By Lauren Bridges
It’s a tale as old as time, a nomadic cowboy or gunfighter who rides a horse through the American West. Westerns are America’s literature, and they can be anything from romance, mystery, adventure, and more.
The brains behind Western novels are usually those who have lived bits and pieces of it themselves. They have lived through the history, they are from the west, they hunt, they fish, they have horses, they are cowboys and cowgirls themselves just looking for an adventure.
One famous Wolfpack Publishing western novel author is Robert Vaughan; also known by various pseudonyms he has written under. Vaughan has had well over 300 novels published, not only in the western genre, but action and adventure, crime and war stories as well.
Vaughan said he had always wanted to be a writer. Before he could read or write he was making marks on paper and making his family listen to the stories he had to tell. Once he was 19 years old, he sold his first book and Vaughan still continues to write every day.
Not only is Vaughan a writer, but he is a retired army officer, helicopter pilot, and has hosted three television shows. Vaughan compares writers to merchants, except that the only way a writer can “restock his shelves,” is through experiences. That is one thing Vaughan has a lot of: experiences.
L.J. Martin is a western writer who knows about what he writes about. He has lived it all and loves to write about it.
Martin keeps writing because he says, “it’s a compulsion and a profession.” He loves going to work, especially since his office is only a few feet away from his bedroom and he gets to share it with his wife, Kat Martin.
Martin prepares to write his westerns by doing his research. He has collected newspapers for as long as he can remember and refers to them for accuracy within his stories. He can find facts, time, places and people within these newspapers and the old journals he has collected. Martin says there’s an expert on everything, especially on westerns, so they have to be accurate.
Besides writing, Martin is a real outdoors man that enjoys photography, cooking, traveling, gardening, shooting, fishing and hunting.
Linell Jeppsen is a different sort of western book author, because it is not her first love. Jeppsen writes mainly sci-fi and fantasy but ventured over to the western side with Deadman’s Lament.
Deadman’s Lament is what Jeppsen considers to be her biggest labor of love. Writing westerns was new to her and required a lot of research. However, through the struggles, Deadman’s Lament became a hit and she knew then it was going to become a series.
Living high up in the mountains is what sparks up her imagination and keeps her writing to this day.
A western author who writes what he knows is Gary McCarthy. As a boy, McCarthy grew up on horses and worked on ranches during his summers in Idaho where he began to appreciate ranching. McCarthy has a true love for horses, he was on his college rodeo team and owned horses most of his life. To this day McCarthy still rides the high country of Northern Nevada.
Writing westerns comes easy to McCarthy, because his love for the West and its history runs deep and stems from the traveling and interesting places he has been. Although these stories require a lot of research, he says he loves researching his stories almost as much as he does writing them. One of the most important things for him to do when writing is to do historical research on the area where his novel takes place, and then he starts with a character or place and goes from there.
One thing Gary McCarthy does that many other authors don’t is at the end of all of his historical novels he tells the reader what is real and what is not. This is a great way, he believes, to enlighten the reader as well as entertain.
Chet Cunningham is a top western author of over 300 books who came from a newspaper background, so writing every day was something he was geared to do and writer’s block is not something he believed in.
When Cunningham first started writing westerns he bought a bunch of westerns at a used bookstore, read them all, took notes of western history, phrases and words. He then used those notes to fashion his very first western book. The accuracy is important because Cunningham said “if they find mistakes in your history, the reader won’t believe the story.”
Cunningham wrote westerns because it was something he enjoyed. Cunningham said it was a time where men had to live a tough life just to survive and it came down to life or death many times. It was a time that made for great heroes, justice the old way. He enjoyed writing in the genre because westerns are not dated, they can sell for twenty or thirty years because nothing changes.
When Frank Roderus was just five years old he wrote his first western. It was terrible, but his mother kept it anyways.
Roderus said he had always loved the era of the old West, “It was an era of boundless freedom and opportunity. I’ve loved it all my life.” Since he loved the era he knew it was important to get the facts correct, but not always. He knew the details had to be correct if basing them on true battles or real people, but not when using your imagination.
That is something Roderus enjoyed doing, writing what he imagined, not what he knew.
Douglas Hirt is a great western uthor with more than forty novels in a variety of genres, with a large number of westerns. Hirt started writing because he says, “As far back as I can recall, writing stories is all I ever wanted to do.”
