Will Edwinson is an award-winning storyteller for his fiction and also an award-winning columnist. His second book, Buddy … His Trials and Treasures, won a first place in state competition and a second place at national. His nostalgia column, which he wrote under another name, won second and first place awards in two separate competitions from the Utah-Idaho-Spokane Associated Press Association.
Will is also one of our long-time author clients, having first published with us in 2005 and now again in 2014. I’ve asked him about his brand new book, LouIsa: Iron Dove of the Frontier.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, Will Edwinson, and how you came to be a storyteller.
Ah … where do I begin? When I was young I always aspired to be a writer. But I was just a small-town farm boy with insecurities, some of which included, “How could I ever expect to become a writer? Writers, movie stars and CEOs, are ‘bigger than life’ people with an intellect and natural abilities far beyond mine.” I figured there was no way I could ever be a published author. So I put that silly notion aside for other things I thought more worthy of my time. Besides, I didn’t have the foggiest notion of how to begin crafting a story.
Most of the reading I did during my younger years was confined to the trade journals related to my profession in agriculture, so my novel reading had been limited. Then one day I picked up a novel, I don’t remember the name of it, except it turned out to be one of those page turners that’s hard to put down, and I began to read it. It was then that the lights came on. I said to myself, “I can do this.” By that time, I was past fifty years old. If I was ever going to be a writer, it was time to get started. So that’s what I did.
My first novel was about an errant preacher who started his own church. It was a good enough storyline, but poorly crafted. I ended up moving whole chapters around, and after about five years, and numerous rewrites, I finally finished it. It was my practice novel. It’s still sitting on the shelf gathering dust. I doubt I’ll ever publish that one. In the meantime, I started reading more novels, and started paying attention to the craftsmanship of building a story. So, I guess you could say I am a self-taught author.
My next novel, A Halcyon Revolution, which was my first published, was a political fantasy about people in the United States who grew tired of their big bloated oppressive government and decided to do something about it. They started an underground (halcyon) revolution that involved an exodus of like-minded people into eighteen Western states. They gain ideological control of the respective legislatures of those states and, simultaneously, on a predetermined date, secede from the Union to form the new Free States of North America.
That book is currently out of print, but I’m working on an updated and expanded version that I may offer for publication at a later date. I might add here as an afterthought that although the novel didn’t make my name a household word, it did sell enough copies to recover expenses in spite of the fact that it hit the market two months after 9/11.
Was that book traditionally published at that time?
No, I self-published it.
Did you use what was known then as a “vanity press”?
No. I formed my own publishing company.
Would you mind sharing that process with our readers? I’m sure there are many aspiring authors out there who would like to learn about your experience.
No, I don’t mind, but let me preface that question with a little background that led to my self-publishing. As you and your readers all know, getting published, whether it be traditional or self-publishing, is a lot of work. Back in those days self-published books were likened to the red-headed step-kids. They didn’t garner much respect. So I started my path to publication trying to find a traditional publisher which required securing an agent. After numerous query letters, and as many rejections, I finally secured an agent. Problem was, three weeks after we signed the contract he suffered a heart attack and died. The young apprentice who took over his agency was unable to garner a publishing contract, so after about a year, we severed our relationship.
Thus starts my search for a new agent. Same story; it was myriad more query letters and rejections, but finally another hit, and I was accepted. Between the time this agent agreed to take me on and the signing of the actual papers, I learned she had been indicted for fraud. It was then I decided I was through with agents. I would self-publish.
Self-publishing is an arduous task—not for the faint hearted. First thing you have to do is gather up a few thousand dollars, half of which will be used to pay for the books that will soon be sitting your garage. Next step is to find a good editor (something I neglected to do with Halcyon). You then locate a typesetter and cover designer. After that comes the printer and book manufacturer. I was fortunate enough to find all those in Salt Lake City located about a hundred fifty miles from where I lived. And, don’t forget the ISBN number, which are only available in a minimum block of ten. I still have nine of those gathering dust somewhere in my office and are likely, by now, outdated.
There’s also copyright registration and getting the book listed in the Library of Congress, just to name a couple more of the tasks. After the book comes off the presses, and you have a pallet or two of books taking up space in your garage, it’s time to start looking for a wholesale distributor, because most bookstores, even the independents, won’t order books direct from the publisher. After many discouraging phone calls, I finally secured the Western division of Baker & Taylor to handle the distribution. Now, it’s time to concentrate on marketing, but that’s a whole ’nuther story in itself, enough for a complete interview.
Would you self-publish again?
No! Not in the sense, at least, that I’d be the publishing company, per se. It was after that experience that I searched and found Wheatmark. They do all the leg work I mentioned above, which leaves me free to concentrate on the marketing.
Let’s shift gears a little bit now and talk about your new book that’s just coming out this month.
LouIsa (pronounced Lou-i-sa): Iron Dove of the Frontier is a fictional accounting of six years in the life of Louisa Houston Earp. The story picks up her life at age twenty-one. She is a woman of many facets. She can put on her riding clothes, her chaps and spurs, and wrangle cattle with the best of cowboys. Then she can come in off the range, change into her fanciest evening gown and be a perfect hostess to Vassar graduates.
She was educated in a prestigious Eastern finishing school, where she also studied classical piano. She takes that classical music to honky-tonk Western saloons, and actually wins the rowdy wranglers over into liking it. But a few of them also learn the hard way: “Don’t mess with LouIsa.” She is also a crack shot and has the temperament to use her “LouIsa .38 Special” when necessary. She shot an area of anatomy where no man wants to be shot when one of her detractors was determined to have his way with her.
Louisa was, in real life, part Cherokee Indian. Her grandmother was Cherokee, and she taught her granddaughter the ways of her people. Louisa mastered the skills and passed all the tests to become a member of the prestigious Warrior Society of her grandmother’s tribe.
The character is a blend of actual facts gleaned from letters I read written by the real Louisa that were loaned to me by her great-grandniece. Other traits are from my own imagination as I imagined her to be after reading those letters. I think she turned out to be a rather interesting character. One I think the readers, both women and men alike, will find very interesting, and one I hope they will love and admire.
To answer your question: Why did I write the book? It was sort of a request by a neighbor. A friend of my wife was visiting at our home one day, and we were discussing one of my other books. This visitor said to me, “You ought to write a book about my great aunt.”
“Oh,” I said. “Who is your great aunt?”
“My great aunt Louisa Houston,” she said. “She was Sam Houston’s granddaughter.” The conversation proceeded from there and she told me Louisa was a Harvey Girl. Not being familiar with the Fred Harvey restaurant chain at the time, I thought a “Harvey Girl” might be a chorus girl in some stage production. The more we talked the more intrigued I became with writing a story about Louisa.
I asked her if anyone else had written about Louisa, and she said not much was ever written about her. Her largest claim to fame was the fact that she was married to Wyatt Earp’s younger brother, Morgan. She said she had copies of some letters that Louisa had written to her sisters and friends that she would let me read.
“I would very much like to read them,” I said. “They might give me some insight as to who Louisa really was, and what kind of woman she was.” I read the letters and decided there really wasn’t enough there to build an entire book around, but then my muses began talking to me. With their help, I put my imagination to work and came up with the character and storyline for the book.
Thank you, Will, for sharing this fascinating story with us. LouIsa sounds like an interesting tale, one I’m anxious to read. Where can readers get a copy of LouIsa and your other books?
Both books are available by clicking on the free book button on my website at http://www.willedwinson.com or they can be purchased from Amazon.com. You can also walk into a bookstore and have them order a copy for you as a special order. LouIsa will also be available as an e-book on Kindle or Nook soon.