Frank Roderus Interview

Frank Roderus

  An interview with Frank Roderus

Frank Roderus is a two time Spur Award winner and has topped Amazon’s Contemporary Western and Classic Western bestseller lists for 5 straight months.

The following is a brief interview with Frank Roderus the West’s Story Master. 

Q – Why do you write?
A – I have never wanted to do anything else. My grandmother had been a teacher in a one-room country school. She taught me to read, write and love books at age 3. When I was 5 I wrote my first story. It was a western. My mother kept it for the rest of her life, and my wife has it put away somewhere now.
Q – Why westerns?
A – When I was a toddler and for a few years afterward we lived in Arizona. Our entertainment was often at rodeos, and my very patient father and I had matching ‘ten gallon’ hats that we wore when playing cowboys and Indians. Then TV came along and I was exposed to a constant barrage of Hoot Gibson, Roy Rogers and Hopalong Cassidy.
Q – What was your first book?
A – This may seem strange, but I’m not sure which was my first. That depends on how you figure it. You see, there was the first manuscript accepted by a publisher – that was a young adult called DUSTER – but due to production time the first of mine that was actually published and that I ever got to hold in my hand was JOURNEY TO UTAH, which I still think may be one of my best.
Q – Was it difficult to become published?
A – In truth…yes. I wrote a good many false starts and a few completed manuscripts (very poor ones) while I was learning to get a few things right. Then I wrote DUSTER. I was pleased with it and sent it to a New York agent because, after all, New York agents know everything. This person returned the manuscript with a note suggesting I give up trying to write fiction. And I did. Give up, that is. I put DUSTER away in a drawer and tried to forget about writing books. That obviously did not happen, but it trimmed my sails for several years before I remembered it, brought it out of that desk drawer and read through it again. I liked it, darn it, so I re-typed it and sent it off again, this time to a small press in Independence MO. They bought it, brought it out in hardcover and it became a Spur Award finalist that year. (And so did one of my other books.) After that breakthrough I began selling regularly to Doubleday for their Double D line of westerns, then later to other houses.
Q – What is the key to getting published?
A – In a word: Persistence. Believe in yourself and keep at it, getting better with experience until you become so darn good that they can’t reject you.
Q – Can you make a living writing westerns?
A – Yes. If, first, you are as bloody-minded persistent as mentioned above and, second, if you trim your lifestyle so you can get along on less than your employed contemporaries. You are not likely to get rich from westerns, but if money is what you want then westerns may not be for you. If you want great satisfaction, write what you love, including westerns.
Q – Do I have any other job or source of income?
A – No, I do not. Haven’t worked a day since I left the newspaper reporting business in 1980. And I have loved every day since. I get up in the morning eager to hit the computer and see what my characters do next.
Q – Do you plot your stories before writing them?
A – No. See the answer above. I usually have a vague idea of what I want to do, but when it is right the characters take over and tell their own story. Quite often it is different from what I had in mind.
Q – Is it necessary to have a computer or know how to type?
A – Not really. When I started out I wrote longhand in steno pads. I was a newspaper reporter at the time and frequently covered murder trials which, contrary to what TV dramas would have you believe, are the most boring things possible, this because the lawyers do not want to miss any tiny detail. So I would sit there and write in my pad. I probably looked like the most diligent reporter on the planet but in truth was working on a story. When I finished the writing I would type the manuscript and send it off. (There are typing services that will do this for you, for a fee of course.) Later I began working on a typewriter and much later on a computer. I held off buying a computer for years because they were expensive at the time. When I finally did try one I liked it. Still do.
Q – Should you ‘write what you know’ as so often advised?
A – No way. Oh, I know a little about horses and guns and history, but I have never been in a gunfight or killed a bad guy or been a bad guy, yet I have done all of those things countless times in my books. It is called ‘imagination’, folks, not reporting.
Q – How many books have I written?
A – Again I must confess that I don’t know. I kept a close count of sales until 1991. I lost track along about then, the number at that time being 176 or thereabouts. Now it would be somewhere north of 300. I think.
Q – What advice would I give to someone who wants to write westerns?
A – Read American history, a lot of American history. Read westerns by authors you admire…and some that you don’t so you can make comparisons. Read about horses. Ride if you can. Go camping. Go to a gun range and do some shooting. And write. Write every day. Write at least a couple pages. Finally, be persistent. Everyone gets rejections. Shrug them off and write something even better. I wish you success.
journey to utah

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