Saturday, 13 August 2016

Author Interview: Chuck Tyrell

My guest this week is long time western writer Chuck Tyrell. Since I arrived on the scene and got to know Chuck via the Internet, his love and enthusiasm for the genre has impressed me, as does his particular writing style (read on to find out what that is). I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did the first time I read it.

Over to you, Chuck.

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I’m an Arizona boy from Show Low. My dad dreamed of growing up to be a cowboy, but his parents called him in one day and told him to go to college. Being a dutiful son, he did, and came back to teach and administrate at the Show Low Elementary School until his retirement. But that career didn’t keep him from running cows, and hogs, and horses, and chickens, and growing his own wheat and alfalfa and corn for silage. So I got to grow just like I was on a ranch, except there were lots of books in the house to read when I wasn’t milking cows or helping brand calves or lending a hand when we butchered a hog or a steer for the family. The kid horse was Old Spot, a three-color paint. When I got my first paying job, watering the shrubs at the Paint Pony Inn every summer morning, I rode Old Spot to work bareback. He waited in a grove of jack pines while I earned my 25 cents an hour. My personal horse was a filly named Pocahontas. I wrote in high school and won essay contests. In college, I fought with my English teachers when they tried to break down scenes for hidden meanings. They’d ask me what I thought the author was trying to do and my pat answer was, “to tell a good story.” So I didn’t pursue English or literature as a major. Instead, I took Asian Studies and Japanese history, especially after serving an LDS mission in Japan. Decided I wanted to write for a living in 1975. I was 34 years old. I took correspondence courses and wangled a job at a tourist newspaper in Hawaii. Won a national award for a direct mail campaign I did for the newspaper in 1976. Didn’t write a novel until 1979, when I entered a Louis L’Amour write-alike contest. Didn’t win, so I figured fiction was not my cuppa tea. I put the MS in the bottom drawer for the next 20 years. Pulled it out on a whim, revised it, and sent it off to a British publisher who bought it on the proviso that I’d chop it down to 35,000 words. I did, and it became my first published Western, Vulture Gold, from Black Horse Westerns. Now, I have one wife, two sons, four daughters, and 19 grandchildren. Happy am I.

How many books have you written?

Three in Japanese, two on Japan, 24 Westerns, seven fantasy novellas, and two volumes of short fiction, one on Japan and one Western.

What name(s) do you write under?

When my first Western sold, the publisher asked me to take an alias so that if I were to write more than four books a year, I could just change to another alias. The publisher’s rule was no more than four books from one author per year. At that time, I took my first and middle names and still write Westerns as Chuck Tyrell.

What is your latest release called, what’s it about and what inspired it?

My latest Western is called Blessing. The girl Blessing first appeared in my Western novel A Man Called Breed. I’d planned to do her backstory for some time, and finally got around to it.

Who is the publisher and where can we buy it?

The publisher is Edition Bรคrenklau in Germany, but the book is available through Amazon and other ebook outlets as well as in soft cover.

What’s your latest writing project?

I’m finishing up The Comanchero Trail, one of the Wolf Creek books from Western Fictioneers, and Stryker’s Misfits II for the Misfits series. As soon as I can, I want to start one called Starvation Trail, the fictional account of a real occurrence in which an Apache woman, taken captive by Mexicans, ran away from her owners in lower Baja California and made a trip of more than 1,500 miles back to her home Apacheria in the Chiricahua Mountains.

Do you have any unusual writing habits?

I like to write by hand at Starbucks, but I basically can write anywhere. These days, I prefer to write in pencil by hand. Don’t ask me why. People ask me how to write a novel and I say, “500 words a day.”

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve heard about writing westerns?

Get the details right. The firearms, the clothing, the backstories of your characters, the customs of the day, the history of the time you’re writing in. I think the two best books on writing Westerns are Matt Braun’s How to Write Western Novels and Nik Morton’s How to Write a Western in 30 Days, with plenty of bullets.

What advice would you give to a would-be western writer?

Read a lot. Write a lot. Listen a lot. Watch a lot of good Western movies. Learn a lot of Western history, from the viewpoints of White Eyes, from the viewpoints of Mexicans, and from the viewpoint of Native Americans.

How many books do you generally read in a month and what are you reading now?

I wish I read more. You’ve pointed out a weakness. I probably read one or two a week. On my desk at the moment I have Wisdom Sits in Places by Keith Basso; The Apache Wars by Paul Andrew Hutton; Give Me a Fast Ship by Tim McGrath; Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir; Calgaich the Swordsman by Gordon D. Sherriffs, and . . . well, you get the idea.

Is there one book or author you’ve read that inspired you to write westerns and, if so, why?

Louis L’Amour is always an inspiration, as is Gordon D. Sherriffs and Elmer Kelton. If I could somehow write in their league, I’d die a happy man.

Which of your books would you recommend to a first time reader? Why have you chosen it?

I guess The Snake Den would probably be a good start. It’s a prizewinning novel, and it came from a visit to the Yuma Territorial Prison on the way from San Diego to Show Low, Arizona.

If you could go anywhere at any time- past, present or future - where would that be and why?

Wow. I think I probably lived during the glory days. I suppose we look back on our lives remembering only the good things, but mine has been better than just good. It would be nice to write a million-seller, but I’m fortunate to have written and published 35-36 books, along with tons of articles in a wide range of magazines and newspapers. What more could I ask? I decided to earn my living with my pen in 1975, and by 1977, I was, and I have continued to do so since. The house is even paid for, but I don’t have a horse. I guess a man can’t have everything.

Thank you, Charlie. It’s been a real pleasure finding out a bit more about you.


  1. Chuck Tyrell is a awesome writer with a realistic approach.

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  3. Well, I did learn a lot here. I did know somethings. I'm pretty sure I'll never write a western novel but I will read C.T.'s. I have watched so many western movies that Errol's been watching lately, I can sing "Tombstone Territory" all day all night! Good job C.T.

  4. Excellent, as usual, Jo. To any readers of this interview, I'd heartily recommend all Chuck's books, but especially the cited Snake Den, a deserved prize-winner. (And thanks for the mention, Charlie!)