Thursday, May 23, 2013

"Wolf Mountain": An Interview with Author L.J. Martin

Their family had carved a homestead from a fierce Montana mountainside. Now Colin and Kevin McQuade must get 200 head of cattle down to the 5th Infantry at the Tongue River, even though the Sioux are riding wild in the land. With winter bearing down, the McQuades prepare to fight their way south. But they aren't counting on a slick St. Louis gambler joining the drive. Or a beautiful young woman pursued by a rich man's thugs. Or the horror that is about to strike in Rocky Butte. Another wild western in The Montana Series from acclaimed writer L. J. Martin.

An Interview with L.J. Martin
Tell us a little about yourself.

Husband, 2nd marriage, father of four boys, now numbering three, two of whom live nearby in Montana, grandfather of six.  Started work life as a real estate salesman, broker, developer and later as an appraiser and contractor.  Began writing, in earnest, in my forties, finally leaving all other vocations to work at it full time, as did my wife, Kat Martin, an NYT best-selling author of romantic suspense.  I have 36 books, if you count a couple of novellas and small short story collections.  A half dozen of those are non-fiction.

What inspired you to write this book?
Wolf Mountain is one of many westerns I’ve written.  I was raised in California, but in a county with four of the country’s largest oil fields, lots of sheep and cattle, and huge agricultural production.  Kern County is the Oklahoma and Texas of California, so was a westerner by saturation, and spoke the language.  Westerns came naturally to me.  I worked as a wrangler and mule packer as a youth.  And of course I read, not only westerns but all popular writers of my youth.  This particular novel was inspired by an actual historical event when ranchers in early Montana drove 200 head of cattle down the Yellowstone, in the middle of the Inidan uprisings of the early 1870’s, to General Mile’s containment at what is now Mile’s City, just prior to the capture of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse’s fleeling the country to Canada.

Did you plan to be a writer or did it just happen?
Evolved from being a voracious reader.

What is your favorite non-writing pastime?
To numerous to mention...but travel is way up there.

When did you decide to take that step that made you a published author?
Bought a boat after my divorce and lived on her in Dana Point for a year.  Reading Richard Henry Dana’s TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST encouraged me to write a historical as it was the research material I needed.

What has been your greatest challenge as a writer? Have you been able to overcome it?
It’s always come very easy to me, so I guess I’m blessed.  Having always earned my living as a real estate salesperson, self-starting was natural.  Many writers, I believe, are hindered by having a job and getting a check at the end of the month whether they’ve earned it or not.  You’ve got to apply yourself in writing to have any kind of result...and apply yourself pretty damn well to make a living at it.

Is writing a full-time career for you? If not, how else do you spend your work day?
It has been for both myself and my wife for 28 years.

If you had to sum it up Wolf Mountain in 30 or less words, what would you say?
The site of one of the country’s most historically significant battles at one of it’s most exciting periods.  Wolf Mountain changed the west.

What inspired the idea behind your book?
Historical events.

Do you have a favorite character in Wolf Mountain? Who and why?
That’s a little like asking if I have a favorite child or grandchild.

Without giving it all away, please tell us a little something about how the main character is going to get through their biggest challenge.
Survival through mental and physical toughness.

What has been your greatest challenge in writing Wolf Mountain?
It flowed like the Yellowstone.

Will you share with us a short preview of Wolf Mountain?
I’ll share the whole book if you like.

What message do you hope readers take away from the book?
I write to entertain, and if the reader learns a little something along the way, all the better.

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
Horse, cattle, fist-fights, gun use, the Yellowstone, the Tongue, the country and it’s hazards all come from experience...and of course human interaction and relationships are the result of same.

Which character will be the most difficult to part with?  
None of them, all of those who live, live on so long as the book is in print.

While writing the book, did you connect with one character more than the others? Who and how?
One tries to connect with all of them, or one doesn’t write them well.

Do you share any personality traits with your main character?
I hope so.

What kind of research was involved for Wolf Mountain?
Tons.  The country, the topography, the Indian tribes, the Army, cattle, wildlife, and on and on.

Do you have to be alone or have quiet to write?
After raising four boys?  If there’s no noise I worry.

What has been your greatest pleasure in writing this book?
Research and learning.

