, publishers and other writers.
Q. How many times do you re-write your novels?
A. About 6 to 7 times. It’s so much easier now in the computer age. I began writing when all we had was a typewriter…and not an electric one. Rewrites were so much more difficult then. In the really old days, authors did all their drafts in longhand. I can’t imagine doing that.Q. Do any of your books reveal what a writer's life is really like?
A. Check out the Hidden West Series that I co-authored with my wife. For one thing, many readers claim that the husband and wife writing team protagonists seem an awful lot like us. Also, you might want to read Paperback Writer, a contemporary novel that takes you right inside the writer’s mind (a very strange place at times).
Q. Which of your books is your personal favorite?
A. Always the one I’m working on…which happens to be at the moment, a romantic western with the working title, Throw Away Heart. But also, any of my novels that feature or mention my favorite hero, Stuart Brannon! (True Stephen Bly fans know which ones those are.)
On the trail,