Tuesday, September 18, 2012

On the Deer Run Trail: An Interview with David R. Lewis

"He stopped driftin’, found friends worth lookin’ up to, an’ a young woman that was right admirable.

Joining us today from the Missouri outback is author David R. Lewis as we talk about his book, On the Deer Run Trail. Welcome David!

Did you plan to be a writer or did it just happen?

I was working on a cattle ranch that also sold a particular brand of feed. The owner of the ranch wanted a commercial for the feed to run on a local radio station and asked me to voice the spot. When we got to the station, the copy was so bad I re-wrote it and did the recording. Two days later the station offered me a job as a writer/announcer. I spent twenty-five years working with radio, television, and ad agencies while grinding out over thirty thousand pieces of copy. That type of labor either sharpens your craft, or drives you crazy. The jury is still out on me, I think.

What is your favorite non-writing pastime?

Hanging out with my bride of 42 years, the coveted Laura.

What has been your greatest challenge as a writer? Have you been able to overcome it?

Self-editing and throwing out the “trash” so the work remains clean and uncluttered. I have been able to do it reasonably well, but I don’t believe it will ever be overcome. It requires constant effort...and it should.

Is writing a full-time career for you? If not, how else do you spend your work day?

Writing is my job. When it is combined with research, editing, working on the website, stomping around to ease my back and wishing I had a better office chair, it takes up most of my time.

What inspired the idea behind your book?

I was raised by my grandfather, a man born in the 1800’s. He knew men who were there during the timeline of this book and told me stories about their uncomplicated views of right, wrong, duty, and responsibility. The stories of those men and the headfirst way they went at life always fascinated me, and it is from them the characters in this book evolved.

Tell us about your favorite character in this book!

My favorite character is a member of the hero’s (Ruben Beeler) supporting cast. U.S. Marshal Marion Daniels is a man of experience, will, and determination who would be irritated if he were called brave. He recognizes undeveloped potential in Ruben and becomes the young man’s mentor, although Marion would have no idea what that word means. The only thing I don’t like about him is his mustache. It’s significantly manlier than mine.

What message do you hope readers take away from the book?

I’m a storyteller and I depend on my characters to relate to the reader. Perhaps some of them may have a message, but I don’t. I do believe, however, that if a message is somehow required, it will show up. Is that vague enough? If not, perhaps I can re-write it.

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

When I was young, I carried a gun and a badge for a living. Later, I worked for two years on a cattle ranch, most of that time on horseback. Combine those life experiences, knock off 130 years, do the research, and saddle up.

Do you have to be alone or have quiet to write?

I prefer it. Actually my favorite time to write is during the night, with a lighted keyboard, in near total darkness. The phone doesn’t ring, the dogs don’t want to go out, my bride is asleep, and only Grizz the wonder cat hassles me.

What has been your greatest pleasure in writing this book?

Getting to know the characters and watching them interact with one another.

I would read these books simply because of the covers – all in the series are beautiful! Did you have a part in their design?

With the exception of a glaring error by my insistent publisher on my first book, all of the covers are of my design and construction.

As a multi-genre author, how do you juggle going back and forth between the different genres? Do you have a preferred genre?

I don’t go back and forth between genres. I fixate on one and stick with it until I realize that the book I’m working on will not be as good as, or better than, the first of the bunch. At that point I scrap it and move on to something else. I don’t believe I have a preferred genre, although I must admit that writing these westerns is a lot of fun and very rewarding.

Do you have plans for a new book?  Is this book part of a series?

I almost always have plans for a new book. It’s a curse or a sickness, I haven’t decided which. This book is the first in what has evolved into a series. I’m currently working on the fourth one.

What has been your greatest pleasure or personal success as an author?

Finding out that someone enjoys what I write. In the days when I was doing book signings and such, I liked the personal contact with readers. All of us appreciate that kind of validation, I suppose. But now, just hearing of someone’s pleasure through another source is most rewarding. Indirect compliments are most believable.

If you had a chance to rewrite, is there anything about your book you would change?

Many things, probably. Books are like paintings, I think. They’re never really finished, just abandoned.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve received?

If you’re going to write fiction, get your facts straight.

Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?

I’m thinking about writing a book entitled Fifty Shade of Puce, but I can’t come up with a plot...or characters...or enthusiasm.

Laptop, desktop or notebook and pen for writing?

You forgot pencils. I’ve used them all, but now laptop.

Do you believe in writer’s block? Has it ever happened to you?

I believe in writer’s fatigue. It’s easy for me to get caught up with my characters and simply write so much that I become emotionally and physically worn out. The fatigue that comes from that is very frustrating and can be perceived as a block of some type. I think it is really a self-defense mechanism that stops me writing for a while so I can catch my creative breath. Or I’m just loafing. It’s hard to tell the two apart.

Is there a book you’ve ever read more than five times? Which book and what drew you back to it?

Several, actually, but my two favorites are Lonesome Dove and Shogun. Both are true epics with masterful plots and sub-plots, but what draws me back to them is the strength of their characters.

Have you ever literally deleted or thrown away a book you’ve written?

Not an entire book, but nearly 50,000 words. It was a sequel for sequel’s sake. Sequels should be as good or better than the original work. If not, they need to be trashed. It wasn’t and it was
You’re spending one year living on a desert island – which three authors do you want with you?

Four writers trapped on a desert island for a year? My God, we’d kill each other!

