Sunday, October 10, 2010
Eve Paludan: Reid Lance Rosenthal, author of Threads West, welcome to Jodie Renner's blog! I'm here as a guest on Jodie's blog today and I'm so excited to have you join me for this interview. I'm really excited about learning inside information about the creation of your Threads West series and about your life as a fourth-generation land and cattle owner.
Reid Rosenthal: Howdy! I’ll be glad to fill you in on who I am and what I do. And since this is a writing and editing blog, I’ll focus on aspects of the creative writing process, so long as everyone understands that this is all the view of a neophyte. I am under no illusions! I’m still at the point when folks say, “Reid who???”
Eve Paludan: Thanks! It's great to learn new things about you. I tumbled on your pages on Facebook quite by chance. Your breathtaking photos of rainbows caught my attention. From there, I bought and read your short story on my Amazon Kindle, and then—intrigued—I decided to buy and read your Threads West ebook. And then, I loved it so much that I reviewed it!
Reid Rosenthal: That was a wonderful review, and I was surprised that you reviewed Threads West.
Eve Paludan: As a two-time #1 national best selling author (Writer’s Digest Book Club), a publisher, and an editor, I sometimes give national reviews, but I don't warn the author! I was so swept away by Threads West. It’s one of those rare reviews that I couldn’t wait to write.
Reid Rosenthal: Thank you very much, Eve. I’m truly tickled you enjoyed reading it.
Eve Paludan: I sure did. However, it was your photography that first caught my attention. You've captured some of the most beautiful scenes I've ever seen of the American West, from land to skies and rustic buildings to horses but especially those rainbows; they were just magical. I wondered, how does your professional outdoor photography influence your fiction writing?
Reid Rosenthal: A perceptive query, Eve. In fact, they’re inextricably intertwined. I'm a landscape photographer. I’ve always been enamored and enthralled with the moods of land and environment, and the palpable energy of the Earth. It is, in my opinion, the root and source of all things, including the lives and struggles of the people who fleetingly line dance upon its stage until tapped on the shoulder by successive generations.
Eve Paludan: You do have such a way with words. So, the rainbows inspire you?
Reid Rosenthal: When a moment speaks to me...that peculiar angle of the sun, bursting sky prisms following a rain, shadows creeping with the angle of the waning sun, I must say I’m compelled to capture the image in every way possible. Many times, due simply to the wild and remote places where I spend many of my waking hours—the sheer right-time, right-place luck—I’ve been fortunate to record the power of scenes so vivid as to be mesmerizing. The thrill of knowing that I have recorded a split second that is never, ever, to be repeated as to the angle, time, season, event, or light, makes it all doubly exciting and satisfying. It is these scenes captured on photo frames, and those never-to-be repeated moments like them that underpin the descriptive portion of my writing. When I write to a mood, to a setting—a snapshot of the earth—it’s all there in a picture, somewhere deep in my soul. The pen becomes merely the shutter, and the paper the film.
Eve Paludan: That is truly inspiring. From the very first page of Threads West, I was completely hooked. Most writers have "first-page panic" trying to decide where to start a novel. From all of the places to start your story, how did you choose this sexy opening love scene to grab your reader's attention?
Reid Rosenthal: Ahhhh! Romance is a wonderful thing...primal like the land, and universal in its appeal and life experience. What better way to start a great story? If the truth be known, one of the few things I did struggle with in writing this first book of the six-novel Threads West, An American Saga series is which chapter to begin the story.
Eve Paludan: I noticed your unique writing style. Could you talk about that?
Reid Rosenthal: Because I write in the rarely used style called converging threads, any one of the first eight chapters, one on each of the primary characters in book, could have been the lead off. I vacillated between the stories of Reuben, Inga, Zeb, and Rebecca. But in the end, I chose Johannes because in many ways he has the traits of virtually all of the characters.
Eve Paludan: Johannes is my very favorite character in Threads West. But I guess that’s no surprise, since romance is my favorite genre and he’s a classic historical romance hero.
Reid Rosenthal: He's a rogue all right, and undoubtedly has more than his fair share of courage, a great sense of humor, and irreverence towards himself and life. He is a ladies’ man, treadin’ life's water, beset by inner conflict, about to be swept—unknown to him—to a far-off frontier by the mysterious currents of fate. So, while the opening scene most definitely catches people’s attention, the choice of Johannes was more, much more than that. Although it could be argued that he’s not really the main male character, he single-handedly sets the tone for the adventure, the times, theme, and the passions of Threads West.
Eve Paludan: I would agree with that. His character is strong and solid and does set a precedent—and a high bar—for the rest of the book. That first-chapter advice is so helpful to other writers. Thank you for sharing it. Now, I know you have interests in a lot of ranches and are heavily into conservation of natural resources. You've even created bodies of water where none previously existed in order to enrich the land. How do your conservation activities in real life affect what your characters do in the novels?
