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Published on Friday, August 24, 2012.

An Interview

with Carl Pettit

 

American columnist, writer, musician and illustrator Carl Pettit, author of Among The Wild granted an interview to The Western Online.

The Western Online: Can you describe your story for our readers?

    Carl Pettit: Among The Wild is a story about a 13-year-old boy, Noah Adair, who is orphaned on the Oregon Trail in 1847. His uncle beats him and his aunt rejects him in favor of his little brother. Noah flees on a stolen horse after he learns that his uncle has hired a man to kill him. He later discovers that his uncle, not a flood, killed his parents. After hiding in the desert, he decides to track down his uncle and rescue his brother. He deals with starvation, thirst, Cayuse Indians, strange Mennonites and a dogged assassin on his trail. Among The Wild is a story about survival, honor, family, and how to make the most out of a human life, even when dealing with situations that one could never have imagined.

TWO: How is your story one that would interest the readers of The Western Online?

    Carl: Well, it takes places on the Oregon Trail, which immediately gives it a Western and pioneer setting. The gun technology is a bit simpler than what you find in stories set a few decades later, but the main protagonist (Noah Adair) manages to get his hands on a late model Colt Paterson. Of course, there are also some spectacular horse-riding scenes and chases, as well as Indians who are both sympathetic, and unfriendly to Noah's cause, plus an entire host of other characters he has to contend with. While the settings are austere, the emotional lives of the characters are very rich.

   

TWO: What motivates the protagonist in your story? What is he trying to prove?

    Carl: At first, Noah is motivated by sheer survival. He has to evade predators, an assassin, and deal with the basic necessities of procuring water and food. Later, he's pushed on by familial obligation. Toward the end of the novel, a strange blend of revenge and sympathy become the driving factors that propel him forward.

TWO: How would you define the term "Western" and what does it mean to you?

    Carl: It's a fairly broad term, actually, even though a lot of people probably don't think so. The many novels by Louis L'Amour define one end of the genre, and then you've got beautiful books like Lonesome Dove out there, which won the Pulitzer Prize. You also have the likes of Cormac McCarthy, who pushes the bounds of both prose and violence in his Westerns. I suppose a Western novel is about a place in time, and a way of living and dealing with problems on your own.

TWO: What draws you to writing Westerns?

    Carl: The beauty of the landscapes described, the basic stories of survival, and the battles between anarchy and civilization that weave their way through many a Western narrative.

TWO: What writers have influenced you the most??

    Carl: Ernest Hemingway, Robert Ruark and Haruki Murakami would be at the top of my list. Most people wouldn't associate Murakami with Westerns, but if your read the Mongolian and Russian sections of his book The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, you can see the imprint of the Western genre at work, I think. Harsh men living in and dealing with harsh settings.

TWO: What is your favorite Western, either novel or movie? Why?

    Carl: My favorite Western movie is John Ford's The Searchers. It's a beautiful film, and you get to see John Wayne play a different kind of character than he normally played. I know I'm not alone in my admiration for this film.

TWO: The Western has seen a bit of a resurgence in recent times and is returning to both the box office and television. Why do you think that is?

    Carl: Westerns offer a classic hero/antihero conflict against a tough antagonist, or wild nature. The stories are elemental, and resonate within the human psyche and soul. I think they will never really go away, although the setting might change some day. Perhaps we'll have Westerns taking place on Mars, with heroes riding atop robotic horses.

TWO: What are you plans for the future? Are you working on a sequel?

    Carl: I have the outline for a sequel to Among the Wild finished. The novel ends with the main protagonist 'in motion,' which means he's in for a wild ride in the next book. Right now I'm also working on a follow up to an illustrated children's book I wrote, entitled Raindrop's World.

TWO: How do you feel about writing in general?

    Carl: I think the Western genre is one of the few genres left where a fast-paced story, written with beautiful prose, is still appreciated. I know book editors and other writers who believe prose doesn't really matter anymore. The modern reader simply needs a story that moves at breakneck speed. While I appreciate books that move things along (mine certainly does), I also enjoy the music of words. Reading takes place with the eyes and the brain. A great story, written beautifully, can take you places a film just can't.

 

    Carl Pettit is an American columnist, writer, musician and illustrator. He writes for an array of colorful publications, and also finds time to produce a fair amount of fiction for adults and children. Education and work, plus good old-fashioned curiosity have taken him all over the world. He's lived in China, the Czech Republic, England, Korea and Portugal, and has traveled to dozens of more countries to boot. When not writing or working on his very rusty drawing technique, he's most likely planning his next adventure, or out to dinner with friends.

 

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