The opportunity to interview the Avalon Books western novelist, L W Rogers, came after I had read two of Zane Grey’s novels.
January 11, 2012
Today, I have the pleasure of talking to L W Rogers, author of several Avalon Westerns whose latest novel, Superstition Trail was released just before Christmas 2011. I would like to thank her at the outset for her forthright responses.
Aside from school assignments, what was the first story you ever told/wrote that gave you the idea you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always had an active imagination. I don’t remember having an imaginary friend, but my mother tells people that when I was as young as three years old, she would hear me on the back porch talking. My conversations were so real that she would often check to see who I was talking to. By the time I was in the 4th grade, I was writing and illustrating story books. At that young age, I didn’t really know I wanted to be a writer. Since I love horses, my dream was to own a ranch in Montana and raise Arabian and Morgan horses.
Did you run into any opposition to your decision to become a writer?
I was a teacher for twenty-seven years, and guess what subject I taught? Yep, language arts and social studies to 6th graders, as well as Composition 101 at the local community college. I loved teaching writing. Later, I was assigned to work with Migrant Services and teach English as a Second Language (ESOL). Then I decided to form the first adult ESOL classes. Between day and evening classes, plus working with Migrant Services, my job became all-consuming. Writing was put on hold until I retired at the age of 53.
Did I run into opposition? Well, the biggest obstacle was me, myself and I. Two years after I’d retired, my husband said he was tired of hearing me talk about writing a book. Then my excuse was, “I don’t have a computer.” My husband told me to go get in the car. That same day, he drove me to Radio Shack to buy a computer. After we got home, his comment was, “Well what’s your excuse now?” As you can see—no opposition. Since that first computer, I’ve worn out two and just purchased a new one.
Once you no longer had that excuse, what was your inspiration?
I guess you can say my husband was my inspiration. Had he not insisted we go buy a computer, I’d probably still be talking about writing a novel, and wishing and hoping to someday get published. Of course, I don’t think my hubby knew how many times he’d have to eat grilled cheese sandwiches or hot dogs for supper that day he drove me to Radio Shack. When I’m on deadline cooking goes by the wayside, and the dust bunnies in my house multiply.
Have you always written Western novels?
In my early years of writing, I was told that Westerns was a niche market that they were passé, and no one read them anymore. What did I know? I took the advice literal and tried to write comedy. That’s when I discovered, I didn’t have a funny bone in my body. I love the old west. Anything about horses, cattle drives, outlaws, Native Americans, rodeos, I soak it up like a sponge. Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong era. Maybe that’s why writing Westerns appeals to me; plus the fact that I grew up sneaking my daddy’s Zane Grey and Louie L’Amour novels out of his sock drawer. Back in those days, the word ‘damn’ was a huge no-no. Children were not to be exposed to such language, that’s why he kept the books hidden. Oh, and I was so in love with John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Audie Murphy, Clint Eastwood, Clint Walker and so many of the great western movie stars. Although, I write Westerns for Avalon Books and Western Romance for The Wild Rose Press, my first non-western, Forbidden Son, published by The Wild Rose Press will release March, 2012.
My father read the same books and we watched all the western TV shows but I was more interested in fairy-tales, but Americans have never lost their connection to the West or the Frontier Spirit. After reading some of the Avalon Western writers’ books, I’m rediscovering my passion for the genre. When you published your first novel, how did you feel?
I wrote my first novel in 2004. It’s collecting dust in a drawer. I can’t believe I had the guts to submit that piece of work to several publishers and agents. Every so often I pull it out to give myself a good laugh and as a reminder of how far I’ve come. For several years, I wrote short stories for True Confessions and True Romance magazines. My first book was actually a novella, published, in December 2007. Isabelle and the Outlaw is a time-travel western romance. I thought I had won the lottery when the editor contacted me. Shortly after that, I received a contract from Avalon Books for my first full-length novel The Twisted Trail which was published in April of 2008. With almost back-to-back books, I felt as if I’d won the mega-ball million. A funny story about The Twisted Trail; this book is a “Cracker Western,” meaning it is set in1840’s Florida. I submitted to an editor (who shall remain nameless). I still have the rejection letter which states, “Everyone knows that Florida is all about bikinis, beaches and palm trees and has no cowboy history.” Shame on that editor for not knowing his history, and thanks to Erin Cartwright, my then Avalon editor, for seeing the potential in that book.
