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Published on Monday, January 10, 2010

An Interview

with Chris Scott Wilson

 

Writer Chris Scott Wilson granted an interview to The Western Online. His recently released ebook, Double Mountain Crossing is available on amazon.com: Amazon USA  |  Amazon UK  |  Italy |  New Zealand |  India For more information about Chris, visit his website.


   

In two sentences, can you describe Double Mountain Crossing for the readers of The Western Online?

Chris Scott Wilson: People think money is the answer to everything - it isn't. Double Mountain Crossing is a western with a universal theme, applicable to any story, any setting, any period, and that's what makes it interesting.

TWO: In what ways is Double Mountain Crossing a story that readers of The Western Online will enjoy?

Chris : I hope it's not contrived. I was trying to show how tough, yet liberating, that life in the mountains was, and while Morgan was searching to find something to enhance his life and provide security, i.e., gold, the Kiowa Indians in the story were seeking an abstract security of their own, trying to prevent the erosion of their lifestyle and beliefs. So I hope the book provides a little food for thought as well as the excitement of gunfights and confrontations.

TWO: What are some of your writing influences?

Chris : My Dad was a voracious reader and whatever he left laying about, I picked up. Some classics, then John Masters, Graham Greene, Neville Shute, and later on Ian Fleming, Harold Robbins' early books, while my pocket money contribution was Mickey Spillane. Later on, Wilbur Smith, Irwin Shaw, Herman Wouk, James Jones, Clive Cussler. Probably the biggest historical influence would be C.S. Forester, along with Alexander Kent, Patrick O'Brian, Dudley Pope. I've read a lot of science fiction and westerns too, and thrillers and non-fiction to do with whatever I've been writing at the time, but especially on the sea. I believe writers should read anything and everything, but my favourite writer is probably William Goldman, for everything he does.

   

TWO: You write in several genres. What draws you to writing Westerns?

Chris : They are a massive challenge to me. I'm a bit of a restless writer too. If I'm immersed in the same genre all the time I begin to feel I'm backing myself into a corner. When you determine to sit down and write a book, you know there is a lot of hard work ahead, and if your heart's not fully in it, that will show on the page. I hate to think I'm doing a job of work. Hopefully, by varying what I produce, it will remain fresh. The way I see it is that I write historical fiction - as well as some non-fiction - and a western is no different to any other type of historical fiction. They're about people and the landscapes of their lives. All boys of my generation growing up wished they were in the Wild West. TV had force-fed us Rawhide, Cheyenne Bodie, Wells Fargo, Wagon Train, The Virginian. We weren't complaining, we loved them. Add in the movies. Weaned on John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Alan Ladd, and anyone who could strap on a gunbelt and look convincing. But that was all B.C. - Before Clint. Suddenly we had this sparse character. A few brush strokes. A hat, a poncho, a chewed stogie, a squint and a curl of the lip. No back story. Not even a name to clutter the proceedings. And majestic sweeping terrain. Horses too. I rode when I was young and love them. Handled and shot rifles when I was in the CCF (Combined Cadet Force). So, I had the ingredients. Could I bake the pie? The first one I wrote was The Quantro Story. Really, at the beginning there was no thought of finding a publisher if I ever reached the end. I just wanted to prove to myself I could do it. And if I couldn't, well...

TWO: What is your favorite Western?

Chris : Tough question. How do you pick one from so many? Are we talking books or movies? Movies: Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid for the dialogue. The Good, The Bad & The Ugly for the variety & scope. Books : I don't really have a favourite western book, maybe Little Big Man by Thomas Berger for his sympathetic treatment of the Indians. Triggerfast by J.T. Edson, not that I remember anything about it but it was the first western I ever read, so it obviously led me to read many others, but overall I think Louis L'Amour was the main man. I always enjoyed what he wrote.

TWO: Louis L'Amour has always been a favorite of mine. What about his work did you enjoy?