Did the plot of the book turn out the way you planned or did something change during the process of writing it?

All kinds of things change for me. I have written sixteen books so far and, as with life, not one has ever gone to plan. Maybe I should stop planning.

Favorite place? 


Best Christmas present? 


Favorite smell? 


Favorite quote?   

“I wanna make it real slow until I die, beloved. Then I want to taper off.” –Brother Dave Gardner

Your best trait? 

I’m a writer.

Your worst trait? 

I’m a writer.

 The Book
The year was 1881, an’ young Ruben Beeler was makin’ his way along near the Missouri River, findin’ work when he could an’ livin’ the only life he knew. When he come on ol’ Arliss Hyatt, beat to hell an’ near shot to death, Rube done what he could for him. He didn’t know that act of kindness was gonna wind up changin’ his whole life, but it did. Green as grass, Rube was a long way from bein’ any kind of pistoleer or shootist, but when Marshal Marion Daniels come on him an’ Arliss, an’ needed help with the Duncan bunch for what they’d done, that tussle growed Rube up right quick. He stopped driftin’, found friends worth lookin’ up to, an’ a young woman that was right admirable. Then a town in trouble put him behind a badge of his own, an’ Rube done things he never thought he’d have to do. Life got tough. For the sake a Marion, Arliss, an’ Miss Harmony, it come time for him to root hog or die, on the Deer Run Trail.

The Author

From childhood on the banks of the Sangamon River to young adulthood on a metropolitan police department, through hardscrabble years working cattle in the Ozarks to a career in broadcasting, David has gathered a wealth of life experience and understanding that is as evident in his writing as it is on his face. 

During the past decades, he has earned regional and international awards for writing and performing radio commercial copy. More importantly, he has learned to write concisely, visually, and with understanding for “theatre of the mind.” 
David is now living on seven miles of bad road in the Missouri outback with his wife of 42 years, where he watches turkeys, dodges deer, listens to frogs, looks at stars, argues with two Australian cattle dogs, and devotes his time to writing. 

Where can your readers find you?

My Goodreads author page:  http://www.goodreads.com/DavidRLewis

Is your book in Print, eBook or both?

I have a few books in print, but this one is an eBook. I recently went back in studio for the first time in several years and produced Deer Run Trail as a digital audio book.

An Excerpt

The next mornin’ I went up to the shack an’ spent two or three hours settin’ in some of the boards for my ceilin’. I went back to Miz’ Clary’s then an’ washed up, shaved my face, brushed my teeth with salt, put on my cleanest pair a saddle pants, the brown striped shirt I’d never wore afore, knocked some of the dust offa my hat, slapped on a little Bay Rum, hitched up the Schofield on my gunbelt, an’ walked down to the livery.
I stepped inside the barn an’ there was Willie, all saddled up, an’ Homer Poteet, puttin’ a saddle on a good lookin’ little liver-chestnut mare that I hadn’t never seen ‘til then.
“Howdy there, Rube,” Homer said to me. “Ya might check on your saddle an’ make sure I got it where ya want it on his withers.”
“Mornin’, Homer,” I said. “What are ya doin’?”
“What does it look like, boy? I’m gittin’ these horses ready for you an’ Harmony to go on your ride. Ain’t this chestnut a purty little thing?”
“I thought we was goin’ in a buggy,” I said.
“Reckon not,” he said, reachin’ under the mare to collect the cinch. “She brought this mare down here a little while ago an’ asked if I’d saddle these two up for ya.”
‘Bout that time, Miss Harmony come walkin’ in. She was wearin’ what looked like a long skirt to me, but what turned out to be kindly a pair a pants with big ol’ pleated legs. She was carryin’ a canteen an’ some saddle bags.
“Hello, Ruben,” she said, smilin’ at me. “Nice of Mister Poteet to saddle our horses for us, don’t you think?”
“Yes, it is, Miss Harmony,” I said, sorta confused.
“We have biscuits and bacon if we get hungry,” she said. “Shall we go?”
She led that little mare on out. Homer, grinnin’ like a damn possum, handed me Willie’s reins an’ punched me on the arm. “Now you two children have a good time an’ play nice,” he said.
I got out in the sunshine in time to see Miss Harmony swing up onto her horse. That’s when I noticed that skirt was pants. I clumb up on Willie an’ she reined her horse an’ started off. I followed her on.
We hit a wagon trail goin’ west, an’ she put that mare in a short lope. I eased up beside her an’ we rode on that way a little, while I watched her out of the corner of my eye.
“Miss Harmony,” I said, “I got to say that you set a horse real comfortable like.”
She laughed, her face shinin’ in the sun. “Are you saying that I don’t ride like a girl?” she said.
“I reckon I am,” I said. “It speaks good for ya, I believe.”
“You think so?” she said, an’ touched the chestnut. That little mare took off. I give Willie my heels an’ loosed him. He laid back his ears an’ done what he liked to do.
I had to check him back a little so he wouldn’t pass the mare, an’ we went on like that for a ways, afore Miss Harmony started laughin’ an’ reined her horse in. We dropped into a walk to cool ‘em out some.
“That buckskin can run a little,” she said.
“He’s fast,” I said, “an’ quick, too. I git a choice, I’d just as soon have a quick horse than a fast one. I’m lucky with Willie. He’s both. Your chestnut is a purty thing. I like the color of her.”
“She’s easy to use,” Miss Harmony said.

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