Angela (Angie) C. Trudell Vasquez Poet Laureate of Madison, Wisconsin – Performer – Activist

I am a poet.

I began seriously writing when I was seven years old. I remember making my first few lines in the diary. I convinced my paternal grandmother to buy it when we went uptown one day. This was during summer break when we, my sister and I, would stay with her for our annual visit. Beans and tortillas were all we ate, running in and out of the kitchen all day long and back outside, gulping a spoonful each time we passed the stove.
Wanting to write was a conscious choice for me at a young age. The book, Frederick the Mouse by Leo Leonni, was my early inspiration. I learned the power of words to make one whole, feel well-fed, and warm through that acclaimed children’s book. Frederick being a mouse poet, helped his family get through the coldest part of winter with his poems when their stores ran out.

Today I am the City of Madison Poet Laureate and the first Latina in this role. I served one-year as of January 2021. I have published three of my own collections of poetry and have a new one coming out soon. I have edited and co-edited books, journals, and zines, including the Spring 2019 edition of the Yellow Medicine Review. I went back in 2015, in my late forties, to get my MFA in poetry from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I graduated in May 2017.

I also serve as the vice-chair on the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission and help pick the state’s poet laureate biennially. I consider myself a literary ambassador in my role as poet laureate. Balancing my volunteerism, writing, appearances, and readings with my full-time job takes some organizing. It helps to have a partner who is an artist as well. We recently made Sundays full art days in our house.

Do you write in more than one genre? I do write in other genres, earning two Pushcart nominations, one for an essay and another for a poem. I write short stories, sci-fi and am working on a memoir right now. I took a class with IAIA alum David Tromblay in Fall 2019 and got a good start on my memoir. Poems are my favorite, though.

Tell us about your writing process: Everything for me starts in longhand. I edit on my computer. When I get stuck, I move it back to the page and write it out in longhand to figure out what went wrong in the editing process. I write in my body: hand to wrist to arm to core to heart to brain and back. I write fast on the page and have long practiced automatic writing. My pen always ahead of my brain, my conscious self. I am often surprised by what comes out on the page. The pen admits what I have been avoiding. That’s when writing gets exciting when you are a conduit of sorts and along for the ride. Sometimes lines come to me at night when I am dreaming. I do edit my poems voraciously and enjoy the rigorous process. I think this is where the real writing is now, in the editing. I find inspiration easy, but then I need to work with what I have created and sculpt it on the page until I am satisfied with form, white space, and sound. Poems take you where they want to go and are not done until you have read them in public. I read my poems aloud as I edit, but they sound different in my study than they do at a venue with actual people present. I do not consider a poem done until it has been shared orally with others. When I was a younger poet, I tried out poems at open mics to test them. Now I can record them and listen back, but it is still worthwhile to share them with others for final edits, in my opinion. Poems sound different when you read them to a live audience that one word makes a difference.I also think it is important to read other poets’ work, old and new. I like the idea of poets in conversation with each other across time and space and genre. Some of my poems are in direct response to another poet’s poem I heard them perform or something I read in print or online. I learned in graduate school that I love theory and continue to study. Listening to poets and writers read their work is a real pleasure for me. How you hear the words in your head versus when it is a public performance is enlightening. I listen to poetry readings, lectures, or conversations with writers when I cook these days or travel to visit my family in Chicago or Milwaukee.

What are you currently working on? I just received my contract from Finishing Line Press for my newest collection, My People Redux. This is the 2nd half of my master’s thesis. In Light, Always Light, also published by FLP in May 2019, was the first half. I graduated in May 2017 and spent a long year re-working my poems. In Light, Always Light, accepted in August 2018, was a finalist for their New Women’s Voices Award.

Concurrently, I am working on another collection of poetry that focuses on the history of us humans. This involves research. I am enjoying the process and taking my time. Some of these poems are published, and some are still being edited. I need to continue to push them out into the world. I was also working on my memoir in fits and starts.

In my role as the poet laureate for the City of Madison, I will be judging the annual Bus Line Poetry contest soon. I have many upcoming scheduled readings for a book I just published under my small press Art Night Books in November 2019 called, Through This Door – Wisconsin in Poems. This is a collaboration with the most recent state poet laureate, Margaret Rozga. The book took us over a year to put out and is the second time we have published a collection together. I served as co-editor for this collection in addition to being the publisher, and we have had a good response. Twice we have been on the radio, NPR stations, and I have logged many hours at the post office mailing books out across the state and country. We had to go back to the printer three times now.

I consider myself a literary ambassador as a poet laureate and this has opened up many doors for me. I want to continue to do that for other writers. We need community and support. I would not be where I am today without the networks I found all along the way. Nor, without people sharing opportunities with me and freely offering up what they know, and being generous. I believe in the power of art to heal, connect and create community. It is a record of our lives and our history. I am so happy to be on this journey at this moment in time.

Here are comments about my work by two poets I admire:

The poems of In Light, Always Light afford space for the lyric to clarify and delineate the self “… through the ravine to the seam / the V peak of the hills / where dappled light spills / between rocks and discarded beer cans.” Here Angela Vasquez presents poems that struggle to contend with family history, a history of diaspora and relation, of assertion and insistence that the reader and the poet must bring to bear the imperative of “yes, yes fight back.” The poems travel, as we do, to observe the poet in the eternal dimension where one must write, and read — “Let me sit in sadness for a spell. / I need to write this out.”

–Joan Naviyuk Kane, 2018 Guggenheim Fellow

The poems in Angie Trudell Vasquez’s In Light, Always Light honor the illuminating power of poetry, but they also speak eloquently of racial injustice and the dark “inherited grief” that is its offspring. These are poems of history, endurance, and remembrance. They vividly story the strength and survival of migrant ancestors “who built railroads / with broken backs” or shared “mole recipes on parchment.” In those relatives “passed. . .to vases of bone and ash,” Vasquez recognizes the fleeting quality of human reality. Like our forebears, we are mere “half blinks of history,” “we are magic dying.” But in this volume, Vasquez offers her ancestors colorful and enduring literary lives. “Poets,” she writes, “resist the death of a people” and “beyond death, art speaks.”

Kimberly Blaeser, author of Apprenticed to Justice, Wisconsin Poet Laureate 2015-2016

If people want to connect with me, the best way is email: angiectvasquez@gmail.com
My website is www.angietrudellvasquez.com, and my small press website is http://www.artnightbooks.com

 

 

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Terese Mailhot – Best Selling Author of Heart Berries: A Memoir

Terese Marie Mailhot – A New York Times bestseller

Selected by Emma Watson as the Our Shared Shelf Book Club Pick for March/April 2018
A PBS Newshour/New York Times Now Read This Book Club Pick
New York Times Editor’s Choice
Winner of the Spalding Prize for the Promotion of Peace and Justice in Literature
Finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for English–Language Nonfiction
A Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection
An NPR Best Book of the Year

“There are so many sentences I had to read again because they were so true and beautiful. It’s a memoir of pure poetry and courage and invention. Whenever I think about it, my heart clenches with love.” —Cheryl Strayed, The New York Times Book Review.

“A sledgehammer . . . Her experiments with structure and language . . . are in the service of trying to find new ways to think about the past, trauma, repetition, and reconciliation, which might be a way of saying a new model for the memoir . . . If Heart Berries is any indication, the work to come will not just surface suppressed stories; it might give birth to new forms.” —The New York Times.

Do you write in more than one genre? Yes! I have a novel coming out soon! It’s untitled.

What brought you to writing? I loved my mother’s writing very much. She was the first person who really taught me about writing. I would watch her work nightly on poetry or essay, and I always thought it was honorable work.

Where do you write and do allow any distractions? I write in my bedroom, because it’s the only room in the house I could set up an office. I invite distractions. I’m very lucky in my life. This pandemic has taught me to value family time and I’ve also learned how to enjoy being sidetracked. Those moments of distraction can be inspiring and energizing.

Tell us about your writing process: I write every day until I make my wordcount goal. Then I take a few months off and revise. If it’s for something more urgent, I work relentlessly, nonstop, until it’s as good as it gets for that deadline.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Time. Work life getting in the way.

What are you currently working on? The novel. I’m giving it time. I finished the first draft, so it’s about time to revise.

Who’s currently your favorite author? Kiese Laymon or Jesmyn Ward or James Baldwin … it’s too hard to choose!

How long did it take you to write your first book and published? It about 6 years to write. It sold two weeks from the time I sent it out and was published a year after.

We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? I like the outsiders. I like writing from the perspective of black sheep types, because their interiority is electric and perceptive, willful, and neglected.

Do your protagonists ever disappoint you? Yes.

Do you try to make the antagonist into a more human character? I think flawed characters are my favorite. I like people written off or disregarded, or people who are misunderstood.

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? I think there are underpinned themes in all the work I do. I think, in my current novel, there’s an underpinned theme of joy and collectivity, and I think of it like taste. Like, there should be many dimensions to a good dish. There should be a lot to savor or value in good food. Maybe I’m hungry. It shouldn’t be overbearing the main course.

Do you raise the stakes for your protagonist—for the antagonist? I like work with little plot. I just throw wrenches at my characters until something strikes me.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? Both.

What kind of research do you do? A lot. As much as humanly possible from all kinds of sources.

What is the best book you ever read? Giovanni’s Room.

Do you have any advice for new writers? You can do it. It’s harder for some, but nothing is impossible.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? I write for the women I love. I write for my mother.

How do our readers contact you? Teresemailhot.com

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Elisabeth Tuck

    I’m always interested in books from a different perspective. Thanks, George, for the heads up.

    Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    Interesting interview– You sound like a very disciplined person, which is a great attribute for a writer. I wish you much success.

    Reply

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Justin “Jud” Gauthier – Screen Writer – Actor – Author

POSOH is a partnership between UW Madison researchers, The College of Menominee Nation’s Sustainable Development Institute

Posoh, Justin “Jud” Gauthier here, currently serving an indeterminate sentence chained to an accursed desk where I try to not write bad screenplays. Not to write bad screenplays? I don’t know. Great start, Jud. Wording aside, I discovered my love of screenwriting at the tail end of my dirty thirties. I’m a lifelong cinefile, and I used to believe my first movie memory was seeing Bladerunner in a theatre with my parents. I turned six in ’82, and it’s an indelible memory, the spinner flying through that futuristic, cyber-punk downtown L.A., the Geisha, forty-stories tall, demurs on the side of a skyscraper. That moment broke reality for me. I wanted to crawl into that screen. To be a part of whatever that world was. I’ve been trying to break reality ever since.

It turns out I have an earlier movie memory that places my first theatre-going experience somewhere in January ’81. At four years old, I remember it was cold, and we’d parked far away from the little Crescent Theater in downtown Shawano, Wisconsin. There was a bit of a crowd, mostly native, to see the premiere of Windwalker. I remember the heavy, his face smudged with black and white paint, stalking through the snow. I remember mom and dad on the drive home talking about the film in a way only indigenous activists who grew up through the turbulence of the sixties and seventies could. “Why can’t they get it right?” “It’s something anyways.” I fell asleep and probably had a nightmare about the Fish Head Song video from Saturday Night Live. It really upset me at the time, not to mention how sorry I felt for Mr. Bill. I had a lot going on at four.

Since we’re all the way back in January 1981 and I’ve shared a sliver of the influence pop culture has had on my screenwriting style, let me offer a more expanded view as we travel through the 80’s, the ’90s, and into the early aughts, hang on:

Live from New York! It’s Saturday Night! I’m a Pepper, he’s a Pepper, she’s a Pepper, wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper too? Tron. Speak & Spell. Mikey likes it! Atari. Friday Night Videos. Hulkamania. Don’t squeeze the Charmin. The Goonies. Iran-Contra. UHF/VHF. Just say no. Make a run for the border. Colors. Nintendo. It’s morning in America. MTV. Who ya gonna call? Mr. Yuck stickers. Mortimer Ichabod. The Breakfast Club. Live Aid. Where’s the Beef? *Gasp The Hamburglar. Challenger explosion. Know what I mean, Vern? My Adidas. The death of Optimus Prime. The Mc DLT. Hands Across America. Spuds McKenzie. Robocop. Avoid the Noid! Max Headroom. Bart Simpson. Stonewashed Jeans. Not the Momma! Casey Kasem’s American Top 40. I have sinned! It’s gotta be the shoes! Screech Powers. Cassette singles. In West Philadelphia born and raised.  Akira. Ripped Jeans. Minute Maid Orange Soda. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall. Swatches. Boyz n’ the Hood. Super Nintendo. Lollapalooza. Johnny Carson retires. Read my lips, no new taxes. Crystal-clear Pepsi. Cross Colours. Compact Discs. Desert Storm. Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Starter jackets. Sega! Wu-Tang. Li’l Penny. Bigmouth bottles. L.A. riots. The Fab Five. A sphincter says what? A Bronx Tale. O.J. 1-800-COLLECT. Clerks. Oklahoma City bombing. Brett Favre > Vicodin. Nintendo64. Tupac. Biggie. Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire. It depends on what the meaning of “is” is. Dance Dance Revolution. Gotta catch ‘em all. DVD. JNCO Jeans. South Park. Smell what the Rock is cooking. Giga Pets. PlayStation. Yo Quiero Taco Bell? Half Baked. Fossil watches. Amazon. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. 9-11. Grand Theft Auto III. Right about here’s good.

October-ish 2001: A couple of friends and I decided to write a feature-length comedy about our experiences attending the Flandreau Indian School together in the early nineties. We worked hard for the first few months, then it took close to two years to finish. We ended up with a 100+ page script spread across several interesting media choices: 3.5” floppy disk, Mead notebook (no cover), yellow legal pad, various napkins, and loose papers. It was a comedy, I guess. We laughed. Looking back, it was too rough-hewn. We weren’t screenwriters though we each had flashes. I enjoyed the process, especially working with friends. Of course, that old script is lost now, spread to the winds of time. And for the best, I think, considering our title, “Tipi Creepin’.”

Fast-forward again: NBA Street Vol. 2. Johnny Cash died. Katrina. Dick Cheney shoots that guy. MP3 Players. Yahoo! Chat. Limewire. You are not the father. YouTube. Obama Phones. MySpace. iPhone. Facebook. Sandy. PlayStation 4. Flight 370 disappears. David Bowie and Prince die. Cubs win! Cubs win!  Yeah, somewhere in here, I think.

2015-16 to present: After being accepted as a soil science major at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2011, I graduated in 2015 with a BA in Creative Writing, go figure. Soon thereafter, I heard about the Lo-Rez MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts and applied as soon as possible. I was in a real creative lull, as evidenced by my YouTube channel featuring a “life” hack video on preparing Mac and Cheese using a beurre manié technique for the cheese powder.  It’s incredible.

IAIA is an amazing wellspring of creativity and was a great course correction for me. I found screenwriting through camaraderie with the screenwriting students. I changed majors from short fiction to screenwriting on my first day at the program. In the intervening years, I’ve been developing my skills by tackling as many varied genres and forms of screenwriting projects as possible. I also stay in touch with my screenwriting cohort and instructors, a real Murderer’s Row if I ever saw one.

In 2019, I was honored to land the role of Larry in the 1491’s play, “Between Two Knees” at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I’d always aspired to acting but never thought I’d have the opportunity. It’s easily the most rewarding creative endeavor I’ve been involved with to date. It was a lot of hard work in memorization, timing, and choreography, but man, oh man, what an amazing script, cast, and crew. I’m optimistic for the future of theatre in a post-vaccine world, so keep an eye out for Between Two Knees coming to a theater near you!

Early 2020, I sold a romantic comedy short named “Adelina” to Meet Cute for their audio podcast series. It was amazing to hear the pages I’d worked on for weeks performed by talented voice actors and foley artists. Currently, I’m partnering with a fellow writer on developing a drama series.