Chris : Suspension of disbelief. Mostly I felt his books weren't contrived. His best work was like the best songs. If the lyrics are right, you almost don't notice them because they are telling you the story whether you want to hear them or not and you just immerse yourself in the atmosphere and rhythm of it all as it carries you along. Louis could do that, and it's a great gift. His work had morals too. He always stood up for justice, and if a man does something bad, then he should pay for it. A man should have a damn good reason for killing another man. It shouldn't just be casual, because he happens to have a gun in his hand.

TWO: Do you prefer publishing in ebook format or a traditional publisher? Why?

Eric: Two answers. Yes & no. Every writer will tell you there's nothing better than to see your book in printed form, hold it, and see it on the shelf in your local bookstore. It is real, then. You actually did achieve it. But the down side is bookstores can't carry everything. Like supermarkets. You think there's only Heinz and a couple of other brands of baked beans? Wrong. Supermarkets have limited shelf space and if they know they can sell more Heinz beans, and quicker, they won't waste space on others. A fact of life. So, you accept bookstores have limited space too. An Ebook store, on the other hand, can stock everything, and all available at a click of your mouse. You find it on the net, buy it, and you've got it immediately, anywhere in the world. Ebooks have enabled writers who would never have had the opportunity to become global. Via one publisher. With a niche market like westerns, that is very important. You need to reach everyone who wants to buy one, whether they're in Montana, London or Australia. Even Japan. The satisfying answer, however, would be eBooks available internationally, and POD for those who want an actual paper book.

TWO: How does living in England affect how you write about the American West?

Chris : It creates a huge challenge. Or it did before I went to America. I can't claim, like Louis L'Amour, that if I write about a spring, I've been there and the water tasted sweet, but I have driven 280 miles across the Mojave desert from California to Nevada, stopping en route to wander round ghost towns, and also down to Mexico. I've spent time in Florida where the Seminole Indians lived in the Everglades at Sawgrass. I've also visited the Hualapai Indian reservation in Arizona where an Indian called Standing Bear escorted us along the Grand Canyon rim then his wife and sisters made us a cook-out lunch, chicken baked in an oven in the hillside, with salad and home made pink lemonade. We talked about his tribe and the rattlesnakes and the wildlife at the canyon, especially the cougars which were preying on the Indians' livestock. It all gives you a great feel, kicking your toes in the dust, shading your eyes as you squint against the sun, raking the scrub and Joshua trees till you see a pony in a corral, head down in the heat, dozing on three legs, tail flicking lazily at the flies.

TWO: Do you believe the Western genre is seeing a bit of a resurgence? If so, in what ways? If not, then why not?

Chris : People have been telling me the western is on its way back since 1980!! I would love that. TV is all hospitals and cops. Seriously, there are moments when westerns look like they may come back. Kevin Costner had a good go with Dances With Wolves and didn't he do one about the gunfight at the OK Corral? Another instance was 3:10 To Yuma. And now we've got the terrific Jeff Bridges in a remake of True Grit. If he's half as good as he was in Crazy Heart, he'll be well worth watching. In fact, Jeff would be perfect for the lead in Double Mountain Crossing, and come to think of it, Beau Bridges could do a mean job of playing the card sharp.

TWO: Where do you see the Western genre five years from now?

Chris : I hope it's thriving. If the doors were only open a little a year or two back, now with ebooks they are being thrown wide. With every technical development come new opportunities. If there are readers out there who want to read westerns, what every western writer needs to do now is work out how to connect with them. Somebody once said to me that all you need is 100,000 people world-wide who like what you do, and you've got a career. Depending on your royalty rate per book, it could actually be a lot less.

 

   
Born by the River Tees in Yorkshire, England, Chris Scott Wilson was educated at Barnard Castle School and West Middlesbrough College Of Further Education. He has worked in the hotel trade, a newspaper office, accountancy, non-destructive testing, the music business, and also in physical testing for Testing Solutions at British Steel, later Corus, on the Redcar complex. With interests ranging across both fiction and non-fiction, he is the author of ten published books, has contributed to newspapers and magazines, written promotional material for international and local musicians and local businesses. He has also edited a book by local writers. He lives with his wife, Susan, on the Yorkshire coast where they spend as much time as possible on their boat.

 

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