This week we are very lucky to have an author interview with Eric Bishop today which will be followed by a book blog tour/review tomorrow! Eric is a real-life cowboy whose personal experience has given his book, ‘The Samaritan’s Pistol’, extra life.
Where did your idea for ‘The Samaritan’s Pistol’ come from?
I’m an avid horsemen and each year take several trips into some rugged wilderness areas in Wyoming. Luckily, I’ve never gotten a horse or person seriously hurt in doing so, but I always carry a pistol for protection or heaven forbid to euthanize a horse if one had a life threatening injury. About a decade ago, I was riding my horse, with a pistol on my hip, and wondered what I’d do if I ran into some dangerous people.
Did personal experiences contribute or was it mostly imagination?
Everything from the mountains to the horses and setting is experience. The rest is imagination. Most of the people I’ve met in wilderness areas are there for the same reasons I am. They hunt, fish, hike and climb, wanting to get away from civilization. Some are curt and want their solitude, but I’ve never felt like anyone intended ill will toward me.
Are your characters based on people you know or have you just taken something here and there to add to your literary tapestry?
Yes and yes. I worked on a dairy farm as a teenager and patterned Brody, the elderly ranch hand, after the owner. All the other characters are combinations of people. I met Craig Johnson, author of the Walt Longmire mysteries, a few years ago and he joked about the biggest piece of fiction in any novel is the disclaimer that there is no resemblance to actual persons or places. Most characters are a combination of personalities I’ve encountered. But Brody was definitely patterned after a specific individual.
How long did it take you to write this book and what is your writing process like?
I wrote the first draft in a little over two months. Active verbs were an endangered species, and telly language was as pervasive as weeds in an untended garden. I joined a critique group through the League of Utah Writers, and with their help started cleaning up my beginner mistakes. Over the next three years, I rewrote The Samaritan’s Pistol eight times. While every word and sentence was changed, the story remained ninety percent the same. However, as writers say,” It’s shown better.”
When you are writing, does it assist you to have a certain atmosphere or setting or can you write pretty much anywhere?
We live in northern Utah where winters are cold and summers are hot. The man cave in the barn is an amazing place that gets my creative juices flowing. An old couch sits against one wall next to my saddles and gun cabinet. Some writers say atmosphere doesn’t matter and I tend to agree because I’ve written in cars, airports, hotel lobbies and lots of other places, but given the choice, I’d go to my man cave every day!
Are there any ‘writing rituals’ that you rely upon?
I drink way too much caffeine. I build a tolerance to it and have to occasionally quit cold turkey for a few days to detox, so I can enjoy its effects again.
What qualities do you admire most in Jim?
It’s a small part of the book, but I admire his ability to stay true to himself, specifically his refusal to join the Mormon or any religion out of compromise. The decision certainly changed the course of his life, but the independence of thought, believing something different than almost everyone around you takes lots of moral courage.
If you could sit down and have a conversation with him, what do you think you would talk about?
Jim’s a combination of lots of friends I already know, so I think it would be the same things I visit with them about. Guy stuff like horse training techniques, how to balance a pack saddle, tie a hitch, what kind of boots to buy, and how to shoot a rifle.
I am a fan of how you brought horses into the story and it was especially sad when he had to say goodbye to his faithful mount at the beginning, have you had a similar experience to this?
I’m glad you asked this because I never would have volunteered it. As I said previously, I’ve packed into some rough places and never gotten a horse hurt, but there are two horses I trained, rode, and planned on growing old with who died prematurely due to injuries. The scene when Jim ends Sam’s suffering is the most personal part of the story for me. My relationship with those horses was much like Jim’s with Sam. I was the first person to ride both of them. We crossed streams together literally and figuratively and became a team. When the first one, a horse named Vernon, died, I thought I’d never find his equal until the next one came along. A few years later the horse I replaced Vernon with died. Much like Jim in the story I struggled with what I felt was a senseless loss. There are lots of good horses who need good owners. But there’s no getting around how bad it sucks to lose an animal you’ve spent some amazing days with.
What books and authors inspired you to write your own book?
Any author who writes about tough resilient characters who problem solve their way through a dilemma inspires me. Louis L’amour was my favourite growing up, but eventually I’d read all his stories and I wanted more. In many ways, ‘The Samaritan’s Pistol’ is the book I was always looking for but couldn’t find when I went to the bookstore.
Is there another book that you are working on that we can look forward to?
My publisher has given me a verbal commitment on my next novel. By contract they have right of first refusal. It’s called ‘Twelve Steps From Winslow’ and is about an ex-convict who will do anything to find a family member’s murderer.
What little word of advice would you give to up-and-coming authors?
Another personal question I’m glad you asked. I feel for authors who are passionate about their story and characters and wonder if they’ll ever get published. I think over the course of eight rewrites I learned to never give up, and to focus on writing better every day. Authors need to have fun. There is no substitute for studying and reading others who are better than you. Walking the critique group tightrope of accepting criticism where needed while believing in your story and abilities is hard but crucial. I’d also say to trust your instincts. If you know in your heart your story is a winner, find your inner Winston Churchill and never give up.
Last, but not least, where can we purchase ‘The Samaritan’s Pistol’?
Barnes and Noble and also Amazon have it as an e-book, hardcover and paperback. I’d also invite any of your readers to drop me a note at my personal email, firstname.lastname@example.org, and let me know what they think after they’ve read it!