Author Interview with Preston Lewis
Latest Book: Rio Ruidoso (Book One, Three Rivers Trilogy)
What’s the story behind the story? What inspired you to write this book?
- PRESTON: Ever since I made my first trip to Lincoln County as a 10-year-old boy, I’ve been fascinated by the story of Billy the Kid and the Lincoln County War, the most fascinating and complex feud in the Old West. In the Three Rivers Trilogy I wanted to explore the times before, during and after the Lincoln County War and interject an honest protagonist in the corrupt cesspool that was Lincoln County and see how he would maintain his honor and integrity against all the odds.
If you had to pick theme songs for the main characters of your book, what would they be?
- PRESTON: For my protagonist Wes Bracken, I would choose the theme from The Magnificent Seven. To me it’s a song of strength and integrity, which explains Wes Bracken.
What books are on your to-be-read pile right now?
- PRESTON: I’m reading a dozen books on D-Day in preparation for a trip later this summer to Normandy. Additionally, I am studying books on Patrick Cleburne and the battle of Franklin for a historical novel I’m writing. As for my entertainment or recreational reading, I’m currently enjoying Stephen Vincent Benét’s epic poem John Brown’s Body.
What scene in your book was your favorite to write?
- PRESTON: Probably when Billy the Kid makes his first appearance in Rio Ruidoso near the end. I tried to be true to his fun-loving character as I interpreted it from my readings about the Kid. Too, this sets the stage for his reappearance and extensive role in Rio Bonito, the second book in the trilogy.
Do you have any quirky writing habits?
- PRESTON: No, I’m pretty boring. When my son and daughter were in elementary school and they’d come home, we would ask them what they did today and generally they just replied they did “seat work.” That’s a good description for writing. It’s just seat work. I don’t have a daily quota on pages, I just write as deadlines or inspiration dictate.
Can you describe your writing process?
- PRESTON: I go through three drafts. The first draft is to get something written on the screen. I just write from beginning to end. I know how I want to start and how it will end, but I don’t always know the route from beginning to end, that’s part of the fun of writing. With the second draft, I resolve plot problems and strengthen the storyline, enhancing the writing and wording. With the final draft, I polish the language and enhance the flow. Then it’s off to the editor.
What’s next for you?
- PRESTON: I’m working on two historical novels set around the Civil War battles of Franklin and Nashville in the waning months of the conflict. And, I’m toying around with adapting one of my books to a screenplay for a different writing experience. Then I’m developing some more western series possibilities.
Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?
- PRESTON: Laughter is the best medicine seems appropriate since I have written several comic westerns, though Rio Ruidoso and the Three Rivers Trilogy are deadly serious. As for something more philosophical, I would select John 8:32 (KJV): "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." One of the failures of society/culture today is the lack of a premium for the truth. That is one reason I enjoy writing westerns and historical novels as they are set in the past when the truth was not so complicated, there was a right and a wrong and not so many grays to confuse weak minds.
If you could choose one thing for readers to remember after reading your book, what would it be?
- PRESTON: Doing the right thing is seldom the easiest course to follow, but it is best in the long run, even when the consequences are dire.
Are there specific types of scenes you struggle with?
- PRESTON: I don’t know that I’m very good in scenes involving characters of the iron-fisted, steel-jawed type. My characters tend to have a conscience and view violence as a last resort.
Where did you get your inspiration for your amazing characters?
- PRESTON: I enjoy dropping my characters amongst actual historical figures, so I read a lot of western histories and get a feel for how I will interpret them in my novel. For my fictional characters, I sometimes base them on friends or acquaintances, with their permission of course. My father was a role model for integrity and doing the right thing, even in the face of difficulties, so my protagonists usually have some of my father in them.
What drew you to this genre in the first place?
- PRESTON: I grew up in West Texas so western history was always around me. Then my love of the Old West was piqued by my first trip to Lincoln County, New Mexico, and the legends around Billy the Kid. What I like about westerns is that they are morality plays set in an environment I am familiar with either by experience or by reading histories of the period.
An author or authors who inspire you and you look up to?
- PRESTON: Looking back on my childhood, I have identified three authors who influenced me. First, was J. Frank Dobie. His book The Longhorns really turned me on to the lore of the Old West. It was like I was riding along with Dobie on a trail drive. Mark Twain was the second author of influence. I enjoyed his humor as a kid and appreciated his depth as I developed as a writer. The final writer was Pulitzer Prize winner Ernie Pyle, the famed World War II correspondent for Scripps-Howard. He wrote with a sensitivity for the human experience under terrible conditions. He’s the reason I went into journalism, which provided the fundamentals for my fiction career. After I got into westerns and historical novels, I found historians Leon Metz, Robert Utley, J. Evetts Haley and Frederick W. Nolan especially helpful and insightful. As for my western writers, Elmer Kelton, Fred Grove, Douglas C. Jones and Jeanne Williams remain my favorites.
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