Reid Rosenthal: Life is half-art, half-science. Emotions mix with empirical experience and knowledge. The energy input and output of the spirit and from all things animate and inanimate blends with the progression of the mind. I guess that’s why the influences on my writing all flow from the land, and personal interaction with real personalities I have known—you might call that the science portion of my wordsmithing. The art ingredient, or presentation, is borne of many influences.
Eve Paludan: The land, in and of itself, almost stands as a character in your book. Can you tell me more about the land and the people who love it?
Reid Rosenthal: The weave of Western relationships is always the land. The intertwined twists of ranch and romance are fascinating threads that define the men and women of the West. The foundation of my stories is that reality. There is intrigue, adversity, vicious duplicity, and triumph that few know of, but which are always at play beneath the idyllic mosaics of inviting canyons and sun drenched plains.
Eve Paludan: You speak as beautifully as you write. Could you please tell me about your favorite authors?
Reid Rosenthal: I’ve been influenced by many great authors. Crane, and Hemingway, whose detailed description of scenes and circumstances have always enthralled me, Uris (whose brilliant themes of converging threads of lives have had major affect on my presentation in my novels), and McMurtry, L'Amour, and Max McCoy.
Eve Paludan: Max McCoy?
Reid Rosenthal: Yes, particularly as to McCoy’s dazzling, principled dedication to historical context. Along the way, I have been blessed to have great teachers and mentors, too many to mention here, save one: Thank you to Mrs. Jane Karsten, my independent study creative writing teacher in my junior and senior high school years. It is she who whispered incessantly in my ear, sometimes kindly, at others more cajoling: "You can do this...you must do this…It is your calling."
Eve Paludan: What a profound experience with your writing teacher. I have a great teacher story, too. Someday I’ll tell it. You've said that authors should write what they know and you revealed that many of the events in your novel are true. You must be quite a fan of genealogy and a history lover.
Reid Rosenthal: I am!
Eve Paludan: As you did your research, what aspects of the history were a surprise to you when they unfolded on the page?
Reid Rosenthal: Did I research this! It was a bigger task than I anticipated. Though I thought I was familiar with this magical moment in American history, I was mistaken. 1855 may be one of the single most difficult years of which to write in the history of this country and the West that I have experienced. The great westward migration was in its infancy. The later turmoil between the Northern and Southern states was just beginning to darken the whispered rhetoric of both sides. Native Americans had rightfully lost trust in the promises of the white men. The Indian Treaties of the years prior, and indeed the compacts between the states as to abolition, had all been broken by one or the other party just within the previous twelve to twenty-four months. So this was the year just prior to the discovery of gold in Colorado, the real precipitator of the tidal wave of westward migration that began in 1858.
The Singer sewing machine had just been invented, revolvers were only a few years old, and the repeating rifle was still just a few years out. It was the year that the world—and America—breathed in, held their collective breath, and readied to exhale with a rush towards the Great Plains and Rockies.
Eve Paludan: That’s some very detailed and rich research. I hope you had help!
Reid Rosenthal: I was assisted by several researchers, to whom I gave very specific tasks. They are acknowledged as to their contributions in the enhanced ebook under “Additional Acknowledgments.”
Eve Paludan: And did you also use the web and libraries?
Reid Rosenthal: Most definitely. I drew on scores of printed and web sources, and several great nonfiction and memoir historical works of that very specific time period. It was fascinating and immensely rewarding, and I hope this research affords the historical texture of Threads West at a macro level the depth, detail, and scope not typically found in historical Western novels.
Eve Paludan: It most definitely does. I can tell by the book that you found that era fascinating.
Reid Rosenthal: Truly! It was a time of both promise and fear, and the beginnings of the second great European immigration, a critical timeframe just prior to the switch of reels in the living movie of American history; Reel one, the East. Reel two, the West.
Eve Paludan: That is a great way to put it! And with that, I’m going to invite readers to stay tuned for Reel Two of this interview, which will be continued on Jodie Renner’s blog very soon! In the meantime, how can readers get a copy of your first printing?
Reid Rosenthal: I’m absolutely delighted that Threads West will be available for the first time in print on October 12 on Amazon.com. Other outlets will carry the novel as well, over the coming months. However, this is the very limited first printing, just 4,500 copies, and as of this interview, it appears that almost half has already been reserved. So, folks should go to: http://www.threadswestamericansaga.com/
Eve Paludan: I heard you’re throwing a “Branding Party” for the book launch. Can you tell us about that?
Reid Rosenthal: There’s going to be lots of fun stuff, reviews, photos, excerpts, and some great ranch theme contests good only on October 12. There is an easy reserve-the-book system—though not mandatory at all—and then, on Tuesday, October 12, the link on that site will whisk readers to the Threads West page on Amazon.com to purchase the books (or books with Christmas coming up). Yes, I am excited :-)
INTERVIEW WITH REID ROSENTHAL TO BE CONTINUED…
BOOKMARK THIS BLOG!
Note from Jodie: See Eve's Oct. 5 guest blog below for her review of Reid's book.