Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Who is Josiah Wolfe? -- Nuvo Interview -- Larry D. Sweazy

Q: Who is Josiah Wolfe and why should we care about him and his world? What happened in Books I and II? What should we expect in books III, IV? 
Josiah Wolfe is Texas Ranger, trying to make a life for himself in 1875 Texas.  After suffering a major tragedy, Josiah is widowed and is left to raise an infant son on his own, all the while trying to make living at the beginning of the “official” Texas Rangers, the Frontier Battalion.  Not only must Josiah face the difficulties of being a single father, but he must face the ongoing violence that was so prevalent in the West, as well as disease, threats from Comanche and outlaw.  In Book 1, THE RATTLESNAKE SEASON, Josiah faces off with an old enemy who kills his captain, and puts Josiah’s son in extreme danger.  It’s also the first time Josiah considers moving on with his emotional life, and begins a relationship, of sorts, with his captain’s daughter.  Book 2, THE SCORPION TRAIL, takes Josiah out on the trail, where he tries to determine if his friend, Juan Carlos, is still alive or not.  It’s his first engagement with the Kiowa and Comanche in a historic battle.  Book 3, THE BADGER’S REVENGE, finds Josiah held captive by two renegade Comanche scouts, and he must free himself and work his way back home to stop two major outlaws from combining forces. 

There will be at least six books in the Josiah Wolfe series, and each books finds Josiah in a situation that is historically based, and represents the growth of the Texas Rangers as a law enforcement entity, as well as Josiah’s own emotional recovery, and ongoing growth as a human being in the 1870s.

Q: What is unique about the genre in which you are writing? How does it differ from novels, historical fiction, fictionalized history; detective etc.

Westerns have a bad rap in a lot of literary circles, just like a lot of genre fiction does.   My novels are a blend of all that you mentioned, specifically historical fiction and detective fiction (each book has a standalone mystery plot, as well as being an episodic story).  I have never offered any apologies for writing genre fiction.   My novels have strong characters as well as recognizable plots.  I didn’t get the memo that said all genre fiction is supposed to consist of bad writing and cardboard characters. 

The recent popularity of the remake of True Grit is a perfect example.  By most accounts, it is a coming of age story of revenge, but at its heart, it’s a western through and through, with all of the familiar tropes, but turned up on their heads, offering instead a good story that every generation can relate to.  That’s exactly what I aspire to with the Josiah Wolfe novels.  I present Josiah Wolfe with 21st century problems that must be resolved with 19th century resources.  I’ve been told that my novels are emotionally complex, and written with a sensitivity and style not commonly found in genre fiction, and that’s been a wonderful confidence builder for me as I continue to write the series.    

Q: How is the business of in which you publish distinctive from publishing of other genres? Your publisher and your relationship with editors, etc. there.

I write PBOs (paperback originals), and I don’t really think the western genre, or the business of it, is different than any other genre, other than size.  My publisher publishes one original western a month.  There are a few other established publishing houses who still publish westerns, but the pool for original work is small.   The competition to publish westerns is stiff, maybe stiffer than other genres.  I feel extremely lucky to have the support for the Josiah Wolfe series that I have received from my publisher, and I’m glad they are making an effort to bring new writers to the readers, instead of just republishing Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour novels.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of both writers, but the perception of the West, and writing styles have changed since they were at the top of their game.   

I couldn’t ask for a better relationship with my publisher and editor.  I’ve had input on every cover in the Josiah Wolfe series, and that rarely happens from what I’m told, especially with an author just starting out.  My editor is hands-on when it comes to the content of my work.  She has absolutely made each book better than it was beforehand.  They say editors don’t really edit anymore, mine does and I have benefited greatly from the experience.  The process of publishing three novels in the last 18 months has been an incredible adventure.

Q: What do you want readers to take away from your Josiah Wolfe series? 

I really hope my readers walk away wondering what’s going to happen to Josiah next.  I hope the story takes them away from their everyday struggles, and entertains them and informs them of a piece of history and fiction that has just as much relevance today as it did in the 19th century. 

Q: Who is Larry Sweazy and how did you get into writing? Who are your literary heroes and mentors?

I’m a guy who grew up in Central Indiana during the 1960s, watching westerns and crime dramas of the day on a black and white TV, dreaming of someday seeing those mountains for myself one day.  I was lucky to live in a house where there were always books laying around, from Raymond Chandler to Elmore Leonard to whatever was on the bestseller list.  My uncle was a newspaper writer, and it seemed like everyone in my family was nuts about crossword puzzles.  So I was surrounded by words and books.  I was an early reader, and knew at a young age I wanted to be a writer.

I’ve been influenced by A.B. Guthrie (an Indiana writer), Jack London, Elmore Leonard, Elmer Kelton, and too many writers to list, really.  Loren D. Estleman, author of over sixty mystery and western novels, is a good friend, and has been there for me every step of my publishing journey with answers to my questions, and constant encouragement.  Honestly, the writing community is far more generous than one might expect.  It took me 15 years of actively trying to publish my first novel, and I made a lot of friends along the way.   

Q: What's next? 

THE COUGAR'S PREY Josiah Wolfe #4, comes out in October, and I have a standalone, modern-day police procedural, THE DEVIL'S BONES, that will be out in February, 2011.  Beyond that, I’m writing Josiah #5, THE COYOTE TRACKER, which is due later this year.  After that, I’ll start on Josiah #6, THE GILA WARS.  In between, I hope to write some short stories.  I just turned in a steampunk short story that will appear in the anthology, WESTWARD WEIRD, published by DAW sometime in 2012, and another short story, SHADOW OF A CROW, set to appear in BEAT TO A PULP, ROUND 2.  Between speaking engagements, and the publishing services company that specializes in production work that I run, as well, I hope to stay busy for the foreseeable future.

Questions provided by Rita Kohn for publication in Nuvo, March 30, 2011


David Cranmer said...

I'm reading my first Josiah Wolfe novel titled THE BADGER's REVENGE. Brilliant writing, Larry.

Larry D. Sweazy said...

Thanks for the great compliment, David. I'm glad to hear you're enjoying Josiah and his adventures...