You can reach me at:

judgauthier@yahoo.com

indigenousfilmnerd.wordpress.com

Twitter: @reddayblueday

IG: judgauthier

1 Comment

  1. Thonie Hevron

    A fascinating post, Jud. It’s so interesting to see the different paths on which writers satisfy their literary itch. Good luck!

    Reply

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Crisosto Apache – Poet – Educator – Leader

Mescalero / Chiricahua Apache and Diné Navajo from New Mexico.

Crisosto Apache is an alumnus from Insitute of American Indian Arts (AFA 1992 / MFA 2015) and Metropolitan State University of Denver (BA, 2013) for English and Creative Writing. His work also includes Native LGBTQI / ‘two spirit’ advocacy & public awareness.

“Entirely new, experimental, and worth the effort of reading. Passionate in places, contemplative in others, he travels from that ancient past toward the distant universe.”—Linda Hogan

“These poems record not only the nine months of history occurring while the poet formed in gestation… it attempts to make sense of the whirling world of chromosomes, of snow across body-laden battlefields, the whirl of strobe lights in a sex club, and the spiral which meets in the center where isdzán and haastiń (woman and man) become indistinguishable. Apache’s collection challenges our footing on things we thought we knew.”—James Thomas Stevens

Do you write in more than one genre? Though most of my writing falls under the poetry genre, more specifically the Native American Literary genre, I am trying to develop my narrative elements by writing a memoir. The emphasis for the memoir is my experience growing up on my Mescalero Apache reservation in New Mexico as a gay male, as well as my experience off the reservation in urban areas as a marginalized Native American.

What brought you to writing? I originally started my education wanting to be an artist, a painter. During my adolescent years, I did a lot of illustration in my spare time and read a lot of poetry-the classics. I was mostly drawn to the fantasy style of artwork. My illustration got me a scholarship to the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the fall of 1989. I studied two-dimensional design my first two semesters when I was approached by Arthur Sze, the head of the Creative Writing department at the time. He convinced me to change my major, and that was my introduction to writing. I can say I have always acknowledged myself as a lifetime student of Arthur Sze because of the influence taught through his courses and the materials offered. My second manuscript, titled “Ghostword,” is highly influenced by a modern Japanese writer introduced to me by Arthur. The writer is Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, and the book “A Fool’s Life” (Eridanos Press). I have carried carbon copy excerpts from the book distributed in his class until I finally found the book in a reprinted collection of Akutagawa’s work. Until I located a copy, “A Fool’s Life” had been out of print. So, my second manuscript is a kind of conversation or life response.

Tell us about your writing process: My writing process varies from time to time. First, I must say it is important for me to distinguish myself as an artist first before identifying myself as a writer. My identity as an artist is what fuels my creative aspiration for writing. Most of my creative bursts come during the night. I am sometimes awakened by jolting moments to write. When this occurs, I do get up and go directly to my computer and begin typing. It is during these moments many of the fundamental ideas come through for my poetry. The writing is almost automatic, and it feels closer to being on “automatic pilot.” Many of the poems in my book GENESIS have come from these waking moments. Some of the approaches for my writing focus on the juxtaposition of my indigenous language and the English language. Through translation, I found this technique interesting how the language interacts as meaning and description. It is fascinating to me to examine the interaction of language and the mapped direction the language interaction takes me, which resembles the action of “unfolding” or “uncovering.” I always look forward to reading other writers’ work because I draw influence and encouragement from what is written. I often think and wonder if the “jolting wake” in the night comes from the influence of reading, where my mind finally assembles ideas for my writing.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? The most challenging part of my writing process is finding time to focus on the writing and revision process. Because my time is mostly dedicated to my teaching job as an English professor (and all the facets of faculty responsibilities) and my volunteer position as the Associate Editor of Poetry for The Offing online magazine, it can sometimes be challenging to find dedicated time to focus on my writing. I have a small office in my house where I have a small library and a computer. I sometimes have closed the door and try to focus on my writing. I keep the door closed when I am not in my office so I can separate the concept of the room as not part of the house. When I am in my office, I am usually in the headspace of work. It is especially important now in these current times of the pandemic. I do take my time seriously when I am in my office and focusing on my creative written work.

Do you have any advice for new writers? About writing, my only encouragement is to just write. The act of writing is the most important part of the writing process, even though it may be bad writing. I save all my scribblings and voice recorded entries to various folders on my computer. I learned to carry with me a voice recorder to voice my ideas. I used to carry a small notebook but often misplaced them. My voice recorder fits into my pocket and works simply fine. It is important to find or reserve time to focus on writing. It is simply not enough to assemble and collect ideas. Much of the writing process is composing ideas into the structure and revising. Working on a manuscript also takes a lot of time and care. Deciding how much material should go into a working manuscript and to what order also is part of the process that deserves much consideration. If you are a beginning writer and have made it to the point of assembling a manuscript, then you deserve recognition and congratulations. It is a huge accomplishment to assemble a manuscript. Publishing your work is also important. Finding places to publish your writing can be challenging. Rejection is part of the writing process. Do not criticize yourself for rejection. Sometimes it is all about timing. Most of my publishing opportunities come from my network of friends who write. Establish a network. To summarize, make time to read, submit & publish, and most importantly, keep writing.

How do our readers contact you? Your website, blog links, any links you want posted?

GENESIS book order Link: http://amzn.to/2FzG409

My website: http://crisostoapache.com/books-2/

Lost Alphabet’s website: http://www.lostalphabet.com/genesis/

Twitter: @Crisosto_Apache

Instagram: @crisosto_apache

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Eric Davis

    A really great piece George.

    Reply
  2. Ruby Hansen Murray

    Love the concept of “a small office in my house where I have a small library and a computer,” separated for creative work. Thanks for this interview, Crisosto &George.

    Reply

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Virgil Alexander – Miner, World Traveler, Historian, Author

History must be what it is. There is no need for excuses or blame.

My first book remains a large, fractured manuscript, still a work in progress, titled Ranching in the Heart of Arizona. From a conversation with a coworker about 14 years ago about the fact that many old ranchers in our area were passing away and my comment, “Someone should get their history before it’s too late.” She said, “Why don’t you do it?” Expecting to be dealing with a score or so ranches, research has turned up more than three hundred old ranch-families in my home Gila County; and started me on my never-ending personal story.

In fact, it was the act of researching that history that I first happened on the very interesting 1889 robbery of US Army Paymaster Major Wham and his escort at Cottonwood Canyon in Arizona. My first fiction novel, The Wham Curse, set in two different centuries relates the story of the robbery and creates a fictional answer to what if the Wham loot were found in modern times?

I became friends with my lead characters and needed to keep them alive. I am the author of a four-book series of mysteries set in rural Arizona and the greater Southwest. I am also an Arizona Historian, with several papers for the Historical Society, museums, on-line history pages, articles in print magazines and newspapers, and an editor and contributor to a history book.  My interest in the Southwest’s natural and human history and my love for mystery stories are combined in my fiction stories. A sense of place and history plays out in my stories as a natural part of the setting.

Each of my books has a primary murder plot, three or four subplots, and character backstories. In The Wham Curse, the primary plot is solving the inexplicable killing of a young Apache boy, which makes no sense until connected with the old robbery. Secondary plots deal with historic preservation, environmentalism, and crime on the Indian Reservation.

Saints & Sinners has the main plot of protecting a Mexican girl from cartel assassins. Secondary themes resolve around border issues, a romance blooming for Deputy Sanchez, international crime, and Mexican culture.

Archaeological theft and international illegal marketing and murder are the primary plots of The Baleful Owl. Subplots include dealing with differing views among different tribes, acceptance of the mentally disadvantaged, and the place of preservation in the rapidly changing Southwest.

Set in two fictional mine developments in Arizona, Murder in Copper, deals with a murder and both industrial and international espionage, justice on the reservation, international relationships with former Soviet republics, alcoholism, and grief.

