Monday, January 26, 2015

Special Guest--Western Author J. D. McCall

My guest is J.D. McCall who was "born too late to be a cowboy," but does write westerns by night. By day, he is an industrial hygienist in the field of occupational health and safety.
His full-length novel intrigued me and kept me glued to the pages. Please welcome him by leaving a comment. He will give away a copy of his book to one lucky person.
Celia Yeary
1.  Hello, J.D. Thanks for visiting and answering some questions.
Your stories take place in Kansas. What about the early settling of Kansas inspires you?

First of all, thanks for having me on Sweethearts of the West. 
 I think it's a combination of things. Kansas was born in the midst of violence and played a significant role in precipitating the bloodiest conflict our country has ever been in. Then after the Civil War ended, Kansas was THE hub of the Old West.  With the exception of Billy the Kid and a few others, nearly every iconic figure from Old West history lived or spent significant time in Kansas.  All the cattle trails and railheads dead ended in Kansas, giving rise to the wild and legendary cow towns which have been the subject of countless books, movies and television shows.  And if you look past the best-known of these wicked little cities, you can even discover lesser-known cow towns such as Caldwell, Brookville, Newton, Ellsworth, and others, many as lawless and untamed as the big three. If you like to write westerns, Kansas is the perfect setting to find a story.    

2.  You live in Ottawa, Kansas. Does this city boast of anything in its past that resembles the wild and dangerous Kansas towns, especially Dodge City, Abilene, or Wichita?

Excuse my laughter at this question.  My mirth is because Ottawa has probably the least interesting early history to it of any Kansas town, much to the dismay of this western writer.  It was founded in 1865 by Baptist ministers, so it never had much going for it in the way of sin, depravity and evil. You know, all the things which make a western town fun!  Hard as I tried to find something juicy about Ottawa's past I could use for a story, the best I could do was to learn of an Ottawa nurseryman who ran off with a man's wife in Winfield, which forced the sheriff there to hunt them down when the husband filed charges against the man for "alienation of affection."    

 3.   From reading your bio, I wonder how you have time to write while holding down a full-time profession and caring for a family which includes three Labrador Retrievers.

Now you know why I take so long to write a story.  Fortunately, my family has been wonderful about giving me time to write.  At the same time, I feel like I have to keep myself accessible to them, so I don't lock myself away in a quiet room when I write.  My writing space is the recliner in the middle of the living room which means there is always a TV show or a video game going on, or else one of our dogs is badgering me to pay attention to them.  Between all that and the occasional conversation, I'm surprised I finish anything.  Seriously, I get out of my chair almost every fifteen minutes.  I sometimes wonder if I have adult ADD or som . . . Oooh, look! There's a squirrel outside my window!     

 4.   I can identify with the adult ADD! What are some of the pros and cons of a writer's life?

I think the pro portion of the job is the fun in being able to create something using only words and your mind.  What I see as the con to being a writer is that for many of us, we'll never be able to support ourselves by our writing alone.  That and getting a sore keister from sitting on my rear so much (no, really).  In all honesty, I wouldn't want to give up being an industrial hygienist because I like what I do, so there's actually no down side to it for me.  I'm perfectly fine with writing as a hobby.
5.  You're a child of the fifties. What do you remember from your childhood that is special to you? How did that period in time shape your life?

I was in a coma for the first ten years of my life, so I'm a little hazy about that period, lol.  Lord, am I that old?  Yeah, I guess I am.  Looking back, it was all pretty special, from running through the dark scary hallway that separated our dining room from the living room where I watched the Saturday night Chiller movie by myself moments earlier, to summer afternoon sandlot baseball games with the neighborhood kids.  Having a fun childhood has probably kept me from becoming a stodgy old grump. 

Now, if I had to pick the thing which influenced me to write westerns, two come to mind.  Seventy years ago, my parents found an 1871 Richards Mason Conversion Model Army Colt Pistol which I now have.  It was always sort of magical when my mom would bring it out for a little while for us to look at and hold.  It felt like it weighed a ton!  

The other circumstance is that from the time I was six years old, my dad was a projectionist for the drive-in and indoor theaters in our town, so while growing up, I got to see all the current westerns for free.  Once I got to high school, I too, became a projectionist at both theaters, where I met, Polly, the woman who eventually became my wife.  Interestingly, the indoor theater (the Crystal Plaza) is now recognized as the "Oldest Continuously Operating Movie Theater in the United States."  It may actually be the oldest in the world, but they're still trying to document that.

