The first interview is with Marcus Galloway. I first discovered his work when the superb cover to The Man from Boot Hill caught my eye and I took a chance and ordered the book there and then. I'm glad I did as I've bought all his books since.
Marcus, thank-you for agreeing to this interview.
I've been writing since I could use a typewriter (yes...typewriter. That sounds so antiquated now). I wrote little stories when I was about ten or so. In 4th grade, my school didn't have a newspaper, so I wrote one and managed it for all of three issues. In high school, I wrote my first novel, which was absolute garbage but very good practice. I started taking it seriously in college, where I wrote another novel (still garbage, but not as bad as the high school one) and got a short story published in a small press mystery magazine. It was a $5 sale, but allowed me to call myself a "professional". Very exciting at the time.
What was the first novel you had published and if this wasn’t a western what was your first western?
Actually, the first novel I had published was in a popular monthly western series. Obviously, that wasn't under my name. The first of my own novels to be published was The Man from Boot Hill. I still have a soft spot for that book.
How many books did you write before the first was accepted for publication?
Oh man. Let's see....not counting the little books I stapled together as a kid or the high school attempt, I wrote three complete novels and rewrote those a few times before trying to sell them. It's tough to put something in the drawer after spending so much time writing in between real life, jobs and all that. Unfortunately, I had to write those off as practice. On the other hand, it was practice I desperately needed.
Which writers influence you?
I've always read a lot, but the first one to truly influence me and inspire me to write was Douglas Adams. I've read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books more times than any other series. The humor, creativity, originality and everything else about those books made me want to try writing for real. After I put down Life, the Universe and Everything (the 3rd Hitchhiker book), I literally went downstairs to my Dad's computer and started writing that high school novel. I'm also a big horror fan, so Clive Barker and Brian Lumley are big influences there. Fantasy wise, there's Brian Lumley because he definitely has a western feel to his fantasy (Lots of Brits here. I swear I'm not kissing up). I enjoy E E Knight's Vampire Earth series because that also has a huge western feel in a horror-science fiction setting. Pure western influences include Robert Randisi and Ed Gorman, who I've been fortunate enough to get to know in the last several years. As far as westerns go, I find I'm more influenced by non-fiction and real history. I love reading accounts about gunfighters and true life back then.
As you can tell by the previous question, I love horror, fantasy and science fiction. I do have a project that's set to release early next year which I consider horror or dark fantasy. The publishers call it urban fantasy or whatever, but it's got definite horror roots. I've put together a science fiction project as well as a fantasy project, which I'm shopping around to different publishers right now. Those two definitely have western roots. Star Wars is basically a space western, anyway. Any other genre I may be involved with will always reflect my western roots.
What books are you currently writing?
I just finished up with the second installment in my dark fantasy series (which is called SKINNERS). It's published by EOS under the name Marcus Pelegrimas. Galloway is a pseudonym, but still a family name (sounds more "western"). After taking a few days off, I'll start in on ghostwriting a few series westerns which should keep me busy for the next several months.
Do you work on more than one book at a time?
I can write one book while editing another, but I'm not quite at the point where I can write several books at the same time. Fortunately, it only takes me a month or two to write a book, so I can still get everything done. I tried writing two at the same time (one during the day and another at night), but I got mixed up about halfway through. "Which one had the cousin who was in jail?" "Whose wife had the three brothers?" Little continuity mistakes became big ones and it got pretty ugly.
Do you wish you had more say in the covers that appear in your books?
I really do wish I could get more involved with that. The publisher asks me for ideas and I give them, but it's rare they actually use them. The Accomplice books really did use my ideas and the first two turned out great. Although I didn't get as much input with the Boot Hill books, all of those covers were amazing! They sent me a few different pictures and let me choose one for the cover. All in all, I've been very fortunate with how my covers have turned out.
How important is historical accuracy in westerns?
I think that depends on the story being told. Using myself as an example, the Boot Hill books are all fictional characters. They do what I tell them to do, go where I point them and shoot who I want them to shoot. I did a lot of research on vigilante activity in Montana to give that some credibility. Other than that, I just research the essentials like railroad lines and stagecoach routes because it's not set in a fictional world. If I come across some event that can fit nicely into the story, I'll research it more and put it in. It's always great to have your characters stumble into a real event and stumble out again.
