Recently, I rustled up an interview with Dusty.
|Award Winning Western Novelist, Dusty Richards|
1) When did you first decide you wanted to write Westerns? What prompted you?
I was a Saturday matinee fan of Gene, Roy and Hopalong on the silver screen. Then I began reading Will James. My mother was a good reader, so even though I could read them, I let her read them to me. That was pre-TV. She sat in the ring of light over the wingback chair in the living room and read Will James books to me. Will James wrote other books besides Smoky.
By high school, I progressed to paperbacks. They were a quarter a piece and lined book racks in the drug stores by the zillions. I read one a night. Then I scoured the libraries for Zane Grey, William Haycox and others. A book about Cochise, Blood Brother, sent me to research the Apache wars, since I lived in the middle of all that then. Another book by Tom Lea, The Wonderful Country, really impressed me. Then I found Will Henry’s books–I could read them but never could see how he wrote them.
I wanted to write and so I did. I wrote my own books when I couldn’t go buy one. I wrote them in long hand and knew they lacked whatever those selling writers had between the lines–I simply could not see what was missing. These were the books that my teenage daughters discovered and read, then told me to sell them. I stepped into the world of writing, dumb as a newborn duck. But somehow I wrote and sold three books to a small printer in Missouri. That encouraged me–but after two years and no published books, I severed that tie, or thought I did.
I learned twenty years later he printed them. But today, I can’t find any copies. For awhile, they were on ebay. But before my daughter could find them to purchase, they were sold. My real success began when I met Dr. Frank Reuter at OWL – Ozarks Writers League. He critiqued a book I thought was ready. Oh my, after he finished with it, it was bloodied enough to fill the blood bank. But he encouraged me. I took all the things he said to do to that book and did them. Then, I sent him another and it he returned it – whole pages with no marks. Finally a third book went to him and he told me when I went to pick it up, “I was so busy reading the story I might not have critiqued it as hard as the others.”
I knew then I had a book and with the tenacity of a billy goat, I went out to sell it. It was Noble’s Way and my first real sale of a book in New York.
|Dusty and wife, Pat|
2) You keep a busy schedule, with a variety of responsibilities. Tell us how you are able to maintain a writing schedule that has allowed you to write over one hundred novels.
I tell you what, my wife puts up with me–she encourages me even today. Back then, I had an old Commodore Computer and she pushed me into buying a Mac. I had not sold a book, but I saw what the Mac could do. I was impressed with the machine but had to think on the price. Pat said, “If it was a tractor and did all that, you’d already own it.” I went out the door with it.
I write. Even when I worked for Tyson, did an hour anchoring TV show every morning, ran two ranches of my own, auctioneered and rode announcing–every night I was home and I typed from six until ten. At ten my wife came to get me to watch the news with her. Any rainy day, I wrote all day. I didn’t know a sitcom on TV.
I never took “no” for an answer. In between books I wrote short stories. Personally, I think short stories are the best thing to practice on. You get results quickly and you learn to be sparse with words. What else can you do? These situations train you for writing scenes.
3) Not only are you well-known in the Western genre world, you are also well-known in the writing community as someone who has tirelessly mentored hundreds of writers. What is the best advice you’ve been given by a writer? Is that the same advice you’d give to new writers?
I would like to save any serious writer I meet from the tough trail I took to become a writer. Admittedly, I was hard headed, but once Reuter showed me the way, I flew. Some people I try to help only want praise. They don’t want to hear me tell them what they must do, so they don’t listen. I want to help that student that listens and learns, not the wanna-bes who don’t read. If you aren’t a reader, don’t expect to become a writer.
I know there is a brain-to-finger connection and the only way you accomplish writing is to write. You will never have time to be a writer. You must steal it. You must learn to say no. You must make an obligation to your writing. Sure you will write crap and the real truth comes when you realize that. You have to have faith that your message is coming out. Learn from other writers, but don’t copy them. We don’t talk like we write. The only way we get that writing voice is to write, free of concern that what we compose in the front of our brain is coming off in the style we want. Experience will build that in you.
My advice–don’t fret about whether it is good enough while you’re writing. Write the entire draft first. Then you will have an obligation to edit it and make a book out of it.
|2010 Western Heritage Award Winner|
4) You’ve won several awards for your western novels: two Spur Awards and recently, the Western Heritage Award for your book, Sundown Chaser. These are great accomplishments for a Western writer. Any as-yet-unattained goals?
Of course, I would like one made into a movie; either a short story or a book. That will be hard, because they don’t take much risk because movies are so expensive. That’s why they go back to redo old ones with a proven track record.
|2007 Spur Award Winner|
5) If you could have a conversation with Louis L’Amour, or any other author, what would you like to talk about?
I read lots of Louie’s books. He wrote some good ones and some that are so-so. I won’t be critical of him here. I guess you could say the same thing about some of mine. I’ve been lucky to have had an evening with Charles Portis, author of True Grit and one with Larry McMurtey. Elmer Kelton was a dear friend and shared lots with me. Bill Gullic, who wrote Bend in the River, spent hours telling me tales of the days when the Saturday Evening Post paid him $12,000 for books they serialized,
I’d like to have talked to Will James for an evening, fished for trout in the White River with Zane Grey for a day, drank a few beers with Walter LeMay who wrote The Searchers. Then, I’d like to toss in a sunny afternoon visit with Will Henry, who I met but didn’t get to speak to. I missed meeting Tom Lea of The Wonderful Country. We were in El Paso for WWA (Western Writers of America) and they went to see him. I missed that and have always regretted it. I met Jack Bickham at OWFI (Oklahoma Writers’ Federation, Inc.) but was afraid I’d sound stupid and never asked him a thing. That was my mistake. And toss in the nice visit I had with Tony Hillerman, who writes about the Navajo Police out in New Mexico.
I have been blessed haven’t I? But I am not through yet. I hope I didn’t overdo my visits with those folks above, but they–like the Northwest Arkansas Writers where I’ve shared some of my work–are all part of what inspires me to write and why I help folks, wanted or not.
Be sure to post a comment by Monday, December 20 to be entered in a drawing for two of Dusty’s books: Sundown Chaser and Writing the West. Drawing will be held on that date, and winner will be announced on this blog and on Facebook.
To learn more about Dusty Richards, visit him at: