Monday, October 11, 2010

Interview of Reid Rosenthal, author of Threads West - Part Two

Eve Paludan: Reid Rosenthal, author of Threads West, welcome back to Jodie Renner's blog for part two of this interview! I’m sure readers want to know more about the creation of the Threads West series and about your life as a fourth-generation land and cattle owner. Can you tell us more about who you are and what you do?

Reid Rosenthal: In the simplest terms, Eve, I am just me. As with all others who share this planet, I have my shining, and less illustrious sides. I am a type Triple-A personality and with that comes both the good and less than good, inherent to those who suffer the same 24-7 demeanor. Yes, I am driven. I believe dreams are but the precursors of reality. One has only to make them so.

But I love the land, its special energy, solitude, space, and soul succor. Alone and far from others, whispers of canyon breezes playin’ oh so gentle’cross my cheek, the smell of earth, sage, leaves and horse sweat might just be the only time I truly relax. It is those moments, high atop a windswept ridge, rifle nestled in the leather of the scabbard, that I am transported to ten thousand years ago where I am a native sojourner, clad in a hide loincloth and carrying a spear in quest of fresh meat for the clan. It is cleansing, and real, this time machine of earth energy. The hum of it brings me back full circle to my very roots as a human being. These are the feelings of which I write, and they are universal in their truth of any historical era, though less realized today than at any other time in man's history.

Eve Paludan: That kind of vision into the past is truly inspiring. Thank you for sharing what makes you tick. Could you talk more about living off the land, as our pioneers did and how that translates into modern-day conservation?

Reid Rosenthal: He who lives on the land, lives off the land, and he who calls the land his home is by definition a steward of that little piece of the planet. The conservation and enhancement of resources is fundamental to good stewardship. Love the land and it will love you back. I strive in my fiction writing to first pen a great story, a page-turner that is both a mirror and a portal.

Eve Paludan: I love that! What a visualization with seeing messages from the past and then they reflect on the present.

Reid Rosenthal: Yes, there are messages in my writing, subtle and subliminal in some respects, but those manifestations of my core principles are in there. And respect for the land and property as the foundation of America, her spirit, the aspirations of her generations, and as the symbol of our individual freedom is more than a whisper in Threads West, and all the successive books of the series.

Eve Paludan: It makes me think about where we came from, as a country. As well as where we’re going.

Reid Rosenthal: It’s time we returned to our roots. I hope Threads West, while it entertains and captivates readers, imparts that sense of “back to American basics” using the land, and the characters’ interaction on and about the land as the touchstone of that reminder.

Eve Paludan: In part one of this interview, you talked a little bit about your research. How much of that came from your family’s roots?

Reid Rosenthal: Much of the vine of fiction in the series is based on seeds of fact. For instance, my father is from Germany, in fact from a cattle operation on the Lahn River in the little village of Villmar. My mother’s family hailed from England, centuries ago. My grandfather’s name was indeed Ludwig, and on my grandmother’s side, her brother was Hermann.

Because I am wed to and intrigued by both the challenge and the unique reward of writing in the style of converging threads, the lives, loves, struggles, and exhilarating triumphs of the 38 primary characters who people the four generations of the series are destined to always be interwoven by the loom of the land and fabric of time. The old cliché— “six degrees of separation”—might well be said to be the platform of converging threads of lives in fiction styles like my own.

Eve Paludan: Humanity is really a web of people, and we are all interconnected. I like the way the characters in your book meet each other and develop relationships. That must have been difficult to decide who connects and how their stories interconnect in the big picture.

Reid Rosenthal: The daunting challenge is to provide a seamless plot, realistic motivation, emotion, imagery and setting, and believable convergence and re-convergence of the threads of personalities over time and distance.

Eve Paludan: May I say that I love how you accomplished all of this so well. The characters are all individuals and they have their own quests and life paths.

Reid Rosenthal: I tried to create an epic tale of unforgettable characters whose personalities are forged over generations on the land’s anvil—fused by an emerging nation, imbued with the romance of America, her spirit, her people and the West. To the extent that I have succeeded thus far, I owe the great writers before me—and all of my great team—a humble thanks.

Eve Paludan: The result of such great team support is a book that transcends the genre of historical Western romance and goes beyond fiction to affect readers in their real lives.

Reid Rosenthal: Threads West, An American Saga is meant to be far more than the tale of the characters. I hope readers realize that Threads West is, in truth, our collective story.

Eve Paludan: Could you tell me more about your author inspirations?

Reid Rosenthal: We spoke at some length in the first part of the interview about which authors have inspired my writing. I would add that it is an honor and a privilege to even be mentioned in the same sentence as these legendary storytellers. To be asked to discuss which of their works most influenced me is merely a tribute to them, these silent mentors who never met me, did not know I exist, and most likely—those who are still alive—rightfully have no clue as to "Reid Who?" 

Eve Paludan: I think that very soon, people are going to stop saying "Reid Who?" and your name will be recognizable to readers around the world. When did you start reading those Westerns?

Reid Rosenthal: I read many of those books for the first time of a dozen re-readings in elementary school. Many is the night I would huddle under the blankets—dim light of the flashlight I had snatched from the kitchen tool bag—fading and flickering as morning approached. I eagerly turned pages of the books, once in a while poking my head out to study the approaching light from the East, filled with youthful resentment that my reading time was coming to an end for another night. It was that time, around the age of nine, in fact, that I vowed to myself that, I, too would write novels, spin stories, furrow the brows of readers with empathy for the characters, and transport them into the arc of the tale.

