Tuesday, June 16, 2015

TEN SHOES UP: 5 Questions for Western Author Gary L. Stuart and a Book Giveaway

I don't get many Old West style books on the blog these days—much to my dismay—which is why I'm so pleased to welcome author Gary L. Stuart to Books & Benches. 

Ten Shoes Up
Gleason & Wall Publishing | 360 pages
April 13, 2015 | 978-0986344107
Angus is an 1880s cowboy riding and hiding on Ten Shoes Up, a 10,000 foot mountain straddling the border between New Mexico and Colorado. With a slack rein, he rides straight-legged, always on the lookout. Angus doesn't talk much except to Tucson, his bay gelding. Men admire the way he sits a saddle, and women wonder if he's going to dismount. As he rides into a new town, any fool can see he’s well-armed, confident, and riding a fine horse. He’s often taken for a scout or a trapper, or an outlaw. Some say his coming down off "his" mountain was reluctant. Others say it's about time. Town folk still mull their all too human problems, but Angus depends on the horse he rides, the trails he follows, and the rivers he crosses. His code—Hold true to nature, hide your misery, stay out of sight.  In his early twenties, Angus is on a mission and struggles to resolve issues he thought were buried with his young wife.

His life bears little likeness to today’s frenetic culture. Still, what happens to him parallels choices made by many young people today. While the West is no longer wild, today's culture owes much of its footing to men like Angus. Angus and Tucson are the same story—the onrush of civilization and its fated codes that clash with deeply held beliefs. 

Find the book at Amazon: Print | Kindle

Praise for Ten Shoes Up
“Wow, that Gary Stuart knows his stuff! I loved this book because I don’t usually read stories about the Old West. But Ten Shoes Up is a lot more than just an old-fashioned Western. I’m not a cowboy but I had lots of fun reading about all the trouble that Angus gets into. Somehow, he gets out of it too. Great read!”  —Jodie K. Soto, Amazon Reviewer

"An interesting tale of a lawman at the turn of the 19th century in the old west. The story blends the beauty of the wilderness and the freedom of mountain men with the realities of lawlessness in the sprawling Southwest. A very enjoyable read." —Beatrice Lamb, Amazon Reviewer

"This read will surprise you. Excellent descriptive prose of the Old West and it's people, which combines surprising turns of events with the moral dilemma facing a Lawman on the chase. The ending will make you re-think your ethics of justice." —Dennis H. Mason, Amazon Reviewer 

The Giveaway
Gary is giving away two print copies of Ten Shoes Up. Simply comment to be entered. Winners will be chosen 6/23/15. Shipping to US addresses only. 

5 Questions for Gary L. Stuart
What has been your greatest challenge as a writer? Have you been able to overcome it?
Making the transfer from serious nonfiction to literary western fiction was very hard. My nonfiction books live in the world of accurate information about complex legal issues. But moving to literary western fiction is transformative because my readers are not driven by information—they want to be entertained while learning more about the human condition in the 1880s American West.  

What is your favorite scene in Ten Shoes Up?
Chapter 27 is my favorite because it surprises the reader by revealing the big secret up to this point in the book. The previous 159 pages give contradictory hints and suggest a number of possibilities about exactly who the protagonist (“Angus”) really is. How did he become the target of posse? Why does the antagonist (“Captain Standard H. Plumb) want to kill him rather than take him back to Santa Fe for trial? How did he manage to rob those trains by himself, with no gang and no apparent motivation? Did he really rob all those trains?

Which writer(s) have or do inspire you?
Cormac McCarthy because he is the indisputable master of “my” kind of fiction. John Nichols because he invents quirky characters who are always deeper than they seem. Ivan Doig because he uses landscapes as characters and personal conflicts as drivers. Larry McMurtry because he understood why the West was a magnet and why dry humor builds character. And most importantly, Irving Stone because he connected real people and events in narrative prose better than anyone else.  

Do you share any personality traits with Angus?
I hope so. Angus found his life’s purpose by dealing with tragedy in his own way. He avoids unnecessary conflict by minding his own business. And he is open to what life brings to him, without fretting much about the short term outcome. He’s much better at all of that than I am, but I admire him for it. 

What appeals to you most about your chosen genre?
The American frontier in the 1880s was so out-of-touch with the rest of the world. It was a frontier because it was a rough, little understood reality. It was at the far edge of peaceful cohabitation, organized legal structure, imbedded families, and insisted that young people follow a well-defined paths, be who their parents wanted them to be, and limit their travel to a few miles from home. They only traveled on railroads, stage coaches, and wagons. Never ventured far and rarely alone. The freedom to be still, to think alone, and to test your future were uniquely American West realities. And there was danger everywhere, always testing whether you had the courage to climb that trail or cross that river.

Meet the Author
I earned degrees in business and law at the University of Arizona, and practiced law in Phoenix Arizona for a long time. In the 1990s, I started writing long form, outside the office.  I grew up in Gallup New Mexico and always “hankered” to write a book about rural life in the southwest. 

I currently teach creative writing to law students at Arizona State University. I write every day. My stack includes hundreds of short stories, articles, monologs, op-eds and blogs about writing and writers. I got back to my cowboy roots in the nineteen-eighties, which might explain why I’m now writing about life out west in the eighteen-eighties. Gallup, Tucson and Darlene are my horses; they’ve taught me a good deal about who I am over the last thirty years. Ten Shoes Up is the first of a three-book series set in the 1880s along the New Mexico Colorado border. These books can’t be booted down into the traditional western genre. They chronicle the challenges that young men and women faced at the turn of the 19th Century. From Angus’s point of view, as portrayed on my blog, not all that much has changed. 


A note from Gary about his blog:

I write a blog from my website—I hope it is different from most other writer blogs in that it has little to do with writing. While I am the dramatized narrator in the blog, the topics and the ideas come from Angus, my central character. He is an opinionated man in the blog, which is very different from how he presents in the novel. There, he mostly minds his own business and prefers his own company. He is not a man of the world in the novel. But in the blog, he seizes the opportunity to comment on how different his world was from the frenetic, hip, instant world that people in the American West now face. 

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