Interview with Stephen Bly

» Posted on Aug 5, 2010 in Blog | Comments Off on Interview with Stephen Bly

Steve with blackhat&jacket
This week I’m hosting Mary Connealy with Doctor in Petticoats and Stephen Bly with Cowboy for a Rainy Afternoon. If you want to enter the drawings, please leave a comment on one of the post during the week with your email address. I will not enter you without an email address (my way to contact you if you win). If you don’t want to leave an email address, another way you can enter is to email me at The drawings end Sunday (August 8th) evening.

1.What made you start writing?

I’m strictly an accidental writer. I didn’t aim for it, study for it, strive for it. My wife, Janet, got interested through attending writers’ conferences and gradually pulled me in, promising to make my wild stories publishable with her editing skills. So far, she’s done a great job. But there was a time over 20 years ago that we had to decide on a full-time writing emphasis, whether to go for it or not. That turning point was based on a publisher’s demand for deadlines and a burning desire to give it a try. We made a drastic move from heavily populated southern California to a village of 308 in northern Idaho—slower lifestyle and cheaper cost of living—and we’ve been here ever since.

2.How long have you been writing? When did you sell your first book?
My first short story and article sales were in 1976 and my first book published (nonfiction), Radical Discipleship (Moody Press), was released in 1981.

3.How do you handle rejections?
This can be a struggle, especially in the context of great promise and lots of hard work invested. But you learn to be tough enough that you keep sending out the next open door for a query. . .again and again, until projects find their place. Each manuscript has its own pilgrimage, its own story. You have to believe in your message and your calling. Then, persevere, keep at it. Sooner or later we have found that not only did we get many things published, but made lots of friends in the process. Publishing is about people. Making friends and keeping friends.

4.Why do you write?
It’s all Janet’s fault. I’m a rancher by birth, training and most of my education. I cared nothing about writing, but Janet felt lead in that direction. About 30 years ago, she was transcribing one of my sermons because folks in the congregation wanted printed copies. She told me, “Some of this is pretty good. Can I make it presentable for publication and see if I can get it in print?” I told her, “Sure, as long as it doesn’t involve me. I’m not interested in writing.” After I learned that I’d get some payment for these articles and short stories she developed, I determined to try writing for real and discovered that I loved it! But I couldn’t get along without Janet’s help. She’s my prime reader and editor.

5.What would you be doing with your free time if you weren’t writing?
Playing 18 holes out on a golf course. Going to a gun show, because I’m a collector of antique Winchesters. Travel with Janet. . .we’ve been to every state in the Union, plus to Canada and Europe several times. We love the rush of new sights and learning bits of knowledge. It’s great aid for our writing too.

6.What are you working on right now?
September 1st is the deadline for my WIP, with the working title, “Throw Away Heart.” Most of the story happens on a train ride from Omaha to Sacramento in the late 1870s. The title sounds more like a romance, which it is, but the editor wants a more western sounding name for their base of Bly fans. So, I’ll brainstorm that while I finish the project.

7.Do you put yourself into your books/characters?
I’m not aware of consciously writing myself into my characters. However, many told me that Stuart Brannon (of the Stuart Brannon Series) seemed so much like me. When I asked my wife about that, she said, “Of course. Look at the letters of his name—same as yours.” When my wife & I co-authored the Hidden West Series about a husband-wife writing team who go on location for their projects, and solve mysteries too, the comment we got so often from readers who knew us, “Tony and Price Shadowbrook sound just like you two.” The externals were different, but somehow our personalities leaked through the print.

8.Tell us about the book you have out right now.
Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon features a 10-year-old boy with red straw cowboy hat, cap gun, and leather bullet belt with silver-painted wooden bullets. Six old, retired cowboys who gather for cribbage and talk of the old days on the trail in the Matador Hotel lobby each week. A ’49 Plymouth with open trunk. A drama that unfolds with a damsel in distress. I figure it’s the fixings for adventure in 1954 downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico. And maybe you’ll discover, as I did, you weren’t born 100 years too late!

9.Do you have any advice for other writers?
Pray. Read. Write. Travel. Explore. Keep doing what seems to be the next thing to do. Enjoy the journey. When it stops being enjoyable, take some time off. Play golf. That’s what I do and it works pretty well. However, if your horse is dead, get off.

10.How important is faith in your books?
In Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon, there’s this scene. . .”If you feel prodded, Shorty, it’s the shovel of the Lord. He’s diggin’ you up and intends on restorin’ you.” The narrator’s granddaddy, called Pop by the other cowboys, has been waiting all afternoon to chide the others with the Gospel. He loves them all way too much to keep silent. He’s hoping that 50 years of friendship and 5 minutes of Jesus will open their eyes.

All fiction is filtered through the mind of the author’s worldview. Every writer’s got one. Mine happens to be a Christian worldview. My faith base will shine through each book. That’s who I am.

11.What themes do you like to write about?
Forgiveness. Redemption. Taking a stand against evil.

12.What is your favorite book you’ve written and why?
When I’m asked that question, I’ll say, “Do you have any children?” If the reply is “Yes,” I’ll shoot back, “Which one’s your favorite?” It’s the same sort of thing for me. I love all 3 of my sons dearly. I love all my books as well. The closest answer to which one’s my favorite might be, “The one I’m working on now. It’s the closest to my attention and affections at the moment.”