That Platt woman--award-winning author, Randall Platt--has a varied background, from actress and screen writer to a humorous western series and young adult novels. Some of her books have been filmed or optioned for film and she's also quite a handball player, despite her diminutive size.
Randi, why did you decide to write about cowpoke, Royal Leckner?
As with all my novels, it begins with a voice in my head. (Get the net, she's hearing voices again!) Actually, this sounded just like Jimmy Stewart. Turns out it was Royal R. Leckner, foreman of the Four Arrows Ranch in Eastern Oregon. I heard this ol' cowpoke yapping and yapping about this and that and thought, oh okay, I'll give you an outing if you'll just slap shut. Before I knew it, he was spilling his guts about his long, weary life.
How important is humor when writing the Western genre?
Incredibly important to me in all the genres I write. Some of my more 'dramatic' books have several humorous scenes in them. That's just my style in writing as in life--which is why I seldom get asked to give eulogies. My goal is to have a reader laughing and crying--perferably at the same time.
How did your Fe-as-ko series come about?
When I sold the first in the series, The Four Arrows Fe-as-ko, to Catbird press, it got great reviews and a nice outing and was eventually filmed as "Promise the Moon" by Sullivan Entertainment out of Toronto (it plays all the time on Encore). Well, I mention above about Royal's Fe-as-ko in which he is far off his home range--a cowpoke in Hollywood in 1915. Then, he comes back and wants to know if I ever heard about the time the owner of the Four Arrows Ranch (who is mentally challenged) traded the proceeds of the cattle sale for a team of washed out, Z league baseball layers. Off we went on another wild ride!
Congratulations on your award-winning YA novel, Hellie Jondoe, published by Texas Tech University Press. Tell us about it.
It's a young adult novel set primarily in the historical west. I'm very honored to have received the Willa Literary award and the Will Rogers Medallion Award, as well as two other nationally recognized awards for young fiction. I have several works in progress, as most writers do. I am shipping another YA off to Texas Tech today and have five other YA novels on back burners. (I have a big literary stove.) Additionally, an earlier YA novel, Honor Bright, has been optioned and we are putting the finishing touches on the screenplay.
How important are organizations such as Women Writing the West and Western Writers of America?
Very important. Groups such as these offer an immediate network, no matter where one is on their writer's journey. Writing is a lonely occupation.Networking is essential to me to know that I'm not alone out here. Whenever 'here' is at the time.
What in your opinion is the best way to rejuvenate the Western genre?
I think we all need to get the word 'western' out of our vocabularies. It sets up an immediate correlation with many people (such as agents and editors) of the classic 'shoot-em-up' western . . .which as we know has not reemerged with the gusto that we always hope it will. Instead, I have been calling the western genre 'stories of the west.' And to me, that includes the 20th century which now IS historic. That's a whole century of stories.
What's your writing schedule like?
I begin at four a.m. usually every day, including the weekends. I write until 11, eat, nap, work out, do idiot work--my term for the other professional writing jobs other than creation--return emails, letters, filing, research, networking. I am asleep by nine, so don't call me unless you want me to call you when I get up at four.
Who influenced your own work?
Bill Gulick was and remains a mentor. As a kid, I was influenced by Steinbeck, Michener, and playwrights such as Neil Simon and Arthur Miller. Film directors such as Elia Kazan and Billy Wilder. You can learn a lot about writing novels by reading plays and screenplays and watching good film.
Advice to aspiring writers?
Again, stay away from the word 'western'--or at least, cross-pollinate your novel with other genres such as romance, mystery, humor. My advice is to get out of the Little Big Horn, the OK Corral and where ever the heck Billy the Kid ever went and other such overdone settings. If a writer is lacking good story fodder of historic west, read there months' worth of old newspapers from any town, (including the obits) and they will have ideas for years to come. Or read journals or diaries or WPA Writers' projects or other memory collections which are all online. To me, it's the smaller stories that make compelling fiction and characters--not the big ones.
Thanks, Randi, for joining us here.
You can stay in touch with Randi on Facebook as well as her website: http://plattbooks.com/.
She says to keep on eye on http://www.slangmster.com/, which is coming soon.