Robert Vaughan sold his first book when he was 19. That was 57 years and nearly 500 books ago. He writes passionately about his life and memories on his facebook page, and was recently more than willing to answer some questions that I had for him.
Wolfpack Publishing: Could you give us a little background as to how you got started as a writer?
Robert Vaughan: I can’t remember when I didn’t want to be a writer. Even before I could actually read, or write, I would make scribbles on a tablet, then make my mother, grandmother, aunt, or anyone I could get listen to my stories as I “read” to them.
WP: As a writer myself, I can relate to that. You have written many historical and western novels. What is it about these genres that appeal to you?
RV: I have always loved history, and in school read novelizations of historical figures and events. I once served as the historical officer for the 7th Cavalry, and in that position, I had access to some Custer memorabilia, including a field dairy, written in his own hand. Being a part of the 20th century 7th, I felt a direct kinship with the officers and men who had served in this same, storied regiment, almost 100 years earlier. My books about Custer came directly from that experience.
Also, because I grew up in Southeast Missouri, and partly in Jackson, Mississippi, the civil war has always fascinated me. Westerns, I think, grew out of the Civil War… restless men who were unwilling, or unable, to return to the peaceful civilian pursuits that occupied them prior to the war. Westerns also personify the theme of good vs. evil, and are the true morality play of America.
WP: What an interesting way to look at things! You always hear that prolific writers are often prolific readers as well. Is this the case for you? And if so, what is the best book that you’ve read lately?
RV: Like many writers, my reading is mostly for research now. For another project I’m working on, I just read: “Life on the King Ranch” by Frank Goodwyn, published in 1951. The fact that I’m reading for research, doesn’t mean I’m not reading for pleasure. Research is one of the fun aspects of writing. But I can’t let this question pass, without listing my all-time favorite novel. I have read “From Here to Eternity” by James Jones many times, and enjoy it just as much each time I read it.
WP: I love that! I too have a few favorites that I read over and over. The best part is how you take away something new each time you shut the book. It's an amazing thing, really. How do you think you’ve grown as an author since that first piece of work?
RV: I wrote my first book when I was 19 years old: it was published by Saber Books, a short-lived California publishing house. It sold for fifty cents, and it was over-priced. I certainly hope I have grown.
WP: Everyone has to start somewhere right? *laughs* Which of your books was the biggest labor of love?
RV: I’ve written over 400 books, so I don’t think I can select any single book as the biggest labor of love. [However], three single titles come to mind, immediately: Brandywine’s War – Back in Country, The Valkyrie Mandate, and The Other Side of Memory, all of which are now available through Wolfpack Publishing. I also have a series that isn’t yet available through Woflpack… The American Chronicles, which is a decade by decade novelization of the Twentieth century.
A little story about The American Chronicles: I once got a letter from a woman who said that her husband had just passed away, but he managed to read the entire series before he died. He asked her to write to me, to thank me, for allowing him to relive his life through those books. That letter means more to me than any accolade I have ever received.
WP: What an amazing story!
You recently released Brandywine’s War: Back in Country as an eBook, a book that we have been told is very dear to you. Can you tell us a little about that?
RV: I am sure that every writer draws something from his own experiences when he writes, but Brandywine’s War-Back in Country, is the most autobiographical book I have ever written. It is about the Vietnam War: but don’t think Platoon, or A Rumor of War, or even The Green Berets; think, instead, M*A*S*H or Catch-22. It is a picaresque novel with a character who copes with the insanity of war by being just a little more insane than the war itself. It has laugh-out-loud scenes, but, right in the middle of a laugh, the reader might be thrust into some gut-wrenching pathos.
I relived my own experiences as I wrote the book, and there were times when I could literally smell the burning honey-buckets, hear the wop, wop sound of helicopter blades, revisit the joy of warm beer, good friends, laughter, and the great music of the times. But I also choked up and shed tears for friends who were killed half a century ago, and whose names will be on that granite wall for as long as there is an America.
WP: Out of all the characters you have created and written about, who is your favorite and why?
RV: It would have to be W.W. Brandywine, for the reasons stated above.
WP: I'm curious: what do you think of the western genre today and what do you think the future holds for the western?
RV: I think the Western genre is alive and strong. Wolfpack’s success with their Western publishing program certainly proves that. Western Writers of America and Western Fictioneers are two strong writers’ groups whose members are putting out good books that are being well received. And I think that the TV mini-series, Legends and Lies are reaching new readers.
WP: I guess that all we can do is wait and see, but I think you're right that the genre is alive and strong. Thank you for taking the time out to answer a few burning questions that we had for you.
You can find out more about Robert Vaughan and see a list of his published novels here and read more on his Facebook page.
This post originally appeared on Wolfpack Publishing on 6/12/2015