A novelist at heart, much of my writing life has been spent editing my own work as well as that of others. I’ve written short stories, poetic drivel, screenplays, and a multi-novel historical epic. Collaborations on screenplays include both comedy and science fiction.
The first story I remember penning – make that, penciling, as I was in the third grade – was set on the windy plains pf a western state, with a horse named Keno as the main character. Horses are a continuing feature of my work – though not main characters.
My fiction always begins with people in the midst of crisis, whether they know it or not. It’s as if I am dropped down into a world already there, and I’m driven by curiosity to find out what the characters in that world think and feel. I don’t try to make things happen, but watch and record events and dialog.
Aside from writing, and painting Mexican landscapes, I have: taught all areas of English at high school and community college levels. Published 2 years of an illustrated newsletter, Bookmark Quarterly. Sold my paintings and some stories. Dressed display windows for a local computer store. Exhibited and sold stock at antiquarian book fairs. At one time, my life’s work was to write a 600-page spoof on every Western movie ever made. I got as far as naming the Table of Contents before abandoning it for a new project — Tierra del Oro. Presently I’m creating covers for the books and plan to begin publishing them later this year.
It was our pleasure to get the opportunity to interview RLB and learn more about how he became a western author. So get comfortable and please give a warm welcome to RLB!
1. What makes for a good hook in your stories? Where does your inspiration come from?
Opening each story with a character in a vivid setting and a mental state of turmoil seems to be my favorite method.Wanting to find out what happens to them, and how they respond to relationships and challenges, keeps me involved and focused throughout the writing.
2. Are you an organized writer? Do you do things like take notes and make lists of characters? Or do you free write and work it out as you go?
While I’m probably one of the most disorganized persons I know, I did make copious notes and lists from research materials I amassed during the early stages of writing. Quite a lot of these were used to incorporate details of Mexican culture and history, but the plotlines developed from the characters, and the characters made choices based on events in the plotlines. I also drew maps, sketches of the houses, and paintings of scenes where the action takes place. I’ve made a character chart for readers that I plan to put on my website when I have a chance to update it.
3. What is your normal writing day like? Do you write when you are inspired or do you have a schedule?
Having completed several drafts of each novel over the years, my current normal day is REwriting to remove overused words, spot typos, add Spanish accent marks, and check for inconsistencies that crept in during previous revisions. I do this when I have time, but mostly in the mornings after dealing with emails, and in the evenings after checking into social media sites.
4. Who is your favorite author and how did they inspire you to write?
Many, many authors have provided inspiration since childhood. The first who spring to mind are Margaret Mitchell, Daphne du Maurier, Louis L’Amour, and Carlos Ruíz Zafón (Shadow of the Wind). Others include Mary O’Hara, who wrote Thunderhead and Green Grass of Wyoming, and Harper Lee.
5. It’s easy to see that you have a passion for writing but is there any part of it you don’t like?
I love it all. Those first sparks of shimmering images and whispered dialogue that, if pursued, create a blaze or sometimes an inferno. Watching a story unfold, the tender scenes between lovers, violent scenes in a war-torn land, heartbreak and victory. It’s exhilarating and fulfilling.
6. Do you make time to read and if you do what are you reading right now?
Making time to read is more difficult now that I’ve taken on the challenge of meeting deadlines with launching the novels, but I’ve just discovered Bailey White, and I can always make time for a good bookshop mystery, preferably one with a cat.
7. How did you get started in writing about western, historical fiction? Is there personal life experience in the writing?
My first (still in a drawer) historical western came about while I was still in high school. My maternal grandmother, Mawie, used to tell me stories she made up, based on B-movie westerns she had seen, so I credit her for the seed planted that bloomed when TV western series were broadcast nightly. I saw David Carradine when he played “Shane” on TV, and knew he was ideal as a character whose beginning goes so far back that I can’t actually pinpoint his inception.
8. I see that you have published with several different companies including Lulu.com and Amazon.com, Does this mean you see the publishing industry headed this way?
I’ve been involved with the publishing industry in various ways since I garnered my first box full of rejection slips. As a reader, writer, bookseller, and publisher, I’ve seen vast changes. Blogs, newsletters, and buzz among my writer/reader friends tell me significant changes are still to come. Having given myself headaches during the years I was told my work was “ambitious” and “interesting” while being unaware of the obstacles I was facing, I’m happily riding this wave.
9. Do you have any online sites where others can read more of your writings?
Tierra del Oro is featured on my website www.rlbhartmann.com
where the novels are presented in photos and midi themes under the “Stories” link.
10. Do you have any more stories in the works? What kinds of stories do you plan to write next?
I have a backlog of short stories, short scripts, feature length scripts based on my novels, and another historical novel, The Brackettville Horses, coming from Love-Love Publishing sometime this year. I once had a contemporary story, Strong Coffee, online for about a year, but the site changed and I removed it. I don’t plan to write anything else, but I said that when someone asked me if Legend of the Sierra Madre would have a sequel. It certainly did.
11. Who would be your first choice to play Ramón Cordero in your book “Forty Grains of Black Powder: Book One of Tierra del Oro”?
I’ve been thinking about the answer to this question since Ramón first appeared in my mind’s eye in 1973. So the actor to play him has changed on a moving timeline. There are so many competent and handsome Latinos on the scene now that I’m sure I’d be pleased, so long as his voice was right and his range of emotions was convincing.
12. If you could meet anyone from any time who would it be and what would be your first question?
Do I have to choose ONE? It would probably be J.R.R. Tolkien, who said about his The Lord of the Rings, “The story grew in the telling,” for that’s exactly what happened to me.