So today we’re going across the pond to visit with fellow western writer, Chris Derrick. I ran onto Chris by seeing a constant plug from another friend Conner Rickett and his Cites of the Mind blog.
Having an interest in the genre, I took a chance with $3.99 and downloaded the first of Derrick’s stories, The Tainted Dollar.
The story was well written for an indie and before long Chris and I were talking back and forth through Goodreads which soon turned to a more private e-mail. By the time that I had finished his second attempt, The Sheriff’s Sister, I was a Chris Derrick western fan and couldn’t wait for number 3, Wagon Mound to Santa Fe to be available.
Morning Chris, so tell about your work man, tell us how it is that a proper Englishman comes to pen novels that take place in the American southwest during the 1800’s?
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to take part in this interview and talk about my projects.
So, my interest in westerns I guess stems initially from the period when I was born – 1957. It meant I grew up with not only the likes of John Wayne and his contemporaries on the big screen but also the regular series on television of Rawhide, Gunsmoke and Bonanza etc. Latterly of course there was the likes of the The High Chaparral – with plenty of re-runs (still to this day) to keep me occupied! (To me this particular western series has weathered the years far better than most).
My dad always used to say to me while watching something along the lines of John Wayne in The Searchers that if the storyline itself dried up for a while then you could always marvel at the beauty of the scenery. Even from an early age I had that appreciation growing inside me.
I’d always had a great interest in reading and writing, well before I actually started school. Even now I’ll read anything, anywhere, to keep myself occupied. Consequently I found myself wondering on numerous occasions while growing up what it would be like to see my own name running down the spine of a novel.
My first outing riding a horse on a ranch in southern Arizona in 2009 was ‘the moment’ for me. Upon my return I at least knew what I wanted to do – to write my own western.
That way I reasoned I could merge my newly found appreciation of the desert states of the US with my love of westerns and fondness for writing.
Give us the lowdown on Jake Base. I appreciate the native culture out here in the west, but how did you come to include in your stories. Most western writers simply leave the Indian culture as a side note or cast the characters in a bad light.
Jake’s story begins as a member of a family who head west searching for a new life. His parents are killed in tragic circumstances while Jake and his brother are taken captive by the Cheyenne. Over the next ten years he becomes accepted by his captors and ends up riding with them against the Crow. Eventually he decides to return to the white man’s way and ends up in Tucson becoming a rather unique US marshal. As his story develops we see Jake eventually married to the lovely Maria Sanchez, and he assumes the role of Laredo Texas town sheriff.
It’s a good question about the Indian culture. I guess several situations have contributed to an appreciation of their shall we say ‘position’ that history has left them with. It affected me quite a bit if the truth’s known. Since 2009 we’ve made several return trips to the SW states of the USA – predominantly in AZ and NM. Travelling around Arizona, in places like Kayenta, means a lot of time spent on reservation land. Going into a large Walmart type store and seeing all the signage in Navajo (nothing in English) and the queue of Native Americans in the foyer for food stamps made me think. I held the door open somewhere else in AZ for a Native American family of four to enter a KFC. Each one as they walked through thanked me – the youngest child must’ve been no more than six or seven years of age. You sure wouldn’t get that appreciation in London! You might just get lucky – and be thanked once……
I firmly believe if the Indian warriors were white men they’d have always been considered by history as patriots and heroes. They were after all fighting to protect what every man holds sacred – his personal freedom and way of life. From my understanding it was the white man’s greed, and his solemnly promised words which turned out to be no more than calculated lies, which marked the end.
The Tainted Dollar & The Sheriff’s Sister (Books 1 & 2) seem to have been written after Wagon Mound to Santa Fe?
Yep – you got me Chris. They were.
I ‘penned’ the first few words to what would eventually become Wagon Mound to Santa Fe around May 2013. Actually making that beginning, those first dozen or so words, was the most difficult part to date. I wanted to create a novel that would have several separate story lines moving through it – with the reader experiencing life from each aspect as the tale unfolded.
At the end of the year it became very apparent I still had a long way to go with this one – but I really felt I needed to get something of mine ‘out there’ to begin my journey as an author.
So in January 2014 I started to write The Tainted Dollar with Jake Base as the main character. His personality grew and developed over time – it wasn’t all pre-designed by any means. In fact a lot of what became the book literally came to me in my sleep (such as the book’s title). 3am would see me frantically making notes by torchlight on numerous occasions.
In between the writing and editing process for this book and its follow up The Sheriff’s Sister I’d be continually re-visiting Wagon Mound…..in order to move the story forward. After I’d initially written the section about a group of men out in the New Mexico wilderness attempting to dig for their fortune I decided to include Jake in their number. It was a decision which involved a considerable chunk of re-writing in order to make it appear as if he’d been included from the very beginning.
So, while Wagon Mound…..was actually the last of the three novels to be completed/published it was in fact the first to actually contain any words.
I enjoyed the hard fighting stories of Jake Base, but I really started to like the long middle of Wagon Mound…and the tale of early pioneer life. Again, you include a young Indian boy.
Yes, this one’s called Fingers due to an unfortunate ‘incident’ several years before. He also has another interesting side to his character – one which many readers may not know the Indian tribes ever paid any particular significance to. I guess I like ‘fleshing out’ these slightly unusual characters. Jake and Fingers have much in common. They’re both men who’d never totally ‘fit in’ in either the Indian or the white man’s world.
What’s next Chris?
Well I’m currently editing Book 4 which is a follow on in the life of Jake – so it’s Book number 3 in the Jake Base series I suppose.
