Me: How did you come to write The Stranger in the Valley?
Oscar: I wrote the novel in about six months, more or less, about four years ago, then set it aside. A couple of years ago, I took another look at it and made another attempt at revising. As parts of have a fictionalized autobiographical aspect, I came to the conclusion that it isn't a truly traditional type western, but it is a western, nevertheless. The town of Altaveel is fictional, but I think it accurately reflects the people and their attitudes and manners in a small Mormon town sometime after the Civil War.
Me: Tell us about your hero.
Oscar: Chappie Wesford is a typical Marshal, but he is assigned to carry out an untypical mission, and puts his badge aside to travel to Altaveel for the Army to present awards to two citizens of the town. He is an older man, fearless, quick on the draw, good at fisticuffs, and has a well-trained horse. He is a widower, easygoing, and falls for Widow Bigknife, who is shunned by the local wives, who think she is a woman of little virtue. New to the town, he has to make friends and win over enemies to complete the mission.
Me: Who or what is the antagonist?
Oscar: The Henberrys are the principal antagonists, the wealthiest and most powerful family in town, who think Wesford is there to take over their business interests for himself or others. Milt Henberry, the oldest son, is the main enforcer. He has a relationship with the Widow Bigknife, and has it in for Chappie, who appears to Milt to be enamoured with the Widow. He and Oakley Henberry try to kill Wesford.
Me: Who are your favorite writers?
Oscar: I don't have any favorites, but here are some that I like maybe a little more than others: Larry McMurtry, James Michener, Thomas Pynchon, Bernard DeVoto, Zane Grey, Wallace Stegner, Mark Twain, James Jones, Norman Mailer, and others. There are just too many not to include as favorites.
Me: How about western writers?
Oscar: There again, too many to pick out favorites, but I will list Larry McMurtry, Luke Short (Frederick Glidden), Wallace Stegner, Louis L'Amour, Max Brand (F.S. Faust), Elmer Kelton, Zane Grey. know most of these writers have passed on, but I grew up with those.
Me: Which of those guys have had the greatest influence on your own writing?
Oscar: As far as going about writing something, it has to be Zane Grey. He was the first writer I'd heard of, since my mother used to read to us out of Riders of the Purple Sage. He is probably why I write Westerns in these later years, if anybody. I'm glad she didn't read Tolstoy or Socrates.
Me: Has your writing been influenced by western films? Any in particular?Oscar: Short answer, no. Long answer, not overtly. I don't have a movie in mind as I write, and I don't think about movies as I put it on paper, but I guess psychologically there could be some of it seeping in. After I had a draft of The Bloody Gulch, my wife and I were talking about it and she said the sheriff reminds her of James Arness of Gunsmoke. The last western I saw was Open Range on TV and before that Lonesome Dove. The last western movie I saw in a theater was The Unforgiven with Clint Eastwood.
Me: What's your writing background (other than fiction)?
Oscar: I took journalism in high school and was the sports editor for the school paper. A few years ago when I began to put some family history and genealogy books together for the family and decided that I would try my hand at writing something else. The first attempt was a biography of my great-great-grandfather, but I had to make up large portions of it to fill in the blank parts. I later converted the fictional parts into two separate novels, Reluctant Deputy Tom Anderson and Trouble at the Sagrado Ranch.
Me: Do you belong to a critique group?
Oscar: No. I was in a small Yahoo group for awhile, but it wasn't active enough, and I was too busy to really participate. I am taking classes at the Writer's Round Table of the Bishop Literary Service and getting feedback on my lesson writing there. Until it was put on line, had been attending classes for two or three years.
Me: What have you been doing to promote The Stranger from the Valley?
Oscar: Being new at this, probably not as much as I should be, and mostly because of my budget. I've been putting it on the blog, of course, I have a site on Facebook, and I talk about it whenever I get the chance to push it. I've asked two local libraries to put it on their shelves, and have sent out a couple of news releases. This past weekend I had a short interview over the phone with a reporter, Lacey McMurry, of the Uintah Basin Standard of Roosevelt, Utah, a news provider for the locale of the novel.
Me: You say on your blog you have other novels in the works.
Oscar: Yes, The Bloody Gulch is next in line at the moment to be submitted to a publisher. Bloody Upamona is about ready to go, but it's waiting on The Gold Claim Wrangle to see what happens there. The Long Time Posse I like, but I don't think it's quite ready. Up The Arkansas has been put aside for now. Others I’m working on are Reluctant Deputy Tom Anderson and Trouble at the Sagrado Ranch.
Me: Best of luck, Oscar, with The Stranger from the Valley and all the rest!
Me again: It would be cruel to make you folks scroll way back to the top to place that order with Amazon, so I won't. You can click right here.