I do a lot of research, even for my fiction. The Apache, O’odham, Mexican, Mormon, and rural culture will be as accurately depicted as I can make it. The geography, natural environment, and history of each setting will be very accurate. I research the legality of situations and law enforcement jurisdictions, and the local culture’s influence. So when the story is in Hermosillo, Solomon, Spain, Turkmenistan, San Carlos, Tempe, Tucson, Ft. McDowell, or wherever, I used actual street names, buildings, office locations, and sometimes business names, such as the Casa Reynoso in Tempe and Taylor Freeze in Pima.

When I write, I have a general idea, sort of a very sketchy outline of my main plot. From there, I simply tell the story, let it flow naturally. I’m often surprised where this takes me; I guess that’s the pantsy part of me. But the “engineer syndrome” part of me comes to play in that I keep track of each plot and subplot, the clues, and each character I invent on spreadsheets. While I always have new characters in each novel, I also reuse characters from other books. This organized tracking facilitates reuse of interesting minor characters, keeps me from revealing a clue or a clue-related action at the wrong time, and lets me weave the progress of plots and subplots in a logical order, and to sometimes connect subplots as contributory to the main plot.

I love the act of writing, especially fiction because I can take it wherever I want it to go, as long as it makes sense to the story. But I hate to be interrupted when writing. This makes it kind of a tough, lonely time for my longsuffering wife. I need about a three-hour block of time, so I can get the story flowing and translate it to words; with any less than that, I spend most of my time trying to figure out where I am in the story and where I want to go. There have been times I started writing at seven pm and interrupted to go to bed at seven am.  Such a session is very productive; it’s like playing at the top of my game.

One thing I do when writing either pure history or depicting actual history in a novel is present the facts as they actually happened and in the context of the period, without passing judgment or equating it to today’s values. History must be what it is. There is no need for excuses or blame.

For more about my work or myself, visit my page: https://virgilalexander.weebly.com/books.html

The books are available in print and digital at Barnes & Noble Stores and Online, at Indy stores, and through Amazon.

 

10 Comments

  1. John G. Bluck

    I like your method of using real places, Google maps and the Internet to accurately describe locations depicted in your novels. I’m sure your experience as a historian has helped you a lot, as well. One of my daughters lived in Arizona for a while. I look forward to further exploring the Southwest via your books.

    Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    It definitely sounds like you’ve got a system that works well for you, Virgil. Using spreadsheets to keep things on track is a novel idea. Good luck with your writing. I hope to see you at the next PSWA conference.

    Reply
    • Virgil H. Alexander

      Once, I decided to maintain minor characters across by books, it became necessary to keep them straight. In was an idea for novels, so truly a novel idea, right?

      Reply
  3. Valerie Leach

    I have known Virgil for many years and graduated high school with his wife, Lois! Just finished reading “The Wham Curse” and loved it! Will now be reading “Saints and Sinners”! Learning a lot about Gila County where I grew up and love the accuracy of these historical novels!!

    Reply
    • Virgil H. Alexander

      Gila County gets a little more exposure in the Baleful Owl, and Globe-Miami are a major setting in Murder in Copper.

      Reply
  4. Keith Alexander

    So, what are the best methods for researching distant locales which you can’t visit them in person?

    Reply
    • Virgil H. Alexander

      For scenes of places where I’ve never been, I review the official webpage of the place, then I “explore” it using google street view, so I can accurately describe the setting. I did this with the scenes in Saints & Sinners set in Hermosillo, and in Spain. The CIA World Book is a great source of basic economic, political, and cultural information for any country. Research is so much easier with the internet than having to use physical archives or microfilm.

      Reply
      • Katherine Alexander

        What does pantsy mean?

        Reply
        • Virgil H. Alexander

          Pantsy refers to “flying by the seat of the pants”, writing as ideas flow to you, rather than planning a detailed narrative and following it. This is the way most of my writing is done, though I also usually have a rough outline of what I want in the main plot.

          Reply
  5. Virgil H. Alexander

    Thanks again George for helping to get the word out on my works. I’m hoping we get some interesting discussion of questions. Fellow readers, I will be out for a while late morning today, but will check in periodically for comments.

    Reply

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