Of the books you’ve written, which is your favorite?
Again, like asking which is my favorite child or grandchild.
Who do you read for inspiration? Why?
I read lots of journals and non-fiction, plus all the great fiction writers I can get I hands on.  But I don’t tolerate poor writing and chuck them in the circular file after a few pages if they haven’t hooked me.

What draws you to a book? Why do you pick it up off the shelf?
I’ll read the first ten chapters of almost anything.

As a multi-genre author, how do you juggle going back and forth between the different genres? Do you have a preferred genre?
I love westerns, thrillers, historicals, and mysteries.  I enjoy non-fiction if I have something to inspire or teach.

Do you have plans for a new book?  Is this book part of a series?
I’m constantly writing more than one, and usually both fiction, non-fiction, and a screenplay.

What do you have in store next for your readers?
A thriller.

What has been your greatest pleasure or personal success as an author?
A high school history teacher who told me my RUSH TO DESTINY taught his students more California history than their text’s, and they loved learning it.  That and the wonderful compliment, “I couldn’t put it down.” 

What type of hero do you like best?
Tough, moral, but flawed.

What type of heroine do you like best?
Tough, moral, but flawed.

If you could meet any writer, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you want to know?
Hemmingway, and to listen to stories of Spain.

Did you have a favorite character or hero as a child? Do you have a literary hero as an adult?
My grandmother read Heidi to my when I was six and in one of her nightgowns in bed next to her.  That memory has stuck with me.

What’s the best book your mother ever gave or read to you?
Too many to remember.

What was the last book that made you cry?
Anytime I read my wife’s books, I get a tear.  Bridges of Madison County brought me to tears, and I was published by Time Magazine when I wrote a scathing rebuttal to a bad review (a full page) that was published in the mag. Anyone who didn’t understand that novel doesn’t understand life.

The last book that made you laugh?
I usually laugh at poor writing (which I’m also guilty of).

What was the last truly great book you read?
Misery by Stephen King, Intensity by Dean Koontz, Tell No One by Harlan Coben and many more.

What are you planning to read this summer? 
Reading lots of short stories as I’m judging for contests.

What were your favorite books as a child?
Louis L’Amour, Mickey Spilliane, John Steinbeck, Alistare Mclane.

What’s the one book you wish someone else would write?
I want to write them all.

What was the last book you just couldn’t finish?
Too many to mention.

If you could be any character from literature, who would it be?
James Bond. J

What do you plan to read next?

If you could live the life of any character in any book, which would choose and why?
Too many to mention.

Do you write your friends or family members into your books? If so, did they figure it out?
Everyone I know or have known is part and parcel of my books.

Is there any place and time in the world and in history that you would like to visit?
The future, so I could warn those of today about so many things they’re doing wrong.

What is your favorite scene in Wolf Mountain?
It’s always the opening and the conclusion, equally, if I’ve done it right.

How do you unwind after a long writing session?
Glass of wine with my wife.

Who or what has most influenced your writing?
My wife, who decided we should learn the craft.

Is there a genre you wish you could write, but haven’t made the plunge? Which one and what appeals to you about it?
None.  My plate is full.

What appeals to you most about your chosen genre?
As to westerns, the morality of the time, and the simple ways it was enforced.

What is one trait you despise in people that you tend to give your villains/protagonists?

If you had the authority to do so, what five books would remove from the banned/challenged lists? 
All of them.

Do you have a favorite author? Who and why?
Too many to mention.

How do you feel about book trailers and do you have any?
I’m a photographer and videographer by vocation, so I have over 100 trailers, instructional, and commentary videos on YouTube.  Search ljmartinwolfpack.

What is your greatest weakness as a writer? Your greatest strength?
If I knew by greatest weakness I’d fix it.  Strength?  Tenacity.

Why did you choose to be an Indie writer and would you choose to self-publish again?
Go with the dough.  If a NY publisher stepped up with enough dough, I’d roll with them.

If you had a chance to rewrite, is there anything about your book you would change?
I’ve never written a book I wouldn’t make changes in, and believe that any writer who says their book is perfect is a damn fool.  But you’ve got to at some point write “The End,” or it never ends.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve received?  
Write.  Simple as that.

What are you reading now? Why did you choose that book?  
A half dozen, laying all over the house, my office, the bathrooms, the kitchen....

Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
If there was, I would, and/or will.

What challenges did you face in getting your first book published
Ha, same’o.  However for most “western” writers its the fact 25 year old Eastern university girls are on the front line of acquiring editors...and one out of five hundred has ever been west of the Hudson.

