Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Writers & Writing: Craig Johnson

Writer’s Block airs every Tuesday, at 9 a.m. MST on KFUN/KLVF, streaming live at 

Walt Longmire: From Book to TV
As the Crow Flies, the eighth book in the Walt Longmire series, starts off with Walt trying to settle on an alternate location for his daughter’s nuptials, because the person in charge of the original site has thrown a roadblock in the wedding plans. When checking out a possible, if out-of-the-way spot, Walt and Henry Standing Bear watch helplessly as a young woman falls to her death. Walt’s dog discovers that Audrey Plain Feather wasn’t the only one to tumble down the mountainside. The woman’s child appears unharmed, but to be certain Walt and Henry rush the child to the nearest hospital, which leads Walt to a second encounter with the new tribal chief of police, a troubled young woman who carries her war experiences with her into civilian life along with a chip on her shoulder.

This sets the stage for a series of events and subsequent murders that lead Sheriff Longmire and Chief Lolo Long into an unlikely partnership, and Walt way outside his jurisdiction.

Author Craig Johnson is a master at weaving small details into the big picture. As the Crow Flies presents new challenges for the sheriff, not the least of which is figuring out a way to not disappoint his daughter, while catching the killer before the villian strikes again.

Get to know Sheriff Walt Longmire. He will be around for a while. This mystery series character is the protagonist in New York Times bestselling author Craig Johnson’s books about the modern day West, and beginning June 3, he will be strolling across the Wyoming landscape on A&E in Longmire. The series has been adapted for television and in the interest of keeping the flavor and style of the story line Craig has been hired as a creative consultant on the televised version.

I have to confess I’m hooked on Walt Longmire and the other recurring characters, even though the first book I’ve read is the latest in the series, As the Crow Flies. I liked it so much that I went right down to Tome on the Range after my interview with Craig and bought the first seven.

The best books are the ones that tell great stories. What I like about As the Crow Flies is Craig’s ability to weave a story that revolves around believable characters, even when the characters are cars.

His obvious enthusiasm for writing and for the books he has created made interviewing Craig easy.  

I commented on the photos of him sitting in his wreck of a pickup with a horse interacting with him (look under the Home drop down menu under interrogation). He laughed and said, yeah, he gets along with horses just fine. “They know my moods before I do, and I discuss my ideas with them. They listen and don’t burden me with advice.”

Considering his fondness for horses, it’s a wonder there aren’t more of them in his books, but the horse power behind his transportation is under the hood, and often his nemesis is a vehicle he doesn’t much care for, like Henry Standing Bear’s truck, Rezdawg. That’s all I’m going to say about that. You’ll have the read the Longmire books to find out more.

Craig hit the New York Times bestseller list with his seventh book, Hell is Empty. When I asked him about this, he was somewhat understated and philosophical.

“I was on a book tour (for Hell is Empty) at the time and my wife called me and told me. At about that same time I was notified that A&E wanted to make a TV show. I’d say that was a good week.”

Being on a best-selling author list, he said, isn’t something he has any control over. He feels his job is to write a good book, something people want to read, with characters who are believable, and a story that reveals the heart and soul of the human condition.

He is meticulous about detail, and spends hours doing ride-alongs with law enforcement personnel in his home state of Wyoming. When he finishes a book and before it goes to print, he has friends in law enforcement who read the manuscripts to check for mistakes, anything that would take away from the credibility of the story.

Craig’s good-old-boy manner is a small part of a man who is obviously well-read and active in literary circles. He refers to his success as a Cinderella story, and says he became a writer because he “ran out of excuses.” Everybody has a story they want to tell, he said. In his case Craig Johnson continues to tell the Walt Longmire story very well.

More about Craig:

 From his website: Craig Johnson has received high praise for his Sheriff Walt Longmire novels The Cold Dish, Death Without Company, Kindness Goes Unpunished, Another Man's Moccasins, and The Dark Horse, which received a superfecta of starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal, and was named one of Publisher's Weekly's best books of the year (2009). Each has been a Booksense/IndieNext pick with The Cold Dish and The Dark Horse both DILYS award finalists and Death Without Company the Wyoming Historical Association's Book of the Year. Another Man's Moccasins received the Western Writer's of America Spur Award for best novel of 2008 as well as the Mountains and Plains award for fiction book of the year. Craig is a board member of the MWA, having been elected as a member at large this year. He lives in Ucross, WY, population 25.

Coming June 2 to Tome

As part of his book tour for As the Crow Flies Craig will be in Las Vegas, NM at Tome on theRange on Saturday, June 2. There will be a lunch at the Plaza Hotel at noon. Tickets for the lunch are $15 and  currently available at the bookstore.

Tune in to Writer’s Block next week. My guests will be William deBuys, author of A Great Aridness, and V.B. Price, author of The Orphaned Land.  

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