MK: The Ranch Next Door and Other Stories is a compilation of enjoyable short stories with a western flair. What inspired you to write these stories?
EF: Inspiration for short stories comes from all over. Very often they start with just a little idea—a single incident, or an idea for a character, that gradually grows into a story in my head. I think a couple of these ones actually started with something I dreamed. The title of “The Ranch Next Door” was inspired by the title of a “lost” song by noted Western songwriter Bob Nolan (author of standards like “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” and “Cool Water”)—“lost” because it was registered for copyright, but no lyrics or sheet music have survived. With no idea what the original song was about, I fell to imagining what kind of story would go with that title, and had one written before I knew it!
MK: Do you have a favorite of the stories? If so, which one and why?
EF: I’m fond of them all, but I have a soft spot for “Disturbing the Peace.” I personally think it may be the best one, and the creative process was one of the quickest and smoothest, from initial idea to writing to completion. I remember one night last year when I was having some trouble writing and feeling very discouraged, I took a break from the story I was working on and pulled out “Disturbing the Peace” after not having read it in months. I thought I would only be disappointed with it, too. But I was so pleasantly surprised by how much I actually liked it that it was a tremendous encouragement—an experience that it still helps to remind myself of when I hit a rough patch with my work.
MK: Well said! You have a lot of characters in this book. Do you have a favorite character you’ve written? Who and why?
EF: No, not exactly. I generally have an equal fondness for all my protagonists—I suppose I like each one best while I’m writing them! And I always really enjoy writing the supporting characters who add a touch of humor, like Dr. Goebel in “The Outlaw’s Wife.”
MK: What has been your greatest challenge in writing these stories?
EF: Probably my greatest challenge in all my writing is focus. If I get too many different projects going at once, I go a little bit distracted trying to decide which one I really want to write, and then I don’t get anything done at all! Last year I had to make myself firmly decide just what I wanted in this first book and set some definite goals for getting all the stories finished and edited—and in the end, it worked.
MK: What is it you want the readers to take away from these stories? Is it pure fiction or is there an underlying message?
EF: Well, I think the best kind of fiction is the kind that entertains, and yet also makes the reader think a little bit. Several of these stories do have a bit of an underlying message or moral woven through—often something that found its way in almost without my realizing it until I read the story over afterwards. A lot of the time I’ll begin with a very simple plot, and find it taking on additional layers of depth as I go along.
MK: So much fun when that happens! So tell us, how do you unwind after a long writing session?
EF: I like going outside for a walk best, especially on a cool, clear day—I’m prone to a little eye strain if I read or write too much in one sitting, and fresh air is wonderful to help clear away the headache it causes.
MK: If there was any place (past, present or future) you could visit, where would it be and why?
EF: I love mountains. If I were to travel I’d certainly pick somewhere with mountains—the Rockies or somewhere in the Northwest if it was in the U.S., and the Alpine countries if it was overseas.
MK: What do you have in store next for your readers?
EF: I’m working on a couple of different projects. I’d like to put together another collection of short stories to follow these, and I’ve written a couple of historical novellas/short novels that need some more editing—one a mystery, another a comedy. I’m not sure yet which will be the first in print.
Elisabeth has a giveaway right now over at Goodreads. She'll be giving away two paperback copies via a Goodreads giveaway, lasting from March 20th to April 20th: http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/22851-the-ranch-next-door-and-other-stories