How long did it take to get this book from idea to being published? What was the most grueling process?   
If I’m writing and driven, it’s a three month process for a full 85,000 word western.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing Wolf Mountain?
That the tribes were “walked down” in the winter, a ploy of General Miles.

Do you have any interesting writing quirks?  
Too many, most of them bad.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?   
Started a thriller when 25 but was too busy raising kids and trying to keep food on the table to finish it.  Wrote my first full length at 37, sold my first one at 42.

What is your favorite movie based on a book, where you preferred the movie?
I love both disciplines.

Laptop, desktop or notebook and pen/pencil for writing?  
Yes. :)  But mostly desktop.

Do you believe in writer’s block? Has it ever happened to you?
Having a good work ethic, no I do not.  As I tell young writers, if you hire a guy to build you a garage and you walk out and he’s staring at a pile of lumber, and you ask why, do you expect him to reply, “I’ve got carpenter’s block?”  If you’re a writer, write until you get it right.

Is there a book you’ve ever read more than five times? Which book and what drew you back to it?
Strunk and White, and it still hasn’t sunk in.

Have you ever literally deleted or thrown away a book you’ve written? 
No, I’ve set many aside and gone on to something else.

You’re spending one year living on a desert island – which three authors do you want with you?   
Tall, long legged blond beauties, presuming my wife won’t join me.

If you were casting your main characters for a movie, who would be your top picks?

Did the plot of the book turn out the way you planned or did something change during the process of writing it? 
It always changes.  I’m never stuck with preconceived notions or “plans.”

If you could get anyone to read your book, who would you choose and why?
A major studio head.

What are three things people may not know about you? 
Lots more than three, I hope. :)

Meet the Author

L. J. Martin is the author of 36 book length works of fiction and non-fiction, published by Bantam, Avon, Pinnacle and his own Wolfpack Publishing.  His work’s in hardback, paperback, large print, and audio.  He’s also an optioned screenwriter. He lives in Montana with his wife, NYT best selling romantic suspense author Kat Martin.  The Martin's winter in California.

Connect with L.J. Martin

Also connect with L.J. at
and at the Kitchen at Wolfpack Ranch on Facebook.

Enjoy an Excerpt from Wolf Mountain
Chapter One
October 22, 1876

An early and particularly bitter wind howled down the aspen filled saddle from the fresh snow-covered rock escarpment above.  Wisps of snow-powder lifted off the ridge and the trees below bent in supplication.  The October storm had been freak but did not bode well for the coming winter.

The sharp crack of a rifle again punctuated the wind’s moan and splinters splattered from fallen aspen over their heads.

“Kev, if the bloody dogs get above us to the top of the ridge, there’ll be hell to pay.”

“That’s no problem, Colin.  Let Dugan and I circle over to that cut, and we can flank them and pull their teeth as they try to cross the clearing?”

“What the hell are the Hunkpapa doing this far west.  Damn the luck.”

Hunkered behind blow-down Aspen in late morning, Colin McQuade and his younger brother Kevin lay pinned down by a band of Hunkpapa Sioux, some of Sitting Bull’s band.  Since their great victory at the Little Bighorn, the Sioux and the Northern Cheyenne had become bolder.  Mile’s 5th Infantry had routed the Sitting Bull and the Hunkpapa at Cedar Creek and again at Ash Creek, destroying their lodges, and split them into roving bands of warriors.  Miles had accepted the surrender of two thousand Hunkpapa, Minneconjou and Sans Arc Sioux, over eighty percent of Sitting Bull’s entire war strength.  They were now on their way south to the reservation under the armed guard of Lieutenant Forbes and a strong force of the fighting 5th.

But there were still plenty of hostiles out there between Bozeman and the Missouri River.

Worse, half of the McQuade’s herd of over five hundred head of summer fat cattle milled just beyond the aspens, nervously stomping and bellowing.  Already jumpy from the howling frigid wind, it had been a wonder they hadn’t stampeded with the first shots the Sioux had flung at the group from a distant stand of lodgepole pine. 

Colin and Kevin both knew the Indians were more than likely merely hungry and hoped some of the cattle would bolt and stray from the herd, but the McQuades owed the bank, and every beef was critical to their survival.  Even the family was eating elk, venison, and antelope, keeping every head for the few dollars they would bring.

