Saturday, 29 April 2017

Author interview: Andrew McBride

Please join me in welcoming Andrew McBride. I recently came across Andrew when his blog came to my attention. Like me, he is a Brit writing westerns and doing his best to champion the genre. Here's what he had to say when I asked him a few questions.

How many books have you written?
A bunch of unpublished ones, in various genres! I’ve had 6 published, all westerns. 2 – THE PEACEMAKER & SHADOW MAN – are currently available. The other 4 – CANYON OF THE DEAD, DEATH WEARS A STAR, DEATH SONG (spot a theme?) and THE ARIZONA KID can still be found in libraries but haven’t been on sale for a long time. However Crowood Press are about to re-issue them as e.books, so maybe I’ll be able to talk to you about them soon.

What is your latest release called, what’s it about and what inspired it?
THE PEACEMAKER. The idea came from an episode of the 60s TV Western series ‘The High Chaparral’, although what was on screen would cover only the first part of my novel. I used that as a springboard for what I thought could be a great adventure story. The hero is an 18-year old youth in Arizona in 1871, who, for various reasons, knows a lot about Apache Indians. The Apaches are at war with the white man at this time. The hero is basically conned into taking a U.S. government representative to the stronghold of the great Apache chief Cochise, to talk peace with him. Along the way the hero falls in love with an Apache girl, and they find themselves caught up in the middle of this war, under threat from both sides.

Who is the publisher and where can we buy it?
Sundown Press. You can find it on Amazon and the other usual outlets.

What’s your latest writing project?
It’s so much a departure from what I normally write, I’m keeping it a bit of a mystery, in case talking about it hex’s it! I have just finished a novel about Robin Hood. I think I may have done something amazing there (pardon my immodesty); i.e. I think I found something new to say on the subject of Robin Hood! Let’s see if publishers agree!

(Jo - I'm interested to know more about this since Robin Hood was from my neck of the woods)

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve heard about writing westerns?
How about: ‘You must be crazy, don’t do it!’ Anyone attempting to make a living at writing fiction is taking on a massive challenge, and writing in a relatively uncommercial genre like the western doubly so. But, if you love the western and want to write them, nothing’s going to stop you.

What advice would you give to a would-be western writer?
Don’t lazily re-cycle clichés from movies and TV, do some research into the real west and see if you can find something new to freshen up familiar territory. In my experience, truth’s not only stranger than fiction, it’s better. For example, the first time I ever wrote a scene in a western saloon I could have watched a few episodes of ‘Bonanza’ or whatever and given the reader swing batwing doors, tinkling pianos etc. Instead I researched and found a saloon in frontier-era Montana that had this written on the wall: DON’T FORGET TO WRITE TO MOTHER. SHE IS THINKING OF YOU. WE FURNISH PAPER AND ENVELOPES FREE, AND HAVE THE BEST WHISKEY IN TOWN. That had to go in my novel!
How many books do you generally read in a month and what are you reading now?
I’ve been ultra-busy of late and I’m ashamed to say my reading has suffered accordingly, so it’s more like I manage a book every 2 months. I’ve only really been active on Social Media for the last 5 months and in that time I’ve made the Facebook acquaintance of some fine writers whose work I plan to pursue – Ralph Cotton, Robert Vaughan, Lorrie Farrelly, Patrick Dearen and others. There’s a western writer called Terry James I plan to check out. Right now I’m reading a highly entertaining thriller called ‘When Somebody Kills You’ by my FB friend Robert J. Randisi.

Is there a book you’ve read that you wish you’d written and, if so, why?
Hmm. Tough one. As an adolescent I really enjoyed Ian Fleming’s Bond books. I’ve read some of the recent Bonds by Sebastian Faulks & William Boyd etc. and would have liked to have been given the commission to update Bond to the swinging 60s – I actually wrote, for my own amusement, part of a novel where Bond gets kidnapped by hippies and carried off to San Francisco in 1967!

Which of your books would you recommend to a first time reader? Why have you chosen it?
THE PEACEMAKER is my favourite of my books. It’s my first published one where I could write at length, get into character in depth, Native American culture etc. It’s not just dependent on pace and action, it also has what John Ford called ‘grace notes,’ quiet, reflective bits. I also liked the challenge of writing a love story inside the framework of what is still a tough western.

If you were stranded on a desert island, which book, song and film would you like to have with you?
Book: SWORD AT SUNSET, Rosemary Sutcliff’s epic re-telling of the Arthurian legend; song: BROWN-EYED GIRL by Van Morrison (Although it’s a great song, it’s not my favourite. However, I’d want it if I was stuck on this island as it always cheers me up.) FILM: THE ALAMO – the 1960 John Wayne version. Not the best film ever made, it’s a flawed masterpiece I think, but it is my favourite. I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say the film has a tragic ending, but it always leaves me feeling uplifted.

