What was your first Western novel or story and was it published? My first Western was DUSTER, a YA that was rejected by a rather nasty agent who said I would never be able to write. Crushed me and kept me from submitting for some years. Then I re-read the ms, submitted it to the smallest publishing house I could find...and they bought it. I haven't looked back since.
What Western writer or writers of the past were the biggest influence on your work? Alan LeMay (THE SEARCHERS, THE UNFORGIVEN). Once I found him I was hooked. Still am. Hooked on his films as much as his novels. Wow.
Is there a particular scene from a Western novel that was so powerful when you read it that it stuck with you? Perhaps has become a scene you've tried to live up to/equal in your own writing? In THE UNFORGIVEN, Andy, dying, knowing he is dying, lying in wait until the Kiowa warrior is actually scalping him before he strikes so that he can be sure he kills the hated enemy. I know I will never be able to equal that.
What's the first Western you remember reading from cover to cover? Will Henry's NO SURVIVORS. Heckuva book.
Who is your favorite historical Western figure, and why? U.S. deputy marshal Bill Tilghman, one of The Three Guardsmen (along with Chris Madsen and Heck Thomas) riding for Hanging Judge Parker's Federal court. The man was everything a lawman should be.
How much historical research do you do, and how do you go about it? I rarely research anything specific for a book but read a lot of history for pleasure.
How important is setting? How important is it to get setting right? What's the best use of setting in a Western as far as you're concerned? To me setting is just a place for my characters to get into trouble so I can hopefully get them out again.
How do you choose where to begin your story? Do you use prologues? I try to find something that will introduce my primary characters. Anything. I do not use prologues.
Do you outline and plot your story or do you write as the inspiration or MUSE leads? No outline. No prepared plot. I like to find a character and let him tell the story.
Do you need quiet when you write, listen to music, or have the TV on and family around? I prefer to have music but can get along with pretty much anything.
Have you experienced the "dreaded" writer's block and how did you deal with it? I don't think there is such a thing as writers block. There is sloth. And depression. But no real block.
Do you address "modern" issues in Westerns? Racism. Feminism. Downs Syndrome. Mental disabilities. Genetic disorders. Sociopathy. Immigrant questions. Brutality. Pedophilia. Any more? I have touched on a number of those but only as the characters find them. I don't deliberately introduce them.
Do you make a living writing? If not, what is your day job? Writing is my only job and has been for more than thirty years. I am truly blessed.
What made you decide to write Western fiction? My grew up in Florida and my parents wondered the same thing. Then one night we were watching some very old home movies. I was nearly always wearing a cowboy hat or cap guns or on my Hopalong Cassidy bicycle. Ah, what a fine steed that was too.