Interview with R. Annan

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
As a young teen, I grew up in a small, drab industrial town on the west bank of the Hudson River, in upstate New York. Hemmed in by two mountain ranges, winters were long and dreary, and summers were all too short. The best place to spend the weekend was at the movies. For me that meant watching shoot ‘em up westerns and eating popcorn. So, years later, what am I writing? What else but westerns, of course! Or…maybe, just maybe, I’m being channeled by my grandfather, John L. Annan, who was a cowboy in Helena, Montana in the 1880s.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I don’t remember the very first story I ever read. However, at a very, very young age of five or six, my family lived in an old, two-story, white clapboard house. I have memories of books there, in that house. These were large books with lovely pen and ink drawings in black and white. They were like graphic novels, all about cowboys and Indians. Each panel was elegantly drawn. I would spend hours sitting on the floor thumbing through the pages, staring at the pictures, trying to make them come to life. I’m sure they made an impact on me in later life as I now think of myself as a western genre writer.
Who are your favorite authors?
I’ve read a lot of western fiction over the years and I owe much to many western writers. Trying to put certain ones at the top is difficult. There are so, so many great western writers I am indebted to. Putting aside L’Amour, Leonard, and Kelton, I try to emulate Zane Grey, Jack Schaefer, Ernest Haycock, and Alan LeMay. Of course, new stars come along every day, don’t they?
When did you first start writing?
I first started writing in school. This may sound strange, but it was the required school compositions that got me hooked on writing. I loved writing those stories about how I spent my summer vacation, or what I did over the Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays. Then, in Junior and Senior High, there were those books reports we had to hand in. I wish I had kept all that stuff. They’d be fun to read now, I suspect.
What is your writing process?
My writing process is simple. I try to write every day as early after breakfast as I can. Once I start, I will write as long as I can. On a good day I’ll write from eight to twelve hours. Since I write short books, I keep the length between 17,000 to 20,000 words, although I’ll go up to 25,000 if the plot requires it. I try not to digress so that lets me put in lots of action. My readers love a good shootout and I give them plenty of gun action. I’m also heavy on pathos, as well. As a western writer, I do a lot of research and sometimes I have to stop writing to research a point. That happens a lot but it doesn’t bother me. Research is learning and learning is fun. Once I make notes and get what information I need, I jump right back on the computer and let it rip.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
It’s a little hard for me to put in words the joy of writing. That first chapter is like starting a painting. You have an idea, a vision. You start out uncertain and slow, making mistakes as you go. You go back and try to correct them. You want that first chapter to be a grabber. After ten re-writes it begins to take shape. Pretty soon you’re more sure of yourself. Your vison, your picture, gets clearer and you see the direction ahead. Suddenly the book begins to write itself. By the time you hit that last chapter, you know you have the book you wanted to write. I try to make each book I write a western classic. At the risk of sounding weird, I enjoy reading my own books, and I’m not ashamed to say so. If I didn’t enjoy it, why would I think anyone else would enjoy it?
What motivated you to become an indie author?
For me, becoming an independent writer was inevitable because of sites like Smashwords. It was instant gratification. I get to avoid those gatekeepers and go directly to the people who count, the readers and fans. They’re the only ones who really matter. This is so incredible! It’s an author’s dream come true.
What do your fans mean to you?
I love my fans. I worship my fans. I could kiss them all to death. They are why I write. A writer without a reader is like a ship without a rudder. They keep me focused and on course. Five stars, four, three, two, or one, it doesn’t matter. You get to know them by their initials and their cute little pen names. They come to feel like old friends. When I don’t hear from certain fans I worry about them. Have they found a new lover, a better writer? Have I become boring? My fans mean the world to me.
What's the story behind your latest book?
To be honest, there is no story behind my latest book. In my case, I set a goal to write, say, a six-book series on a certain western character I’ve created, like my fictional drifter, gambler and gunfighter, Jack Cordell. I put the character through the wringer and by the final book I end up with an epic on the life or life and death of a central character.
What are you working on next?
I’m so glad you asked. After the Red Bandana, I will be offering a ten-book series about a young drifting cowboy called Clay Jared. Jared is a simple cowboy who lives by the code and rides for the brand. It’s pure classical western drama. Each book will have a stand-alone plot with new characters and adventures. Jared is not only fast on the draw, but he is also very romantic. In one volume, called Range War in C Minor, the young cowboy gets involved with a beautiful concert pianist out in the Kansas badlands. Sound fascinating? It is.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I’m involved with a small ensemble group that performs old time radio skits from the golden era of radio. I do a little acting, write some original scripts, and set up the sound equipment. It’s all for fun. We call ourselves, The Old Time Radio Time Machine. Nobody knows us. We don’t care.
Published 2016-02-23.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Red Bandana
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 21,640. Language: English. Published: February 8, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Western, Fiction » Adventure » Action
The red bandana! Are those who wear it fated to die a horrible death? Those who wear it are either murdered, hung, or shot down in cold blood until one day, on the side of a mountain in a snowstorm, it becomes a beacon of life for a young cowboy in a duel to the death. Follow the story of The Red Bandana as it leaves a trail of death across the Kansas plains.