Thursday, October 20, 2011

Author Interview: Rod Miller

Our interview today is with Rod Miller, author of several books, the latest of which is THE ASSASSINATION OF GOVERNOR BOGGS.

Jennifer Walker: Where can we find out more about you and buy your book?

Rod Miller: Visit my web site,, to learn more than you ever wanted to know about me, including photos from my childhood and rodeo days. All my books are on the site, with links to the publishers or online book sellers.

Also, links to a number of online booksellers and the publisher. Your local bookseller can also order the book through all the major wholesalers if it isn’t on their shelves.

Jennifer Walker: Tell us about your book.

Rod Miller: THE ASSASSINATION OF GOVERNOR BOGGS is not easily categorized. It’s a historical novel based on actual people and events, a detective story, a cold-case investigation, a crime novel, an Old West frontier tale, and something of a mystery.

In 1842, Lilburn Boggs, former governor of Missouri, was gunned down by an unknown assailant. He was given up for dead and so reported in the newspapers. But he survived and lived another 18 years. Twenty-five years after the crime, and following the governor’s death, his family engages a Pinkerton agent to investigate the case and name the killer. We follow his investigation from one end of the Old West to the other as he tracks down clues that inevitably lead to Salt Lake City and the prime suspect, Mormon gunfighter Porter Rockwell.

Jennifer Walker: Where did you get the idea for the story?

Rod Miller: The story comes from history, growing out of difficulties between Missouri citizens and Mormon settlers during the 1830s. However, this is an aspect of that story that is not well known and rarely examined, either in fiction or nonfiction. The people involved are fascinating, the events absorbing , and the mystery surrounding it all intriguing. With such great stories out there, who needs idea?

Jennifer Walker: Tell us about your previous work.

Rod Miller: I suppose I am an example of how to mismanage a writing career—six books, six publishers, six different audiences. My first book is about the life of John Muir; not a detailed biography, but more a highlight reel of his life. JOHN MUIR: MAGNIFICENT TRAMP is part of the nonfiction “American Heroes” series from Forge Books, and was released in hardcover in 2005 and soft cover in 2009. A paperback Western novel from Kensington/Pinnacle followed in 2005, GALLOWS FOR A GUNMAN. Then a history of the deadliest massacre of Indians by the US Army in Western history, MASSACRE AT BEAR RIVER—FIRST, WORST, FORGOTTEN, released by Caxton Press in 2008. In 2010, Port Yonder Press released a collection of cowboy and Western poetry, THINGS A COWBOY SEES AND OTHER POEMS; Laughing Mouse Press released a limited edition hand-stitched chapbook of poems about the Shoshoni Indians, NEWE DREAMS; and, of course, there’s THE ASSASSINATION OF GOVERNOR BOGGS from Cedar Fort/Bonneville Books.

In addition to books, I’ve written and published several articles for Western magazines, essays for, lots of poems in magazines and anthologies, short fiction in a number of Western anthologies, short nonfiction for anthologies and an encyclopedia, and a bunch of book reviews.

Jennifer Walker: What other projects do you have coming up?

Rod Miller: At present I am in the middle of a novel, most of the research and some of the writing is done for a book of popular history, I have a couple of magazine articles in the mill, and am reading a book to review for a history magazine.

Jennifer Walker: Do you write full time? If so, tell us how you manage it. If not, what is your day job?

Rod Miller: In a sense, I write full time since my day job is—and has been for more than 30 years—writing copy in an advertising agency. However, that kind of “creative” writing is altogether different than the “creative” writing involved in making poems and stories. I did not imagine I could, nor did really want to, write anything other than advertising until about 15 years ago. Then, for some unknown reason, I wondered if I could write a poem. The same curiosity led me, later, to try short stories, and, later still, books, and so on. I enjoy writing all of it—even the advertising.

Jennifer Walker: What have you done to develop your writing craft?

Rod Miller: My college degree is in journalism. I did not take any creative writing classes and no more than the required literature courses. So, I started writing poetry and fiction unschooled and untrained. But I have always been a busy reader, so I suppose most of what I learned about writing came by osmosis from reading the work of good writers.

Once I started writing, I started studying the work of others with more depth and intention; studying how they said things, how they did things, how they led the reader from point A to B, and how they did it in unexpected and unusual ways. This applies to poetry, fiction, nonfiction, even magazine articles. The more I read good writers, the more I learn about good writing, and the more I can attempt to put what I’ve learned on the page. Membership in Western Writers of America has also been invaluable in more ways than I can count.

Jennifer Walker: What is your favorite genre to read? To write?

Rod Miller: Not a genre, really, but most of my reading is related to the American West. I have had a lifelong interest in the history, people, and culture of the American West. I read about the West in every genre imaginable, including history, biography, nonfiction, fiction, poetry, current events—you name it. Likewise, everything I have written, and probably will write, concerns the American West.

Jennifer Walker Who is your favorite author of all time, and why?

Rod Miller: I don’t believe I could pick a single favorite in anything in life. I like Wallace Stegner, John Steinbeck, John McPhee, James Galvin, Wendell Berry, Cormac McCarthy, Mark Twain, Edward Abbey, Charles Badger Clark, Ambrose Bierce, Banjo Paterson, Ivan Doig, Mark Spragg, Elmer Kelton, Paul Zarzyski, Norman Maclean….

All write beautifully, and most depart from the norm to unexpected and wonderful effect.

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