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Published on Monday, July 7, 2014

An Interview with


Elisabeth Grace Foley

 

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

Elisabeth Grace Foley: Sixteen-year-old Lew Kelly grew up idolizing his enigmatic ex-gunfighter father. Everyone thought Lew's habit of practicing his quick draw was a harmless amusement—until the day when a boys' hot-headed quarrel exploded into gunplay, with disastrous results.

Three years later, Lew is withdrawn and bitter—and he still carries a gun. When an unexpected twist of circumstances forces him to face again the memories and the aftermath of that ill-fated fight, will old wrongs be righted—or will the result be an even worse tragedy than before?

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

EGF: Western fans should feel right at home given that the plot is built around one of the familiar scenarios of the genre—the gunfight—but it also takes a little different tack, delving more into the motivations that lead to it than the incident itself, which I think will interest any reader who likes a good story.

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

EGF: That would depend on who you call the protagonist. Lew Kelly's motivation... well, that's basically what the story is all about. The book's narrator, Colvin, is drawn into the Kellys' affairs by happening to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (or the right place at the right time, depending on how you look at it), and a mix of sympathy and curiosity gets him in deeper. Having gone this far, he feels bound to try and do what he can to salvage the situation when things take a turn for the worse, even though it really isn't any of his business.

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

   

EGF: To me, it's any historical fiction set in the American West in the 19th or early 20th centuries in which the frontier setting plays some part, even if it's just the backdrop against which the story plays out.

TWO: What draws you to writing Westerns?

EGF: Initially I suppose it was the trappings of the genre, the fun of writing about cowboys and horses and such, but the more I've read and researched and learned, I've become fascinated with the potential for stories that lies in the West. There's such a variety in the landscape and the many different kinds of people that inhabited it—you can go in just about any direction you like and find some new spark of a story idea.

TWO: What writers have influenced you the most?

EGF: Oh, my. I think I've probably learned a little something from every writer I've ever read and loved—but if we're talking specifically Westerns here, it would probably be B.M. Bower, O. Henry and Elmore Leonard.

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

EGF: My favorite Western movie is RIO GRANDE (1950), the third and, in my opinion, the best of the John Ford/John Wayne "cavalry trilogy." The main reason that it's my favorite is very close to what I feel is the strength of LEFT-HAND KELLY: a story built around the practical and emotional conflicts between its characters, particularly the members of an estranged family. Not to mention it has wonderful music, and is beautifully filmed, too—the most authentic-feeling of the cavalry Westerns, I think.

As for favorite Western novel, I think it's a three-way tie: TIGER EYE and CHIP OF THE FLYING U both by B.M. Bower, and LAST STAND AT PAPAGO WELLS by Louis L'Amour. Besides their vivid depiction of different aspects of the West, again I think the reason is their compelling characters and the conflicts and relationships between them, though the tone of each novel is very different—CHIP OF THE FLYING U being the most lighthearted, and LAST STAND AT PAPAGO WELLS probably the grimmest and most suspenseful.

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

EGF: Not a sequel to this book, but certainly more Westerns. At present I'm in the middle of a manuscript in another genre, but I've also been outlining another Western which I think may come next, titled LADY'S SLIPPER RANCH. An entirely different sort from LEFT-HAND KELLY; more of a romantic comedy with undercurrents of drama.

 

   

Elisabeth Grace Foley is a historical fiction author, avid reader and lifelong history buff. Her first published story, "Disturbing the Peace," was an honorable mention in the first annual Rope and Wire Western short story competition, and is now collected with six others in her debut short story collection, THE RANCH NEXT DOOR AND OTHER STORIES. Her other works include the Mrs. Meade Mysteries, a series of short historical mysteries; and short fiction set during the American Civil War and the Great Depression. A homeschool graduate, she chose not to attend college in order to pursue self-education and her writing career.



 

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