Hirt spent several summers in New Mexico living in a tent in the desert conducting biological baseline surveys. These experiences in the desert is what led Hirt to write his first novel, Devil’s Wind.
One author who sticks to what he loves is John Legg. Legg has published more than 55 novels, all of which are in the Old West genre. Legg says he loves the genre. He has always been attracted to westerns, mostly as movies. However, like many western authors he does not read westerns very often. This is common because writers do not want to unconsciously steal an idea from a book they previously read.
Legg prefers to write about Mountain Men in his novels because it is his favorite period of history. Although he loves what he does, Legg says the most difficult thing about writing during this time period is getting the history right because many readers are knowledgeable.
Max Evans is a western author most known for his novel, Hi-Lo, which won many awards and is now a major motion picture. Hi-Lo is Evans’ term for the area of northeastern New Mexico, southeastern Colorado, the Oklahoma panhandle and northern Texas.
Evans is one of the writers who writes what he knows. He grew up a cowboy and soon became a miner, rancher, combat veteran, barroom brawler and even a painter. Evans still spends his days painting Hi-Lo country and everything else he has seen or can imagine.
Animals, specifically horses, are some of the main characters within Evans’ stories. He says, “They were here before we were. For millions and millions of years, they’ve had to survive. I have a respect for animals.” He writes about horses because growing up, he believes, you had to have pride in your horse, in yourself, in your work.
Western authors are all very different and have different reasons for why they do what they do. However, they all have something in common: they love the genre and they do their research. The West was a tough, gritty place where life did not hold much value, but it happened. There are many experts on the old American West, which is why books in this genre have to be accurate, otherwise the readers will lose interest, which is something no writer wants.
New Western Authors
B.N. Rundell is an author who jumped into the writing game after he retired and has experienced nothing but success.
Rundell has a few stand-alone westerns as well as a very successful, continuous series, The Buckskin Chronicles. This success comes easy to someone who lived and breathed ranching and rodeo during his youth.
With the support of his wife, Dawn, four daughters and grandchildren, Rundell is finally accomplishing his life-long dream of being a western author.
Johnny Gunn has tried his hand at mysteries, fantasies, thrillers and westerns. Although he enjoyed writing the others, he says his real kick is in writing westerns and his readers are ever so thankful. Unlike other western authors who avoid reading westerns, Gunn enjoys them, along with a plethora of other genres such as: history, biography, mysteries, classics, fantasy, and even romance.
One thing that makes writing westerns easy for Gunn is that he does not have to go much further than his back fence to get an idea for a story. Not only does Gunn live on a farm, but he raises over half of the food he eats. So, when he is not writing you can usually find him doing chores on the farm!
Something that makes C.K. Crigger’s western novels stand out is that they all take place in the Inland Northwest, and make use of a historical background. Crigger is a fan of local history, so whether western, mystery, or even the science fiction/fantasy, the locales in her novels are real places.
Crigger is one of those authors that always knew she wanted to write. She says she was an avid reader and grew up reading her mother’s Western Romance magazines. Her advice to new writers, “Be persistent, work hard, keep regular writing hours and never stop reading.”
R.B. Tetro is an author who gained a wide variety of “real world” experience before he began writing. Tetro worked as a carpenter, a long haul truck driver, a horse back guide in the Great Smoky Mountains, a bouncer, and finally a bounty hunter.
, which was much more efficient than writing everything on paper.
The Grizzly Killer Series was Lane R Warenski’s first attempt at writing after a friend mentioned he should write a book. The western genre is what Lane most enjoys because it is what he believes he is most knowledgeable about.
“Many times I have looked over a vista in the Uinta Mountains and wondered what it must have been like to be one the very first men to see their rugged beauty. Reading through the daily journals of William Ashey, Jedidiah Smith, the biography of James Beckwourth, and many more have made me wonder as well what kind of men it took to brave this unknown wilderness. Grizzly Killer is the result of my imagination creating a character I believe was strong enough to survive, good enough to be successful, and honorable enough to do what he believes is right.”
Popular Western Series
The Western Adventures of Cade McCall by Robert Vaughan
The Montana Series by L.J. Martin
The Deadman Series by Linell Jeppsen
The Horseman Series by Gary McCarthy
Rocky Mountain Lawmen by John Legg
The Buckskin Chronicles by B.N. Rundell
The Grizzly Killer Series by Lane R Warenski