I’ve also been finishing off a five thousand word western for inclusion (fingers crossed!) in an anthology of western stories later in the year. I’d hoped to have it finished a while ago for the up and coming release but unforeseen circumstances have upset that plan a tad.
Regarding new projects I recently tried my hand at writing a non-western set in the current period. The words didn’t flow in the way I’m used to – so I’ve assigned it to the back burner for now. I’ve come to the conclusion I write best about hot and dusty streets, sitting under a blue cloud free sky. Which if nothing else has the added benefit of helping me write my way out of my surroundings.
The 5th book is now going to be a follow up to the Wagon Mound……..novel, so we’ll finally get to see how Jake fared from the end of that story. I’m looking forward to creating some new adventures for him, his companions and Alex Sawicki – who happens to be this novels main character.
You’ve got a book tour that kicks off here in southwest in Tucson late this summer. Can you give us some details? The cities, bookstores, dates, times, events, etc?
I do indeed. Thanks for mentioning it, Chris.
I’m actually calling it the ‘Ridin’ With the Sheriff’ book tour.
It’s our first visit to the US since 2014. It may sound strange but I actually feel the need to ‘top-up’ my literary inspiration from AZ and NM itself.
Back in 2014 I released The Tainted Dollar only a few weeks after returning home.
So this time, rather than a ‘wanna be’ author, I can rightly claim to have three novels out there on the streets.
While I’ve currently more readers from the UK I firmly believe my novels would go down particularly well in the US – so this visit is to spread awareness of them.
To that end I’ll be taking promotional material in the rather large case – along with the usual t-shirts etc. I’ll be getting copies of the books themselves sent on ahead so they’ll be there waiting for our arrival.
I’ve received very favorable responses from the two Tucson bookstores I’ve approached to date. I’ll be dropping copies of my novels into their buyers while we’re there.
As there’s still five months to go (the tour begins on 3rd Sept in Phoenix AZ) I’m not rushing into booking things at the moment. I’m hoping to have at the very minimum a list of contacts within bookstores and hopefully a few radio interviews arranged by the time we get to travel. I guess the pace of organization will pick up massively come June / July time. It may turn out that I’ve made some errors with my arrangements of the book tour part of this holiday – but, in my defense, I’ve never undertaken anything like this before. I’m certainly learning all the time.
Anyone who wants to contact me with a view to meeting up (if only for a coffee) then let me know via either Twitter @chrisderrick1 or email at email@example.com
As far as the cities we’re visiting (in order) here we go –
Phoenix AZ – Tucson AZ – El Paso TX – Fort Stockton TX – Del Rio TX – Laredo TX – Corpus Christi TX – Galveston TX – San Antonio TX – Sonora TX – Van Horn TX – Truth or Consequences NM – Santa Fe NM – Taos NM – Durango CO – Monticello UT – Mexican Hat UT – Sedona AZ – Prescott AZ – Tucson AZ (yes – for the second visit).
Based on your own experiences what advice would you offer any other prospective authors?
Prepare to work hard, and for long, long hours. Get ready for the onset of the awful nagging periods of self-doubt. Keep the faith – and remember why you started writing in the first place!
At what point did you actually consider yourself an author?
For me it was after the first person read ‘The Tainted Dollar’ and mentioned to me how much they’d enjoyed the read. Until the book went on sale via Amazon no-one else had read even a single page – only me. It was a rather daunting time!
What single item as an author causes you the greatest frustration?
Haha…..that would have to be book reviews. Most definitely. I’ve got several long term friends, as in thirty or forty years, who’ve either purchased their own copies or in some cases have been given a copy by myself. In every case I’ve asked them to do me the favor of leaving an honest review on Amazon of what they’ve read. Nothing! Frustrating doesn’t get close to describing the emotion I feel, as you’re totally powerless. However, on the up side, I’ve received the most glowing reviews from others who I would’ve never considered would even read – let alone appreciate – what I’d written. I guess it all balances out in the long run.
What’s been the greatest pleasure in your journey as a new author?
I guess there’re actually two things. There’s obviously the joy of seeing a book you’ve been instrumental in creating ‘out there’ and finally holding the physical copy of it in your hand.
The second is reading any book review which is particularly complimentary and appreciative. Those few words ultimately make the whole process so worthwhile.
I’ve included a few links here to reviews left on Amazon.
The Tainted Dollar.
The Sheriff’s Sister.
Who’s the one person from history you’d most like to meet and why?
General George Armstrong Custer. I’d like to know what influenced him to make those costly decisions at the Little Big Horn.
How do you like spending your time when you’re not writing ?
Reading of course. Also watching rugby and maybe a good film. It’s a pity they don’t make as many western movies now! Outside of writing the pastime which gives me the most pleasure is driving around the USA, and exploring all the side roads where tourists don’t normally venture. The roads are so quiet, outside of the major cities, in the states we frequent that driving in the USA still remains a pleasure – unlike pretty much driving anywhere in the UK. I think I’d be quite happy to be a ‘road dog’ over there for an extended period of time! Touring around like we do every few days it’s like a new holiday begins when we get to yet another town.
Has your work had any exposure in the UK?
A paper local to where I’m living now north of London wrote a piece on me last year which was the first.
A month or two ago a paper in the town where I was born (Keynsham – which is between Bristol and Bath in the south west of the UK) also printed a nice article about my endeavors. I’ve included the link to download the magazine here for anyone who may be interested in having a look. I put in my own personal appearance on page 27 of the publication.
Well you heard it folks. If you enjoy reading an old school western, check out the writings of Chris G Derrick, his work can be found at the links above. If you happen to be in the desert this fall, stop by for a chat. I’m sure that Chris would love to see you all.