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Published on Tuesday, December 4, 2012.

An Interview

with Jim Satterfield


Western writer Jim Satterfield, author of The River's Song granted an interview to The Western Online.

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

    Jim Satterfield: Bill Dawkins, a 40 year-old Civil War veteran and adventurer, finds himself on the run after helping twin boys escape unjust prosecution by the army. He must lead them on a chase across Montana Territory to elude their pursuer, notorious lawman and former vigilante, US Marshal John X. Biedler. The outlaw trio gain passage on the steamer, John M. Chambers, where Dawkins falls in love with Dr. Adeline Johnston, and the two make plans to reunite in Seattle. With the help of Captain Joseph La Barge, the fugitives gain a temporary lead over the ruthless marshal, but if the men don't escape the territory, they stand to lose everything - including their lives.

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

    Jim: My Westerns are a bit more literary/poetic than a lot of stories. I strive to excel in scene-setting, and feel one the greatest potential strengths of the genre is the backdrop of the American West.


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

    Jim: Dawkins' first motivation is to help the Miller brothers, twenty year old twins, escape from unjust pursuit by the Army and US Marshal John X. Biedler. A second motivation arises when Dawkins falls in love with Dr. Adeline Johnston on board the steamer, John M. Chambers.

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

    Jim: Technically, many industry people consider any historical novel set west of the Mississippi to be a "Western." I guess my view is a story with strong hero and villain, with a romantic arc often included. As I have indicated, I find a Western without strong emphasis on scene-setting to be a disappointment. And most great Western writers excel at this.

TWO: What draws you to writing Westerns?

    Jim: I'm a baby-boomer, born in '56. I grew up with Westerns, in print and on TV. I also work in natural resources management in the West, so I also identify with the region.

TWO: What writers have influenced you the most?

    Jim: A. B. Guthrie, Michael Shaara, Elmer Kelton, Robert Parker, Charles Portis

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

    Jim: That's like asking me what's my favorite song! Okay, favorite book is True Grit; favorite movie is The Long Riders. Ask me next month and you'd likely get another answer.

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?

    Jim: Probably several reasons. Genres cycle in popularity, and Westerns are making a comeback. Also in the complex times we live in where it's so hard to determine the good guys from the bad (think Middle East), Westerns are pretty straight forward in that regard. Heroes usually have strong values, with truth paramount.

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

    Jim: The River's Song is released on 11/13/12 (Avalon/Amazon). My next novel, Saving Laura, comes out 6/25/13 (Oceanview). This story, set in Wyoming/Colorado circa 1979, is sort of a modern Noir Western (Think Red Rock West). My agent is shopping another manuscript, Soon You Will Cry, which is a novel of Sitting Bull's last battle. This story won the Zola Award for historical fiction at the 2011 Pacific Northwest Writers Association literary contest. I also have two Young Adult manuscripts, See You At The Tree, a story about a 15 year old boy learns to be a houndsman, and Sharpshooters To The Front, a Civil War novel about a young man who lies about his age to join Berdan's Sharpshooters, the elite regiment of the Union Army.

TWO: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

    Jim: If you read my books, I will take you back to the West for a darn good read. I write relatively short novels (60-75k words), featuring lots of action, nature writing, and attention to historical detail and accuracy. I write my stories in the language of the day, and do not sanitize the times. I feel a historical novelist's job is to write about history, not re-write it.


Jim Satterfield was born and raised in Oklahoma, where he gained a life-long appreciation of the Great Plains and wildlife from his maternal grandfather. He holds a Ph.D. in fishery and wildlife biology from Colorado State University and has published in scientific and popular publications. He is a recipient of the Zola Award for historical fiction from the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. The River's Song is his debut novel. Saving Laura will be released June, 2013 by Oceanview Press. Jim lives in Kalispell, Montana. For more about the author, visit his website.    


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