Earl: Hi, Mitch. I don’t mind telling you I’m a bit intimidated being interviewed by a tough, no-nonsense guy like you but I’ll give it my best shot. Fire away.
You grew up in Ohio, in the same town as Roy Rogers. You even met him once. What was that like? Did that inspire your move to Texas?
When the opportunity came along to meet him in person many years later, I may have appeared to be a mature adult, but not really. I was eight years old again and standing beside the hero of my youth who wore the white hat, rode the great golden stallion, and made the West safe for all of us.
When my wife and I moved to Texas, I thought it was because our daughter and our grandsons lived here. That may have been the main reason, but somewhere deep inside, there may have been some influence from that eight-year-old cowboy fan who wanted to live where Roy used to ride.
About a year after Roy passed away, I wrote a story called “White Hats and Happy Trails” about meeting him. Anyone interested can saddle up, mosey over to my website at http://earlwstaggs.wordpress.com and read it. There’s even a picture of my wife and me with Roy to prove it’s all true.
You are an expert in writing as I am being a Pulitzer-nominated reporter for a newspaper. What advice can you give to those just starting out in writing?
Earl: Very slick, Mitch, the way you slipped your own plug in there. I thought this interview was about me. Oh, well.
Beginning writers never have a shortage of advice offered to them, and it’s all good. The line I like to toss out is this: “Always make sure the next thing you write is better than the last thing you wrote.” We should never stop learning and striving to be improve our skills. Being a good writer is not good enough. There are too many good writers ahead of you. To get to the front of the line, you always have to push yourself to be better.
In newspapers, the space is shrinking and we have to tell great stories in the fewest words. As an award winning short story writer how do you manage to get it all to fit?
Earl: I’ve been asked how long should a story be, and my answer is, “As long as it has to be to tell it well.” Sometimes, though, an editor or publisher will state a maximum word length, and that’s when it gets tough. In addition to learning how to write, we also have to learn how to edit, tighten, and shorten. While it can be painful to cut or shorten something we’ve sweated over, it’s part of the job.
Earl: Since we’re talking about cowboys and the old West, I have a story available at http://store.untreedreads.com called “Where Billy Died.” A modern day bounty hunter travels to Texas in search of an outlaw and finds himself entangled in a legend about a famous outlaw from the past.
You and your audience are also invited to visit my website at http://earlwstaggs.wordpress.com and visit with my special guest for today. While you're there, you can read Chapter One of MEMORY OF A MURDER, which earned thirteen Five Star reviews. You’ll also find information there about my recently published collection, SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS, containing sixteen of my best.
Also while you’re there, don't forget to sign up for the drawing on December 9. The first name drawn from those who leave a comment will receive a print copy of MEMORY OF A MURDER. The second name drawn will have a choice of an ebook or print copy of SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS.
Thanks, Earl, for talking about all things cowboy today.