With The Accomplice books, I researched a LOT. If someone is going to use historical characters in their books, I feel they should make an effort to be true to that character. I wanted the Doc Holliday in The Accomplice to be as close to the real Doc as possible. Otherwise, it's not Doc Holliday. The tricky part of that is the need to pick and choose which sources you use. Especially with colorful figures like Doc, the accounts may vary drastically. I sifted through as much as I could and used what made sense to me. Of course, any writer will use the stuff that works for their book. Sure, every fiction writer takes liberties, but I at least try to base as much as possible in history so the reader truly feels like the character in that story is the genuine article (or at least pretty darn close).
What led you to write westerns?
I was inspired by the real lives of character like Doc Holliday, Billy the Kid, Jesse James, all those cool outlaw types that every kid likes to hear about. Westerns are just a part of American culture to some degree or another. Sadly, that fades with every generation like any other folklore, but it's still there. I wrote a short story about Doc Holliday (entitled "Gold Men") and showed it to Robert Randisi, who encouraged me to pursue westerns. After a lot of work, I eventually got rolling in that genre and found I truly enjoyed writing them.
What appeals to you about the western genre?
Like I said in the last question, it was engrained in me as a kid. The whole cowboy / outlaw thing was always cool. When I heard that the gunfighters, bank robberies, trail drives and that sort of thing were real, I was fascinated by it. As a nine or ten year old boy, finding out there was a real Jesse James is close to hearing there was a real Indiana Jones. Granted, it's not the best thing to look up to killers and robbers, but it stuck with me. Western fiction is essentially fun. It's a classic sort of storytelling that shows up in science fiction, fantasy, crime fiction, you name it. A timeless blend of action, exploration, adventure and pioneering spirit showing heroes at their best.
Which western writers would you recommend?
Me. Just kidding. I mentioned Robert Randisi and Ed Gorman. They're good friends and great writers. I cannot speak highly enough of "Doc Holliday: A Family Portrait" by Karen Holliday Tanner. I love that book and think it's one of the most fascinating reads I've experienced. Of course, I'm a little partial to Doc, but that's definitely one of my favorites.
Which past western would you like to see back in print and why is this?
I like the Edge series by George Gilman. That was a truly gritty western series. Violent and dark, but a lot of fun.
You’ve had a couple of books published under the Ralph Compton name but what is your opinion on keeping dead authors alive by having someone write new books under their name, such as is happening with Ralph Compton and William Johnstone?
It's good for the genre and there are great stories coming out under those names. On the other hand, I've heard plenty of readers pass over books by new authors (mine included) because they "only read Louis L'Amour or Ralph Compton". Keeping these great names alive is fine. Most readers know the newer books are being written by other authors, but some are still unwilling to read books with another author's name on them. There are a lot of books out there. I just hope people keep reading as many of them as possible.
What do you think of audio books and are there any westerns you’d recommend?
I think audio books are great. Personally, I prefer the print versions. Everyone I know who drives a lot swears by the audio books, though.
Which of your westerns would you recommend to someone who hasn’t read any of your work yet and why?
I would recommend the first Accomplice to anyone who wants something that was more based on fact, simply because I made sure to put Doc in the right place during the time frame of those books. Every account of a fight he had or altercation while he was in a particular town is represented. Also, if someone mentions the movie Tombstone, I hand them The Accomplice. Another great starting point for my westerns in general is No Angels For Outlaws (the 4th Boot Hill book). That's a great standalone story and one of my favorite in the series. If someone likes that one, they can start from the beginning to get the whole vigilante storyline and background on Nick Graves.
Have you written any westerns under a pseudonym and if so can you tell us which?
Marcus Galloway is a pseudonym. I've had a few western short stories published under my real name, Marcus Pelegrimas. Other than that, they've all been ghostwritten entries in a bunch of series that are done under one big pseudonym.
What do you think of the western genre today and what do you think the future holds for the western?
The western genre today is in a bit of a slump. That's not a reflection of the quality of work coming out, but more of a trend in publishing. The big publishers are easing off on westerns in general right now, but that's a part of the business. It ebbs and flows. This happens to westerns and they always come back. They're ebbing right now, but they'll come back because readers will demand them.
What is your favourite western movie and why?
Unforgiven is my hands-down favorite. That is simply the most vivid, gut-wrenching western movie I have ever seen. Clint Eastwood is fantastic as an aged version of his own Man With No Name sort of character. His character shows genuine human depth that you rarely see in movies of any genre. The plot is simple, but also very deep and the fight at the end is both visceral and spic even though it only lasts a few minutes. Truly a classic.
What do you read for pleasure?
I like to read anything from westerns to science fiction and even some fantasy. I love the newer style of urban fantasy and even some comic books. My only problem is that I don't have nearly enough time to read it all!