Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Interview with Scott Smith

When I heard the news “Local Boy Makes Good—Danville man publishes his first novel!” I couldn’t help myself and rushed to our editor for his contact information. I planned to interview the new Avalon Western author over lunch, at a place of his choice, of course.

The boy, as it turned out, was 87 year old Scott Smith. When I heard he lived in Danville—I thought it was local Danville, California was really Danville, Kentucky.

If I had bothered to read his Bio first I would have known: Scott Smith is a former railroad brakeman, national newspaper writer, magazine writer, owner, and publisher of both a weekly newspaper and stock car racing newspaper, magazine cartoonist, producer of syndicated cartoon strip, and a veteran of World War II. Smith lives in Danville, Kentucky.

Scott told me of his newspaper years, his time in WW II at sea, and his interest in stock car racing. He says he used to drive but now he leaves it up to his son and grandson. Nowadays Scott spends his time on the radio telling them what to do. How does a man with this background write Western novels?

It all started when his grandma bought him a toy holster and gun. Scott has an enormous collection of Louis L’Amour and reads every Western he can get his hands on. He’s also a movie buff, some of his favorites are Lonesome Dove and Broken Trail. I asked him what he thought about the new Cowboy and Alien movie. He told me, No. He just couldn’t go there.

Here’s the description about Scott’s current Avalon Western release The Bronco Man:

Travis Alexander Boone, a bronco peeler in Montana, just lost his job after six long years. In search of a place to store his bedroll before another cold winter closes all the trails out of Montana, Boone rides to Wyoming: Three hundred miles later, in Six Mile Junction, he meets Mary Agnes Canfield, the widowed owner of the Double Deuce, a small nearby ranch. He accepts her offer of board for a winter's work, unaware that her feud with a nearby rancher, Wells Gorman, is near its breaking point. Gorman, in desperate need of water, must build a canal through part of Mary's land to reach it through her late husband's resting place.

When Mary Agnes refuses to negotiate, Gorman swears vengeance. It'll be up to Travis Alexander Boone and his trusty long-barreled Walker Colt to deal with this embittered rancher and his horde of gunmen and saloon tramps.

Q: Pardon my ignorance but exactly what is a “bronco peeler”?

Scott: A bronco peeler is a breaker of wild or unbroken horses. In the old west they were called bronco peelers. Today they would be called bronco busters.

Q: How did you come up with the plot for The Bronco Man?

Scott: By using the "suppose game". I started with a wealthy rancher who thought only of himself. He enjoyed being rich and forceful.

…Suppose he planned to build a small community on his land, but to do that he would have to have a good supply of running water.

…Suppose in his case the only available water happened to be the south fork of a river that, unfortunately for him, was on the land of a young and intensely stubborn widow lady rancher where Boone was employed for the winter.

…Suppose the rancher's plans could not go forward unless he had access to available water.

…Suppose to complete his quest he decides the only way for him to obtain water is to hire an irrigation company to dig a canal across her land and tap onto the fork of the river so he can direct the flow of water to a reservoir he has waiting on his land.

…Suppose the woman won't allow him to dig a canal on her land because her late husband, who was murdered, is buried there.

…Suppose the rancher tries to gain her hand in marriage. When that fails he turns to threats and violence, so he uses a large crew of gunman to harass and pressure her. From this point the action that follows soon becomes a full fledged confrontation. It is here that the emphasis needs to be on action rather than a deep character study.

Q: What is the origin for the name Travis Alexander Boone?

Scott: I chose his name for its' historical sound and the fact that in my youth I knew and grew up among direct descendants of old Daniel Boone himself. Knew their attitudes, their desires and their need for privacy.

Q: How much did you know about Alex Boone before you started writing?

Scott: A bunch. I knew he would be unique, a past as a gunfighter he wants to keep silent. He is a hard worker, but still mortal, slightly larger than life. He would exhibit a high degree of skill and a strong measure of respectability and quest. He was honest with himself and I knew he would stand his ground against any man who tested his mettle and would give no allowances to his enemies.

Q: If The Bronco Man were being made into a movie, what actor would you like to play him?

Scott: Sam Elliot

Q: What do you personally like most about this novel?

Scott: I like its' tightness, its' pace and its' directness and the fact that it was my first ever sale to a top line book publisher.

Q: Are you working on any new titles for Avalon Books?

Scott: I have submitted a complete manuscript for consideration, so I hope so.

Q: Is there anything else you'd like the reader to know?

Scott: Yes, I would like them to know I am very appreciative of the professional help I received from the folks at Avalon, especially Jennifer Graham, Avalon's production editor who gave me a strong helping hand when I went astray.

I want to thank Scott for taking the time to speak to me and answering my questions. I’m looking forward to reading The Bronco Man and wish him success on his future projects. My offer for lunch still stands, Scott. I’ll be giving you a call the next time I make it to Kentucky.


Sandy Cody said...

Scott, your book sounds like a good read, one I'll enjoy, then pass along to my grandson. I especially liked reading about how you developed your story. It sounded familiar. I guess some things are universal, no matter what genre you're writing in. Good luck with Bronco Man - and the next ms. too.

Beate Boeker said...

I really enjoyed this interview. It took me into a world far away. Thank you, Scott and Shirley!

Sarita said...

The Bronco Man sounds wonderful. I love it when I learn new things. You can be sure "bronco peeler" is going to stick in my mind. Thank you.

Best of luck with the book, Scott. Lovely interview!

Gina/Katherine said...

He had me at Sam Elliot. (Sigh!) Sounds like a great story and I can't wait to read it!

Leigh Verrill-Rhys said...

Sorry I missed this interview when it was first posted but I heard about you, Scott, a while back. I'm looking forward to reading another Avalon western and The Bronco Man sounds great.

Good job, Shirley!