Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Exclusive interview with author C. J. Box
See below for an interesting interview with the author of Blue Heaven, featured in the current volume of Select Editions.
RD: After seven novels starring your popular character, Joe Pickett, you’ve created a stand-alone novel, Blue Heaven, and it’s gathering extraordinary amounts of praise. Does that encourage you on to the next book, or make it more daunting?
CJB: The success of Blue Heaven is validation in every regard, and it is a fresh wind in my sails both for future Joe Pickett books and additional stand-alones. I especially appreciate new readers giving it—and me—a shot.
RD: Can you sum up the character of Joe Pickett in a few words?
CJB: Joe Pickett is a Wyoming game warden who loves his family, his low-paying job, and his frontier code of right and wrong. He finds himself constantly in the middle of contentious environmental issues and vicious criminality and tries to put things right.
RD: Is it true that before your first book, Open Season, was published you wrote secretly for some twenty years, afraid of failure as a writer?
CJB: Yes. I didn’t want my daughters to think, "My dad—the failed novelist." I didn’t reveal what I’d been working on all those years until I had a book contract in 2001.
RD: Your first job was as a reporter on a newspaper in Saratoga, Wyoming. But you’ve also worked as a ranch hand and fishing guide, which suggest that you love the great outdoors and the American West. Is that so? And could you imagine living anywhere else?
CJB: I grew up in a state—Wyoming—with a population density of two people per square mile. The environment dominates everyday life and the history of the American West is still very fresh. There are more pronghorn antelope than people. Although I’ve travelled throughout the world, I would never want to return to anywhere else.
RD: What is it you love about Wyoming and Idaho, where Blue Heaven is set?
CJB: Although both states are rural, scenic and isolated, they also play host to extreme things: weather, issues, events. It is as if the lack of crowds makes those who live there step up and become more powerful characters. People are close to the earth and have very strong opinions about it. Plus, there’s great trout fishing.
RD: Is the ranching way of life disappearing to some extent, as you suggest in Blue Heaven?
CJB: Yes. It has been a trend in the last twenty years for the wealthy to buy their little piece of heaven and pretend that they’re lords or ranchers. It has changed the economics and culture of the Mountain West.
RD: It’s interesting that because so many LAPD officers have retired to Idaho there’s now an area of the state called "Blue Heaven." Did you meet any of them during the writing of the book?
CJB: Yes, a few. And a few more during the book tour for the novel. All of them were friendly and interested in the novel. They know it’s only fiction.
RD: Hunting, shooting and fishing all seem to be part of your way of life. Do you love one of them above the others and, if so, why?
CJB: In order: fishing, hiking, skiing, riding, hunting—but only for game meat, not trophies.
RD: You serve on the board of directors of the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo. Is that fun, and do you take part yourself?
CJB: I love it. The rodeo culture has roots in the earliest days of Western expansion and the people involved are earthy, tough and passionate about what they do. I’ve been a volunteer in the rodeo itself for over twenty-five years now.
RD: Do you have any particular ambitions you’d still like to fulfill?
CJB: I want each book to be better than the last, and I hope some of them resonate with readers in ways far beyond the crime-fiction plots. I also want to spend more time catching fish on flies.
RD: What are your greatest loves, apart from fly-fishing and novel-writing?
CJB: My family: wife Laurie and three daughters, Molly, Becky and Roxanne.
RD: And what riles you most?
CJB: Blind extremism; arrogant and stupid bureaucrats and public officials; and political correctness.
RD: How would friends and family describe you?
CJB: I hope they would describe me as very busy but always available.