BookEnds Talks to Peter Brandvold
- By: Jessica Faust | Date: Mar 30 2007
Peter Brandvold has written over thirty western novels for Berkley and Tor/Forge under his own name. He’s starting the Yakima Henry series of novels under the name Frank Leslie for Signet. He’s also reviving the old western pulp hero Bat Lash for DC Comics. He lives in Colorado with his wife and three dogs.
Awards: Runner-up for Western Writers of America Spur Award, 2003, for Staring Down the Devil (Berkley).
Author Web site: www.peterbrandvold.com
BookEnds: Describe your book in 50 words or less.
Peter: A rousing western adventure novel about a half-breed drifter, Yakima Henry, who finds himself on the run from a savage bounty hunter with a beautiful prostitute named Faith.
BookEnds: What do you think distinguishes your work from that of other authors of this genre?
Peter: What distinguishes my novels from other westerns is a gritty realism coupled with sex, a wry sense of humor, and fast narrative pace.
BookEnds: What is your writing process like?
Peter: I try to write 500 words over my first cup of coffee in the morning. That usually primes the pump. I try to write another 500 after my morning run up Horsetooth Mountain west of Fort Collins with my three dogs. I then try to get in another thousand words in the afternoon. I break up the day any way I can—hauling trash, grocery shopping, taking out my mountain bike—to keep myself generated and to give myself time to think through whatever section of book I’m working on. When I can see the section like a movie in my head—and it looks and feels right—I’m ready to write. The actual writing usually doesn’t take very long after I have the images situated in my head. Hard physical exercise is key. If I can’t get exercise in, the writing doesn’t usually go well.
BookEnds: Why have you chosen to write in the genre in which you write?
Peter: I’ve loved westerns ever since I was a kid growing up in little towns in North Dakota. I watched all the old ’60s and ’70s western series, and then I’d go out in the fields or woods and pretend to be Matt Dillon or Little Joe Cartwright myself, making up the adventures as I went. My dad took me to all the Spaghettis and the John Wayne movies that came out during that time. That really built my imagination, and I think it helped that I grew up in a remote and culturally sterile place. I had to entertain myself, make up my own stories. I started to read western novels when I was about twelve and one of my uncles sent me down to the drugstore for a couple of westerns, one for me and one for him. That first novel was Fort Starvation by Frank Gruber, and I was hooked! I got my English degree at the University of North Dakota and my MFA from the University of Arizona, and of course genre fiction was taboo. At that time I wanted to be the next great Hemingway, but after college I was hit by the western bug again—the genre was just ground into me, I guess—so I forgot everything the literary sophisticates taught me (if I learned anything from them at all, which I doubt) and began pounding out my first novel, Once a Marshal. It’s still my favorite genre, and I love reading old westerns by long-dead pulpsters and watching the western movies of the old, great directors like Anthony Mann and Budd Boetticher.
BookEnds: What’s your next book? When and where should we look for it?
Peter: The next book is part of my Rogue Lawman series from Berkley. It will be out in April, and it’s called Cold Corpse, Hot Trail, my wildest and woolliest tale yet!
BookEnds: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Peter: When I was sixteen and in love with the work of the novelist Jim Harrison, I wrote him a fan letter. I also asked him for advice. He wrote me back what I’ve found to be the best advice I’ve ever been given. I lost the letter a long time ago, but memorized the whole thing, including: “You must be willing to fall on your face all by yourself countless times. To be persistent, meticulous, and energetic might work after what to you will have seemed like an unreasonable amount of time.”
BookEnds: What do you see as some of the biggest mistakes beginning writers make?
Peter: Writing for themselves instead of an audience.
BookEnds: What are you reading now?
Peter: I read everything, and I mean everything. I’m currently reading the old sports articles by Jimmy Cannon, Ring Lardner, a book about Stanley’s exploration of Africa, comic books (The Swamp Thing), and a collection of poems by Ted Kooser.
To learn more about Peter Brandvold, see Our Books at www.BookEnds-Inc.com.