Will Davis is an award-winning author of Westerns. Living in the west for over fifty years, Will became interested in the region and its history. The books he writes are based on real historical events, which he researches to assure that they describe what they were like in the 1800’s. Parts are drawn from his experiences with wilderness horse pack trips, cattle drives, and rodeos. He also draws upon his studies of the Indians of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, and often includes them in his tales of the West.
His first novel, Bell Country Bushwhackers, was published in 2007; his latest, Six Points of Death, in 2008, both by Outskirts Press. His third novel, The Ring, is due out this fall. Welcome, Will!
Writing westerns involves more than putting a cowboy hat and boots on your protagonist. Can you describe what elements make a novel a Western? What is unique to that genre?
The genre is unique because the early West was unique. There were no states, there were no laws and most of the southwest weather and terrain was not kind to its invaders. The men of the early west had to have physical and mental fortitude. They were constantly defending themselves and their families from outlaws, Indians, unprincipled business men and scoundrels in general.
The Westerner, (Cowboy, Cowgirl), had to have strong survival skills. Their horsemanship was often a matter of life or death. If they were going to survive, they had to be proficient with firearms and had to know when to use them and when to refrain.
They followed an unwritten “code of the west” and those that failed to followed it often found themselves hanging from the end of a rope.
What is the special appeal that Westerns hold for their readers? How do you bring out those qualities in your books?
The technology revolution is fast causing the demise of the Westerner of the past. Novels of the early west help the upcoming generation understand and appreciate those that settled the West. There is a special appeal to the reader when they learn about the courage and the daily challenges of the early Westerner. Many of the man and women of the west would provide outstanding role models when it comes to “do what you believe in, and believe in what you do”
Your novels require a lot of research to get the details right. Can you tell us more about your research process? Any tips on how to successfully blend fact with fiction?
Research is by far the most difficult part of writing historical fiction. The stories must be believable and the locations and characters must closely represent the men and women of the times.
I visit the locations I write about. I spend time at their libraries and talking to families that have lived there for generations. I photograph the terrain and any of the original buildings still standing. I spend much of my time reading about the area and those that lived there. I decided to focus on the Apache tribe and I read any books I can find that describes their beliefs, rituals, wars, and social activities. I am careful that I blend the fact and fiction in such a way that I have famous (real) characters in my books in a place they could have been at the time. I also slightly change the names of some of the characters to make sure I am not reflecting badly on their descendents.
You are also an avid and talented photographer. Writers, like photographers, need to create three-dimensional images with a two-dimensional medium. Has your skill with the camera helped make your writing more visual?
My photography background helps me to get visuals of the areas I write about. I am able to select the best perspective that will help me describe the movements of my characters through the region.
There are many ways to publish today. Which method did you choose for your books, and what factors led you to make that choice?
I talked with many published authors and they all agreed the most difficult task of writing was getting their works published. In many cases, it took years. I am not known for my patience and I decided I didn’t want to wait years to see my work in print.
I looked into several self-publishers and decided on using Outskirts Press of Parker Colorado. I have been very happy with them and plan to have my third novel published by them. Once I have three books out, I plan to look into getting an agent to go to a more universal approach to publishing.
What are some of the pluses and minuses to self publishing? What should writers consider when they’re contemplating the self publishing route?
As in most things, there are pluses and minuses to self-publishing. First the pluses; it’s quick, you can have a book on the market in sixty to ninety days, you work directly with the publisher, no agents or promoters, you can customize your book size, print and cover and finally, you can maintain the rights to the work and move it to any publisher you like at any time you like.
Now the minuses; there are up-front cost, there are no agents to promote your work, and there is a requirement on the authors part to get their work in front of the public. The authors must do their own marketing to get the work in the chain bookstores. It is a challenge these days to convince the larger bookstores to carry your work.
The author of your books is Will Davis, which is not your real name. Why did you decide to publish under a pen name?
When I searched the book selves, I noticed that many of the authors had very western sounding names, i.e. Luke Short, Jack Slade, etc. I decided my German name was not a convincing western author’s name. My full name is David William Bushmire. I took my first two names, reversed them and came up with Will Davis. So far it has served me well.
Any last words?
My advice to any would-be authors of historical fiction is:
1. Know your subject
2. Write from experience when possible
3. Do research to make your story believable
4. Pay for a professional editor
5. Read other’s work on similar subjects