It seems once a book is out of your hands, you’re at the mercy of a quite few other people. That editor’s comment is one of the funniest I’ve read. Your new book is Superstition Trail. (This will link to the trailer). Like The Twisted Trail, your hero is a gunman. Tell us more about this new book.
Superstition Trail, my third Western, published by Avalon, released December, 2011.
Ace Donovan is bent on revenge. For fifteen years he has tracked six men who hanged his father and brother, and left him for dead. With five notches on his gun butt, the last bullet is for a faceless man who has a penchant for spitting on his victims.
Donovan never intended to fall in love with Dulcie Slaughter. His bullet left her a widow. Set in the backdrop of the Superstition Mountains of Arizona, Superstition Trail is filled with action-packed adventure that includes an Apache legend about the Screaming Woman. The Apache believe the Screaming Woman spirit is angry because they didn’t prevent the white man from invading sacred lands. Outlaws use this Apache legend in an attempt to steal the herd. Dulcie’s trust in Donovan is shattered when one of the outlaws recognizes him as the man who killed her husband.
Superstition Trail is a book I’ll want to read with so many elements woven together: action, adventure, history and romance. And now you’re taking on the challenge of another genre. Do your readers comment on the difference between your writing for Avalon and the books you have with other publishers?
At first, I had a separate sets of readers—men who read only my westerns and women who read only my western romance novels. I’m not sure when the cross-over happened, but now I seem to have as many men who read my The Wild Rose Press western romances as I have women who read my Avalon westerns. When I wrote The Twisted Trail a Marine Lt. Col. stationed in Iraq emailed to say he was surprised a woman could write such convincing fight scenes. Wow, what a great compliment! Yet, a man who read Bannon’s Brides, my TWRP western romance, said that reading the book was like having chocolate and sex wrapped up all in one spicy package. That comment really put a grin on my face. Forbidden Son is my first non-western. I’m not sure how my readers will respond to a vintage romance that is primarily a series of flashbacks to include Rwandan rebels in Africa during the 1950’s and a segment that takes place in LaDrange Valley, Vietnam in the 1970’s. If my readers aren’t happy with the new genre, perhaps I can pacify them with the new western Cowgirl Courage that will release December 2012.
High praise indeed from your readers. When you set out to write a new western, where do you go to research the background of the story?
I have friends who know that I’m a ‘book hound.’ When they find non-fiction books about the old west, they gift me with these gems. In fact, my shelves are running over with books. In return, I give my friends one of my new releases. It’s a win-win for all of us. Sometimes, not often, I use the internet for research. I’m skeptical that some of the sources aren’t reliable. I also use the library’s inner-library loan system, which I can access via computer. I enjoy researching, but have to be careful not to get so caught up in it that it detracts from writing.
Will you try your hand at comedy again?
The reason I don’t tell jokes is because I can never remember the punch-line, no one ever laughs, and I end up with a red face. Nope, absolutely not! If I ever had a funny bone, it is permanently retired and resting peacefully in the drawer with the novel that is collecting dust.
I understand everything you’ve said here! I have a good sense of humor but writing comedy is another art form. If the book that launched your writing career hadn’t been published, where would your career be now?
There’s no denying that my debut novella was the energizing force to my writing career, but had it not been published, I think I might have continued submitting manuscripts until rejection letters convinced me that I’d probably be better off creating scrap books and watching re-runs of old western movies and eternally dreaming about becoming a published author.
We can all be grateful Isabelle and the Outlaw worked for you. Thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions and all the best for your future endeavors, Loretta.