Yesterday I got the mail and in it was a package of stuff from my mother dear. Stuffed in among some pictures from the summer (which were truly fun, and I’ll post some someday), was an article she cut out of the newspaper for me. STRANGELY, it was a review/announcement for the very book I was reading at the time. >Cue The Twilight Zone music here.<
I guess it wasn’t totally bizarre because the author, Eric Bishop, happens to hail from a town not far from where I grew up, and this is his debut novel and I’m pretty sure a ton of people have been reading it this week. THE SAMARITAN’S PISTOL is billed as a “Rocky Mountain thriller,” and it’s got horses and gunplay and mafiosos and old trucks with horsetrailers stuffed with stolen cash and Mormons and intrigue and mountain trails and … man. Toooooo much to list.
Anyhow, I asked Eric what it was like to be the real deal–an actual, real live outdoorsy guy (he has a ranch, and all the pics I’ve seen of him are on horseback, but the times he and I have met have been indoor affairs, sans equines, so it could all be photoshopped, but I’m pretty sure it’s not)–and to be a writer about the outdoors, but with all that other thriller stuff too. Like, how does being a rancher/horse guy play into his writing. Here’s what we’ve got.
For your reading pleasure, take it away, Eric Bishop!
There is no doubt that writing “what you know” helps. There’s the quick answer, but like most cowboys, when given the opportunity, I like to ramble.
This past June I attended the Western Writers of America (WWA) annual convention in Las Vegas with about three hundred other attendees. My debut novel, The Samaritan’s Pistol, is set in the present, and most of the workshops were on westerns set before the twentieth century. It didn’t matter. The conference was a blast. Workshops and panels on topics included old west medicine, saloon practices, mining equipment, period firearms, popular card games, and a whole bunch of other topics I found fascinating.
The panel I enjoyed most was on making the animals in your novel genuine. Apparently some would be western writer had the author panel upset because he’d written a story where the cowboy’s horse followed a trail like a bloodhound. I’ve seen this in cartoons, where a horse will sniff the ground or have almost human facial expressions. The cowboy writers on the panel were so upset about a horse acting like a dog I half expected someone to declare blasphemy. It made me chuckle. It’s fiction, after all, and I can’t imagine a horse or dog caring. Even so, most authors want to be accurate. We can’t have personal knowledge of everything we write, which makes research crucial.
Before I got a publishing contract, I hosted British author Alexander Gordon Smith at a writer’s conference I helped put together in my hometown. It was his first trip to America.
After picking him up at the airport and exchanging pleasantries for a few miles, I asked, “Is there anything you’d like to do while you’re in the States?”
Gordon Paused, then asked in a thick British accent, “Would it be possible to discharge a firearm?”
“Gotta change of clothes?” His suit and dress shoes would get dirty on the firing range below my folks barn.
“I have some blue jeans and tennis shoes.”
“That’ll work. When we get to the hotel, I’ll wait in the lobby while you change.”
“And then we’ll go shooting?”
“It’ll be fun.” I shrugged. “Haven’t been in awhile.”
“Where will be doing this?”
“Some family property across the river from where I live.”
“Will we need to notify the authorities?”
“Nah. Long as it’s daylight and we’re a hundred yards from a building we’re legal,” I explained.
“Your quite sure about this?”
“Haven’t been arrested yet.”
Gordon grew quieter, conveying his reluctance. When we got to the hotel an hour later, I wanted to make sure he was still down to pull the trigger. “We can do something else if you want.”
“I’m just a bit nervous, but I do really want to do this!”
“Your gonna love it.” I told him.
We spent the next couple of hours shooting my pistols and assault rifle. I took pictures that Gordon plastered to his facebook page. He asked questions, let me coach him, and became a pretty good shot.
“This has been amazing! Until today, I’ve had to use the internet to research shooting guns for my novels!”
I’ve read a few of Gordon’s books, written prior to his visit to Utah. The shooting scenes are well done. He’s a fine writer, and I think he captures the essence of taking aim. But I’m guessing he watched a ton of youtube videos to get it right.
Lots of the western writers I met in Las Vegas don’t own horses, but they accurately portray the experience. The mountain and horse scenes in my debut novel, The Samaritan’s Pistol, are taken from places where I’ve spent lots of time.
The most personal part of the story is when the protagonist, Jim, has to end the suffering of his horse after the animal takes a bullet intended for him. I’ve had horses die before riding the decades of future trails I had planned. They were good companions. Some of my best days have been spent with horses named Vernon and Spit. Like Jim, I’ve started the process of training a replacement—while still mourning the loss of the last one.
The feedback has been good in this regard. Readers have resonated with my words, knowing that when it comes to the horse scenes, I’ve been there and done that. As for dealing with the Mafia, it’s pure speculation and research. Thank heaven for youtube, Wikipedia and Google. It’s time to rein in my rambling fingers. Thanks for hosting me!
Here are the links to buy my book, read reviews, or check out the trailer and author interview.
Barnes and Noble: http://tinyurl.com/m4d765f
You Tube Trailer:
Thanks, Eric! So…. If you want to follow Eric on Twitter, it’s @EricBishopWords
If you want to “like” his author page on Facebook it’s http://www.facebook.com/ericbishopauthor
If you want to go read his blog (and it’s a good read every time I’ve read it), check it out at http://eric-bishop.com