Today, Romancing The West welcomes western writer Rod Thompson, who has a brand spankin' new book out, The Saga of Jane Hicks. First, he'll tell you a little about himself, and then RTW will ask him a few questions.
Rod Thompson: 1889, the same year South Dakota became a state and the Dakota Territory as a whole ceased to exist, Greenberry (GB) and Eliza Ann Thompson, my grandparents, made the move from "Missoura" to "Dakota" in a covered wagon to homestead. In 1897, the same year Geronimo enlisted into the army as a scout, my father was born. I came along in 1938 and spent the first part of my life on a farm near a corner of the Rosebud Indian Reservation where my dad traded with local Indians and I rode a horse to an all-eight-grades-in-the-same-room school while learning to shoot at the age of eight. Later, when one of my brothers died six months after my mother, my dad called it quits on farming and the family broke up, but the Black Hills were always there, along with stories of Indian wars, legends of Deadwood, Buffalo Bill, Sitting Bull, Wild Bill Hickok, Casey Tibbs and rodeos.
Rod: It is said that writers should write about what they know, I knew how to be a country boy. I spent the first years of my life on a small South Dakota farm. Country folks are good people, and I wanted my protagonist to be a typical Dakota farm boy with a strong moral compass; an honest, hardworking, God-fearing man with a sense of humor and loyalty whose life was shaped by the events in his life, as was the life of the one love his heart would allow him to have. That’s the way things were back before divorces were given out like popcorn. They took their wedding vows seriously.
He wasn’t born a superman with wonderful skills and a desire to save the world. His ideals, love of life, humor, and loyalty were given him by his parents. What skills he had, were developed through hard work, determination, and necessity, as were hers, and that is the thread that connects the thrilogy: two normal people of the time, separately together, struggling to find their way on the frontier and rising to each occasion. They did what needed to be done and were shaped by the doing.
RTW: What do you think about the mixture of western and romance, and is there any romance in this book?
Rod: Now that is perfect timing for this question. I love romance in the western, romance of the times, romance of the old west, romance between a boy and his horses, romance between a boy and girl—man and woman as long as it isn’t overdone. I’ll leave that to others. My agent first described The Black Hills as an Americana filled, humorous, western action epic and my editor at Berkley added, with a strong underlying love story. So yeah, I love romance and most readers say they like it and want to see what happens to them in the future. I pray I can continue to do it justice.
RTW: What led you to become a writer?
Life…it was in me. Before television, movies, electronic games, and sports bars with 3000 television screens stole everyone’s imagination and creativity, people entertained each other with stories about their ancestors and travels and made up poems and songs and played fiddles, guitars and harmonicas.
RTW: What authors have inspired you?
Rod: My father read Zane Grey while my hero is L’Amour. A few readers have likened my writing to his, however, as fun as that is to think about, I am not now, nor will I ever be in his category. He was nothing short of amazing. Just being mentioned anywhere near him is good enough for me.
RTW: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Rod: Write. And get two books released on the same day. My first book, The Black Hills was re-released by Penguin Berkley with a foreword written by James Drury, the star of “The Virginian” television series who called me to tell me it was the “best book of any kind he had read in years,” and thanks very much to an extra effort from Troy Smith, The Saga of Jane Hicks was released on the same day. What a blast. My daughter and draft editor, Rhonda, went out to dinner that night.
I would like to conclude by saying thank you to the many people who have taken the time to tell their friends about my book: Thank y’all.