I have to ask: how did you acquire the name Cotton?
Native Americans had it right; they were named after actions in their lives. Probably that’s why I like nicknames so much. Cotton is a nickname that goes back to my father and was his nickname first. I am blond, so was my Dad. He was a Southern Missouri boy and said the moniker came from the
You have an impressive background in advertising as well as a marketing consultant. Who were some of your clients and were any of them writers?
I spend my working life in marketing and advertising and was co-owner of one of
's top creative advertising agencies. Over the years,I created a number of marketing planning aids, including the Positioning Map, the Strategy Compass and a manual on marketing strategy, MarketNavigation: Set Sail With the Wind. Our agency’s work generated international CLIO creative excellence recognition three times, the "Oscars" of advertising, as well as over a hundred other honors for creative excellence regionally and nationally. Kansas City
Some promotional clients included Folger's Coffee, Sprint, Martha Gooch Pasta, Kansas City Royals, Missouri Tourism, Jason Binoculars, Unitog, Gulf Adhesives, United Country, Lee. The only client/writer I can think of is Joel Goldman, an exceptional attorney who writes wonderful mysteries.
How have you applied your marketing techniques to your book sales? And would you mind sharing some of them with us?
The key is to see yourself as a brand. And position the brand accordingly. Find ways to extend and reinforce the image of that brand – speeches, talk show participation and the like. Remember that media, in general, aren’t overly excited about talking about your latest book – unless you are already famous. They are more likely to want to interview you if you have a certain background, a special historical niche, a special perspective. Book signings are certainly okay, but usually will not be as productive as you might wish. Again, unless your book is famous or you are. Planning is vital here – and so is determination.
What constitutes a good western? And how important is character development, the use of actual history in fiction writing, and plot development?
A good western is a good story. Stretch your thinking beyond the “traditional” story. Remember, the reader must relate to the main characters, must care about them – or the book falls flat. Therefore, I think character development is right at the top of the list. If you’re writing fiction, you don’t need to incorporate actual history – as such, but you’d better know what was going on – or the reader will be turned off. All of my stories are character driven. So I start with my main character and a general sense of the story I want to tell. Then I look for some dramatic point to begin, something to stop the reader and make him want to know more. Sometimes, I find that my first chapter in my first draft becomes my eighth or so.When the writing is finished. The trick is to get right up against a critical point of action or mystery.
Simply describing a character is not making him so. The reader must see him through his actions and his speech. Consistently. Go back and reread the first Sherlock Holmes novel and see how it’s done. Remember, villains have a good side, too. In fact, try turning your next villain into a hero and see what happens. Or change him into a her.
When writing about actual historical characters, is it important to carefully research their traits and quirks? And who was the most interesting historical character you’ve written about and why?
Absolutely. That research will likely give you the magic you’re seeking. If there aren’t any traits and quirks worth writing about, you’re either not researching well enough – or don’t have the right person. The favorite historical character that I’ve written about is Crazy Horse. I find him almost magical in his beliefs and his leadership. Messiah-like. Study him and one will understand much about the Native American.