by JC Pinkerton
It's so nice to have this opportunity to talk with you Matt, and I know your fans can't wait to get your latest novel, The Wild Ones. Lillian Fontaine sounds like an interesting person and one that many women can relate to. How did you go about creating this character?
I've always been intrigued by the entertainers who traveled the Old West. There were melodramas, minstrel shows, song-and-dance men, comics, practically any type of act that played in vaudeville back East. But the ones who interested me the most were the women, particularly the singers. They were idolized by rough men in cowtowns, mining camps, and the larger boomtowns, such as Denver. I wanted to depict both the hardship and the joy these women experienced as they sang their way across the frontier. So I created Lillian Fontaine, whose voice brought her the stage name "The Nightingale." She lives the dream of every young girl who set her heart on becoming a star.
When you were featured at EighteenHundreds.com people wrote in and begged me not to take down the picture of you riding your horse, Moonbeam. Some folks want to know if this horse is still living?
Moonbeam is no longer with us. In many ways, it's a wonder I survived Moonbeam. He was a gelding who thought himself still a stallion, and at heart, a pure outlaw. His one goal in life was not to be ridden, and he tried every trick known to rank horses to keep me out of the saddle or toss me out of the saddle. His great frustration in life, even though I'm no broncobuster, was that I rode him every day and never got thrown. Moonbeam delivered high adventure the envy of any outlaw, and he savored every minute of it. I'm sure he's kicking up his heels even now in that great pasture in the sky.
Did you know when you were a child that one day you would be a writer?
All writers start out as readers. I was fortunate in that my great-grandfather was an oral storyteller and my mother loved to read. Her influence was singular in my life, and by age twelve, I was reading historical novels written for an adult audience. From there, I developed a love of history itself, and through the years, I have devoured thousands of history books. So it was only natural that one day I would share with readers the fiction-based-on-fact we call historical novels. If I do it well, I credit it to my great-grandfather and my mother. Any miscues are all my own.
You've got another new novel, Hangman's Creek, coming out in March 2002 about horse thieves. Will there be any more of your novels coming out this year?
There will be several books out in 2002. You've already mentioned The Wild Ones and Hangman's Creek. In addition, readers can expect Rio Hondo and Texas Empire. I'm now writing a novel with the working title The Overlords, and hopefully, it will be published the latter part of this year. I wish I could write faster, but I'm not the quickest pen in the West. When people ask, "How's the book going?" I have a standard reply: "One sentence at a time."
It's obvious you've been blessed with a special insight into the 19th century. If you could, would you like to time travel into the 1800s?
Over the years my wife has often remarked that I was born out of my time. Given a shot at the Time Machine created by H. G. Wells, I would dial in the 1820s. I've always felt the Mountain Men lived the grandest adventure of all in the American West. They were rugged individualists, beholden to no man, and they traveled the most spectacular mountains on the continent. I wrote one novel about Mountain Men, Bloody Hand, and never attempted another because I felt I'd said it all in that one book. So, with a Time Machine, I would now be among those hardy souls for whom these lines were written.
My parson a wolf on a pulpit of bones
Matt, you're the author of 47 published novels, you've won several awards, you've been given a lifetime appointment as Oklahoma Territorial Marshal and two of your novels have been made into movies. It seems you're an author who has achieved it all. Do you ever see yourself hanging up your spurs from this career?
I don't believe I'll every hang up my spurs. Like vintage wine, writers should get better with age. Writing is a discipline, and discipline makes the writer. I begin writing at nine in the morning, take a lunch break and a coffee break, and quit at six in the afternoon. That's my schedule five days a week, and so long as I can pull a chair up to the desk, I'll hold to it. I've always felt writing is a labor of love, particularly when I live my life with characters who make each day a fascinating journey. I'm a lucky dog.
photo reprinted with permission of Matt Braun.