John Legg has published more than 55 novels, all on Old West themes. He holds a B.A. in Communications and an M.S. in Journalism and is a member of Western Fictioneers. He recently let me sit down and ask him a few questions.
Wolfpack Publishing: Tell us a little about how you got started as a writer.
John Legg: It came on slowly and rather late. I had tried to write a Tarzan-style story when I was 10 or 11, but it didn’t work out too well. I never thought about it until much later, when I started my first stint in college. One of the first assignments was to walk down Comm Ave to the Common in Boston and write about it. I thought it was stupid and that’s what I wrote. The graduate assistant said she didn’t care so much what we wrote, she just wanted to see how well we wrote. And she was quite pleased with what I had done. That got me to thinking, but it was still several years before I started getting serious about it. I wrote a number of short stories but wasn’t selling, so in between the summer and fall semesters (this was in my second stint in college), I decided to write a novel. Voila! Instant success. Well, not really. Like most of the rest of us, I could wallpaper a room with rejection slips. Still, I did start to get published.
WP: You’ve had more than 50 western novels published. What is it about the genre that appeals to you?
JL: I’ve always liked Westerns, and I’ve always been interested in history — eastern, as in the U.S. east, since that’s where I was born and raised. While I was in the Air Force, I read a Western novel that really hooked me. Though I forgot about it at the time, a few years later (again while I was in Boston) I remembered it. I finally found a copy in a bookstore in Kenmore Square and read it again. Later, again and many more times. It got my motor running for the genre.
WP: I love that you were so inspired by a book that you started writing in that genre. Speaking of books, what is the best book you’ve read recently? What genre do you enjoy reading the most?
JL: I don’t have a genre so much. I read a lot of mysteries, but there are other things. I try to alternate fiction with nonfiction. Best book I’ve read lately is any one of mine that we just put up on Kindle. No, but seriously, the two best are “Spirit of Steamboat,” a by Craig Johnson, and “Trapped,” by Kevin Hearne. If you like quirky fantasy with a good dose of humor and some far-out stories, Hearne is for you. I also recently read “Dreaming Spies,” a Mary Russell book by Laurie R. King. Mary Russell is the young wife of Sherlock Holmes in that series.
WP: How do you think you’ve grown as an author since your first piece of work?
JL: The first two were pretty rough… well, at least the first one was. I’m looking at it now to see about reworking it so that it’s up to my standards. But I did quite well starting with my third book, and kept growing after that, with different plots: within the Western canon, of course. I think the growth came from the different plots and the scope of the writing as far as word usage, descriptions, etc. I had a long layoff and am trying to regain my form, so the growth has, perhaps, slid backward a little. Not too much, I hope!
WP: Paint us a picture of what it looks like when you’re writing: where and when do you most often work?
JL: The picture is too frightening to really describe: just a short, fat guy in a T-shirt and sweatpants (winter) or sweat shorts (summer) sitting at my desk. Too often I have the TV on, which doesn’t help. If I listen to music, I usually roll along much better. Sadly, the TV is too easy. I most often write in the wee hours because I have a night job and get home somewhere around 1 a.m.
WP: It's all about comfort, right? My motto has always been: find what works for you and stick to it! Speaking of work, which of your books was the biggest labor of love?
JL: That’s hard to say. Most of my books, at least until after the break, came pretty easy, and all were labors of love. But if I had to pick one, I’d say “Winter Rage.”
WP: Out of all the characters you have created and written about, who is your favorite and why?
JL: Another tough one. I really can’t pick just one. I like Joe Coffin a lot, partly because he’s my height (short). Another is Nathaniel Squire, in part because he’s so large, completely the opposite of Coffin. ”Hank” Carpenter and Xiang Li-Sung are up there, too, as is Alexander Campbell.
WP: What do you think of the western genre today and what do you think the future holds for the western?
JL: I have been asked this before, and my answer is generally the same. It’s also, I expect, at odds with many others who write in this genre. I fear for the Western. Some of us (me included lately) are doing quite well with e-books, but the genre is suffering overall, I think. Few, very few, traditional publishers are doing Westerns and from what I hear another one (Berkley) has stopped. There’s also the fact that the average Western reader is an older fellow, which doesn’t bode well for the future unless we can get a lot more young people into reading them. And as I’ve said before, I sure as hell hope I’m wrong! I hope that e-books will be our savior.
WP: I like to think that too. It’s one of those times where we’ll just have to wait and see how it all turns out. If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be and why?
JL: The aforementioned Kevin Hearne would be a good one who is living. He’d be a real hoot, I think. As for a dead one, probably a woman named Janice Holt Giles. If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t be writing Westerns.
WP: I’m sure you’ve conducted your fair share of interviews. In your experience, what is your least favorite question to answer, and why?
JL: I’d have to say that your question about the future of Westerns was a tough one. I’m no seer, but I am pessimistic while at the same time hoping that I’m wrong. The other is asking about my favorite book or character. I don’t mean to sound arrogant, which I’m not, or weird, which I might be, but I like ’em all. They’re all friends in a manner of speaking.
WP: You sure have a way with words, John. Thanks for taking the time out of your day to chat with me.
JL: Thanks for giving me the opportunity to answer these questions and toot my own horn a little.
It’s something I rarely do, though I must admit that I have been doing so more often of late because I’m excited with the new found success I’ve been having with Wolfpack.
WP: We’re so glad to hear it, John. Onwards and upwards!
You can read more about John Legg, here. Be sure to check out Shoshoni Vengeance and the other novels in the Rocky Mountain Lawmen series.
This post originally appeared on Wolfpack Publishing on 5/15/2015