“No, Kev me lad.  It’s a fine idea, but I’m sending Petersen with Dugan.  Let’s keep yer ugly hide in one piece.”

Kevin sighed deeply, running his hand through his thick black hair, feeling a little heat on the back of his neck.  At ten years younger than his older brother he was seldom able to try his wings at anything if his brother had anything to say about it, other than rounding up and branding stray steers, or haying.  Yet, he was a full-grown man, and better at many things than his brother.

But he’d promised his ma--on her deathbed--and da, that he’d listen to Colin, and he’d been taught to honor his promises.  His ma had gone to her reward ten years ago, when Kevin was but a lad of fifteen, and Colin had raised and mentored him these ten years hence.  His father had been near all that time, but hadn’t been right in the head for many years.  Kev clinched his jaw and slunk a little deeper behind the blow-down as a big .45/.70 slug slammed into the aspen, kicking up bark. 

Many Sioux were armed with Springfield Army Cavalry carbines, thanks to Custer’s brashness, but unless there were a dozen or more of them together, they couldn’t throw as much lead as the McQuades, with their lever action Winchesters and Colt’s revolvers.

“Damn the thievin’ redskins,” Colin snapped.  “If we’re gonna get out of this, we’d better get our heads down and tails up and get on with it.  Dugan!  Petersen!” he shouted to the other two hands he’d hired to help bring the cattle down from the high mountain before the snows came in earnest.

From a spot in the aspens thirty yards away, a tentative gravelly voice rang out over the wind’s moan.  “I’m here, bossman.”

“Take Petersen and work your way up to the end of the grove, then follow that cut up aways to keep them from crossin’ and getting atop the ridge.”

There was silence for a minute, then Petersen’s voice rang out, “Let them have the damn cattle--“

“The hell you say.  This is damn nigh half our calf crop and some of our best cows.  If they get atop the ridge, there’ll be hell to pay.”

“Then we should light a shuck.”

“I’m going,” Kevin said, rising.

“No.”  His larger and older brother grabbed Kevin’s wolf-skin coat and jerked him back down.  “Petersen!” Colin shouted, shoving his brother low below the log pile.

“We’re headin’ out,” Petersen answered as the wind quieted, his voice on the timid side, “before they figure out they can cut us up from atop the ridge.  You boys is on yer own.”

“If you do, then keep going, you damned cowering dog!  Don’t be stoppin’ at the home place for your pay.”

“A few dollars don’t do a man no good if he’s toes up.”

The McQuade brothers could hear the two drovers clamor away through the timber, then saw the flash of their horse’s rumps as they mounted and gave them the spurs, galloping away from the ensuing battle.

“The bloody Dugan’s always was a sorry lot,” Colin groused.  “An’ so’s that squarehead.  I shoulda given them a bullet in their backside.”

“Now what?” Kevin asked.

“Hell, I wish I knew.”

“Those Hunkpapa keep throwing lead, they’ll have our horses down and there won’t be much for us to do but wait till they get the angle on us.  ...Come on!”

This time Colin didn’t get a hand on Kev, and he broke at a dead run toward where they’d tied their two mounts.  There wasn’t much to do but follow, so Colin did, even though the woods up the hill exploded with gunfire.  He sprang to his feet, ducked low, and charged after his smaller but much faster brother.  By the time he reached the animals, Kevin was already mounted.  The shallow snow around them was kicking up plumes of snow and mud as big slugs slammed aground. 

Just as Colin swung into the gray’s saddle a bullet smashed into his thigh and blood splattered across the gilding’s flank.  “By the saint’s,” he cried out, his eyes wide as blood gushed.

“Can you ride?” Kevin yelled.

“Have to.”

“Then follow me.”

Kevin slammed his booted heels into his big buckskin’s side and the horse leapt forward; not away as Colin had anticipated, but toward the herd.

Colin sheathed his Winchester and grasped the horn with one hand, reining with the other, and giving the heel of his good leg to the big gray he rode.  The gilding had already leapt after Kevin and the buckskin.

Kevin McQuade, Colin thought as his horse charged behind his brother, you’re a crazy lout, crazier than yer daft daI’m shot all to hell....  If we live through this day....


1 comment:

  1. Truly sounds good; I'm hooked. Are the books in The Montana Series all stand alone or do they need to be read in order?