Eve Paludan: What were some of those titles that kept you up all night?

Reid Rosenthal: Mila 18, Exodus, Battle Cry, and The Young Lions by Leon Uris. The Old Man and the Sea, and For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane. These would be the works that I draw upon stylistically and, in different ways. I have read each and every one of Louis L'Amour's Westerns; I have his entire collection. So, too, I devoured Larry McMurtry's stunning Lonesome Dove and Max McCoy's two Spur award winners, one of which is Hellfire Canyon. Each book has contributed to my own craft of words and story, style and structure, some—like Uris and Hemingway—more than others.

Eve Paludan: This is a great tip for writers that they don’t spend all of their time writing, but must also read to be immersed in the styles and plotlines of the great writers.

Reid Rosenthal: I muse at times about this tremendous gift these men have given me without ever knowing it. I wonder if—should I be so lucky as to enjoy even a modicum of their great and well-deserved success—if readers of Threads West will read this book and make promises to themselves about writing their own books. I surely hope that kind of energy springs from my novels. And so, threads will once again converge. There is a symmetry to it all that appeals to me. Writers inspire each other. No doubt about it!

Eve Paludan: They do! I know you work from many outlines, so that you can keep control of the plot elements. Do you ever deviate from your outlines when you get inspired to go in a different direction? And if so, how do you retool your characters and plotline on the fly so that you don't get off on a tangent and lose track of your goal for the chapter?

Reid Rosenthal: I don't write detailed outlines. I have been writing these books in my head for decades. My outlines are rarely more than three pages for a book. And, yes, as the characters tell me their stories, like the simple scribe I am, I merely write it. They rely on me only to portray the setting, to create the stage of mood that flows from scene. I follow their dictates in the twists and turns of the storyline, which remains true always to the basic center of the yarn, but will absolutely deviate in delightful, frightful, and deliciously unanticipated ways, just as life does.

Eve Paludan: Thank you for those insights. I wanted to ask a technical question. You're the only author I know who uses Dragon Naturally Speaking speech recognition software to dictate your story aloud. How did you come to start using it? How has this technology helped your writing?

Reid Rosenthal: I'm laughing. Truth be known, I dictate because I can't type. Actually I can type about 150 words per minute. Unfortunately, that includes 10 typos (at least) per line. I am also not a big fan of spell check. It is the big paw, little keyboard syndrome. Also, I spend so much time traveling between ranches, or in locations without power, that recording thoughts for later use became a necessity in my teens. The prehistoric full-size cassette recorders of the 70s were quite something. Good ones were the size of small briefcase. Then along came the micro-cassette recorders. If I was in heaven then, the current digital technology is pure nirvana.

In the “old” days—up to two years ago, I would dictate and give tapes to my staff to transcribe them. With the voice recognition systems, this step is eliminated. I dictate, the software types (what a pleasure!), I print the hard copy, fax the first edits to them shortly after, and poof! —we have a draft! I think this system works well for me because I am so used to “writing and composing” via speech over almost forty years. I can express myself in a stream of consciousness, almost like real conversation, albeit a unilateral discussion of characters. Other than edits, and perhaps twenty pages of the book, Threads West was entirely written using this system. Matter of fact, more than half the book was written while guiding the one-ton truck through the beautiful wild and remote stretches of the West that lie between our ranches! I must admit to occasional breaks in the machine scribed drafts that exclaimed, “Oh, damn, was that a cop?” or “Hey, how about using a blinker, you moron!”

Eve Paludan: That’s pretty funny! And what a unique way of writing a book, in your truck while driving while your laptop types what you say! How’s that for irony? Using twenty-first century technology to write about nineteenth-century stories.

Reid Rosenthal: It is a delicious and fascinating irony.

Eve Paludan: Thanks for Part 2 of this interview, Reid. Readers, stay tuned, because the next part of the interview is going to rock and roll like Reid on the back of a Brahma bull chargin’ out of the chute.

Reid Rosenthal: That’s right, Eve. Part three of this interview is going to be all adrenaline and passion.

Eve Paludan: Can readers still reserve books before tomorrow’s big release?

Reid Rosenthal: Yes ma’am! We have a few left but not many! Threads West will be available for the first time in print on October 12 on Other outlets will carry the novel as well, but Amazon is exclusive for the first printing release. Just 4,500 copies, and as of this second part of the interview, it appears that almost two-thirds have already been reserved. So, folks should go to:

Eve Paludan: I heard you’re throwing a “Branding Party” for the book launch.

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 and then, on Tuesday, October 12, the link on that site will whisk readers to the Threads West page on to purchase the books (or books with Christmas coming up). Yes, I am excited :-)



Note from Jodie: See Eve's Oct. 5 guest blog below for her review of Reid's book.

1 comment:

  1. This is fascinating stuff, Reid! Thanks for the great interview and guest blog, Eve!

    Reid, I was interested to find out how you dictate your stories while traveling the backroads between your ranches! This will definitely answer the question for any readers who might wonder how you can be a rancher when you're busy writing books!