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Inspiration and Other Topics

It’s one o’clock in the morning and I awake for unknown reasons. Was it a dream? Had I heard a noise? Did the dog move? I reposition myself in a futile attempt to reclaim that comfortable position. Thoughts of Luxton Danner and Wes Payne begin to drift through my mind. Yep, it was those two culprits that are responsible for interrupting my slumber.

I’m often asked what inspires me to write, when do I find the time and where do I come up with the plot twists that intermingle through my stories. Truth is, there is no definitive answer for any of those questions. I have removed myself from an otherwise comfortable and undisturbed night’s sleep to wander into my office and write everything from a few notes to an entire chapter. I’ve also found myself creating entire scenes, complete with dialogue, while driving down an open highway or stopped in rush hour traffic. There have even been times when I’ve excused myself from hosting guests to slip into my office and jot down a note for later use.

For me, I’ve found the best time for inspiration is when I’m in the middle of an extended writing period. This is when the “story writes itself.” I’ll be working through a scene when another idea develops and becomes the next chapter in the story. This occurred during a scene in Gunslingers which led to the creation of the Wes Payne character. Wes was not a preplanned character, nor had I thought of him when the scene began. He just appeared, then evolved into what became a primary character.

Another question I field regularly is if there is ever a time when I just can’t write. You know, the nemesis writer’s block. The answer is simple. Absolutely! For me, “writer’s block” isn’t about not having an idea dancing through my mind, but that idea being interrupted by other life issues. I believe one of the more critical skills a writer must possess is the ability to set aside or completely eliminate life’s outside interferences. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Can anyone really eliminate life’s outside interferences? Well, I can tell you that there have been extended periods of time when I had no idea what was going on outside my office doors because I was so deeply engaged in my story.

So how does one become so engaged in their own work? First you have to absolutely love what you are doing and, in my case, what I am writing about. You see, I am a full-blown, passionate fan of the classic western genre and I thoroughly enjoy my story as it is being written. Well, most of the time anyway. I believe that is why I am able to pass hours away writing. I don’t know if this is true for other writers, but it is a benefit I would not want to work without.

Another clarification I can address here is the method of writing I use. There are several well-documented, perfectly acceptable methods used by novelists. They include the “snowflake” which is basically a series of layered writing placed upon each other, the “thirty-day” which encompasses the use of multiple drafts of an outline and the “bubble,” or what I call “shotgun” which has the writer capriciously filling in parts of the story along a loosely designed path. I can honestly say, I use none of these methods and in a way, all of them. I initially tried the bubble method, but found it too chaotic. I’m a linear type of personality, so I abandoned what worked for others and just went with what worked for me. With the linear approach, I found I could follow my story better and let the creative flow proceed without impediments.

Anyone who has read my biography knows that I’ve spent almost four decades as a law enforcement officer, most of which has been in the position of detective. That fact leads many fans to ask if I plan on writing a detective thriller containing a plot stock full of unbelievable twists. Considering my real-life career has included thrilling plots with unbelievable twists, the answer is “I hope so.” But for now, Danner and Payne have far too many adventures ahead of them for me to document.



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