BookEnds Talks to J. Lee Butts

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Dec 08 2006

Jimmy (J. Lee) Butts
Book: Ambushed
Publisher: Berkley
Pub date: December 2006
Agent: Kim Lionetti

Author Web site: See J. Lee Butts’s bio

Awards: 2005 Western Writers of America Spur Award Nominee

BookEnds: Describe your book in 50 words or less.
Jimmy: Ambushed is the fourth in a series of stories about the life of Deputy U.S. Marshal Hayden Tilden. Told from the p.o.v. of Tilden as an old man, and based on actual events, this tale concerns the brutal atrocities committed by the murderous Dawson Gang in the Indian Nations of the late 1870s.

BookEnds: What do you think distinguishes your work from that of other authors of this genre?
Jimmy: Most westerns tend to deal with western myth. My books are gritty, as realistic as I can make them through detailed research, and they’re beautifully written.

BookEnds: What other authors do you find inspiration from?
Jimmy: My work has been heavily influenced by Elmore Leonard, Stephen Harrigan, Douglas C. Jones, Alan W. Eckert, and Dee Brown.

BookEnds: What is your writing process like?
Jimmy: I’ve never been sure how anyone else works. I start with lots of reading and research, then come up with a title and the story develops on its own from there. No plotting, no planning, everything happens as spontaneously to me as it does to my characters. Makes writing lots of fun.

BookEnds: Why have you chosen to write in the genre in which you write?
Jimmy: I fell into writing westerns purely by accident. Never meant to be a writer of westerns. Started out writing coming-of-age stories about the pain and pleasure of growing up blissfully ignorant during the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s.

BookEnds: Do you see yourself in any of your characters? If so, who and how?
Jimmy: I see myself in all my characters. How can it be otherwise? These are phantoms I create from parts of me and other people I’ve known over my entire life.

BookEnds: Many writers have stories of rejections. What are yours? What was your most memorable rejection?
Jimmy: Can’t really relate to those kinds of stories. Didn’t get rejected much. But one I remember came back from an agent with a hand-scrawled message (in pencil) across my cover sheet that read, “Not for me!”

BookEnds: Do you have a manuscript that you’ll never let anyone else read? Tell us a little about it.
Jimmy: No, but like most authors I have one I’d love to see published. In fact, I’d trade the nine books I have out now and the five waiting in the pipe if Dianna’s Rules could get between covers. It’s a damned fine book. Best thing I’ve written and that’s not simply my opinion.

BookEnds: What do you see as some of the biggest mistakes beginning writers make?
Jimmy: Single biggest mistake of beginning writers is their inclination to sound “writerly.” They have misconceived ideas as to how a well-written book sounds and without fail they’re misguided in the extreme. The results are sad and depressing.

BookEnds: What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions of the publishing world?
Jimmy: (1) That writers make a lot of money, and (2) that the publisher will help you in your efforts to sell your books.

BookEnds: What are you reading now?
Jimmy: The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson, Ned Christie’s War by Robert Conley, Gil’s All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez, and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam by Robert Spenser.

BookEnds: Do you have a job outside of writing?
Jimmy: Yes, I am a semi-professional loafer and lay-about.

BookEnds: What are your other hobbies or interests?
Jimmy: Guns and golf clubs.

To learn more about J. Lee Butts, see Our Books at

One response to “BookEnds Talks to J. Lee Butts”

  1. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Another great author bio. Thanks for introducing J. Lee Butts. My DH loves westerns so this will make a nice stocking stuffer.