Thank you and good luck with that Robin Hood story.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Author Interview: Chris Adam Smith

It's been a while since I did this and I'm very happy that fellow Black Horse Western author Chris Adam Smith has agreed to be my first victim - ahem - guest for 2017.

I've read a few of Chris's westerns, under different pen names, and recently gave some favourable feedback on A Man Called Crow, which I'm sure has led to his amazing sales - or maybe not, who knows. Anyway, Chris is very successful and it's my pleasure to hand my blog over to him. Enjoy.

Tell us who you are.
My name is Chris Adam Smith – there used to be a hyphen between the Adam and the Smith which I dropped as it confused people. Freelance writer, independent bookseller of modern first editions mostly signed, ex journo and, sadly, a widower. Father of two grown-up and very bright children. I have a blog if you really want to know more…

What names do you write under?
For Black Horse Westerns, I mostly write under the name of Harry Jay Thorn because, unbelievably, there is another BHW writer named Adam Smith which confused some of my readers. When in publishing (Video Today, Which Video, The Dark Side, Movie, Video Buyer and Photoplay among others…) I wrote several short stories under various names, my favorite of which was Bradley Storm, and I write a regular column in the local paper under the name of Whispering Smith.

How many books have you written? What genres? Over what time period?
I have been writing for most of my adult life and have several ‘modern westerns’ still looking for a publisher and a couple of crime novels, one of which is already on Kindle called Within a Walk to The Sea, and another ‘very hard to pigeonhole’ novel awaiting my daughter’s help to publish as I am, sadly, not very technically minded. I have written fourteen BHW with two more to be published this year. I also contribute a short, light and I hope amusing story to the BHW website each month.

What is the name of your latest release, what’s it about and what inspired it?
The next one is From the Vineyards of Hell, and is out this month. It features a Confederate soldier who goes to work for the Union in order to facilitate an early end to the war. As a POW, he is recruited by Allan Pinkerton to stop a shipment of Henry Rifles falling into the wrong hands and I aim for it to be the beginning of a series, the second of which has been accepted and a third nearing completion.

Who is it published by and where can we buy it?
Crowood Press and either direct from BHW or on Amazon, both as an eBook or hardcover.  

What’s your latest writing project?
Finishing this third book in the new series and then, who knows? Another or, if I can begin to fathom the world of self-published eBooks, get some of my modern day westerns up there. I do have some help here from a fellow BHW writer who understands these things, it’s getting me to understand them is the difficulty. I think both my son and daughter have given up on me. When I asked my son where ‘The Cloud’ was recently, he said ‘in a galaxy far far away is all you need to know’. My daughter rolls her eyes and says, ‘you’re not really listening to me are you…’ It’s not a question! Not very good with instructions. More of a monkey see, monkey do man really.

Do you have an unusual writing habit?
I write very late at night (I have trouble sleeping!) or when the mood takes me. I sometimes begin a book from its ending and work back towards a beginning that brought about that ending…

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve heard about writing westerns?
I don’t recall anyone giving me any advice but my own advice is write what you would like to read in the style you would like to read it… If I write a lot and if I do not like it after reading it through I dump it. Someone once told me if it sounds like rubbish the first time it likely will the second time. My granny used to say you cannot make a silk purse out of pig’s ear. Both opinions are valid!

How many books do you generally read in a month and what are you reading now?
Only a couple now, usually classics rereads - currently Raymond Chandler - or a new James Lee Burke. I mostly watch movies, especially old ones. I’m currently rereading Lorna Doone which I have always seen as a western, and have been working on such a transfer for some time but abandon it often, always thinking someone else must have done it already…

What authors or books have inspired you and why?
James Lee Burke is the king but Robert B. Parker has a style I love. I am also a big fan of Elmore Leonard, who I once had the pleasure of interviewing for a movie magazine. Loved Justified the tv series. Raymond Chandler is always worth a revisit. All four very strong on dialogue, I love the spoken word...

Which of your books would you recommend to a first time reader and why?
Any one of them really. A Man Called Crow is doing very well as an eBook with over 780 sales and I particularly enjoyed writing Long Ride to Serenity. My BHW journey began with Hard Ride to Primrose so the reader could ride along with that one. Ride a Long Shadow is another favorite of mine.

If you were stranded on a desert island, after the basic necessities, which book, song and film would you like to have with you?
Probably John Fowles’ The Magus. One of my all-time favorite western movies is the Tom Selleck remake of Monte Walsh, he was the embodiment of the spirit of the west. Song? Too difficult but probably something from Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson or Placido Domingo…

Thanks, Chris, for taking the time to have some fun with my questions. I'll be looking forward to reading your next book soon.

*links to books and blog included in the text/pictures - just click away.