6.  You know I love your novel South of Rising Sun. Would you tell the readers the meaning of this title? 

I'm really thrilled you liked SoRS, Celia.  As for the title, my tale takes place in Lecompton, Kansas, but unfortunately, Lecompton just doesn't have a very lyrical sound to it.  What was fortunate is that in 1861, just north of Lecompton and across the Kansas River, was a little town called Rising Sun.  It had a reputation for housing a few horse thieves and some wild saloons, plus it had the distinct advantage of having a terrific name for a title.  None of that, however, was enough to keep Rising Sun from completely disappearing from the Kansas landscape a few decades later.  Not a board or a foundation stone exists today.

 7.  The hero in South of Rising Sun is an aging U.S. Marshal named Alistair Taggart. I know you created Al Taggart using the memories you hold dear of a good friend. Can you explain?

My friend was a wonderful older gentleman who helped me get into the field of industrial hygiene, and in the process, became my best friend (not counting my wife, of course).  He was the most interesting and colorful fellow I have ever met, with many unusual stories to his past, some of which have western analogs in my books.  Every year since my first son was born, whenever we went on vacation, we would have an old time western photo taken (I now have twenty of them on my living room wall).  I had always wanted to do one with my friend as I always pictured him in the role of a lawman had he been born in the Old West.  Several years before his passing, I talked him into doing a photo with the two of us, and he looked so much like he had stepped out of time and into the past, I was inspired to write a story about a marshal based on him.  I even used the photo on the cover of my first book.             

 8.Your writing style somewhat resembles classic novels from another century. Yes, you use tough words when needed, and some scenes are somewhat violent and wicked, but the flow and cadence of your sentences and paragraphs is almost lyrical. Did this come naturally, or did you write in this manner for this novel?

I guess this style comes naturally to me, which I think is a by-product of having a good ear for music.  I don't have the talent to get proficient at playing an instrument, but I constantly have original music popping into my head and always have. (For the first time ever, I found someone to help me put a couple of these on a tape and I used them as music for my audiobook.) I also have for years, entertained my family by spontaneously making up funny lyrics to popular songs, sort of in the same tradition as Weird Al Yankovich. When I write, I seem to be very aware of the rhythm of my words, as you would be in a song, and if they don't flow well, I can't be satisfied until I achieve the cadence I'm comfortable with.   

9. Marshal Taggart befriends a young black man named Jerome Jenkins who lives and works on the ranch belonging to Al's friend. Through this character, we learn the Marshal Taggart is also a teacher, and he uses his knowledge to teach Jerome to read and write. This part of the story touched me, and gave me an additional perspective of Alistair Taggart. Why did you include this side story?

The dear friend upon whom I based the character of Marshal Taggart actually taught high school chemistry for three years before switching to industrial hygiene. His students loved him and always invited him to their class reunions whenever they had one.  Teaching would forever be his first love, and though he left the profession, he remained a teacher in spirit and deed throughout the rest of his life.  He was also a very caring man, one without prejudice, and once the character of Jerome was introduced, I couldn't conceive of Taggart not doing everything in his power to help this runaway slave fashion a new life for himself.

 10.  Here you are on Sweethearts of the West, where the all-female members generally write western romance novels. Is your novel "South of Rising Sun" in any way romantic?

Well, having five older sisters, you would think I might have an inside perspective on what could make a good romantic scene for a novel (or real life), but sadly, I'm like the majority of men who are never sure if they are getting it quite right.  There is a tender moment in SoRS between Taggart and a soiled dove in Rising Sun which never comes to fruition, but even in this occasion, I'm not all that confident I nailed the scene the way seasoned romance writers like you ladies could.  In my next novel, I might try flexing my romantic muscles a little more, provided the consensus is I didn't botch this minor attempt too badly. 

(Note: You see how well he writes?) 

 11. Here are a few trivia questions for short answers:

What is your favorite meal?

**Anything I don't have to cook myself.

How do and your family spend free time?

**We're big movie buffs and we like to discuss lots of different topics.

If you had one wish, what would it be?

**That everyone in the world had a decent quality of life.

I know you love Kansas. Have you lived in other places that you also enjoyed?

**I've spent all my fifty-nine years in the most boring part of the state, but I'm not complaining.  I really do love the majestic scenery of the western states, though.   

In your opinion, what would be a perfect day?

**Being on vacation with my family out west somewhere.  Doesn't matter what we do, just so long as we are all together.
See?  I can be brief when necessary, lol.

BLURB for "South of Rising Sun.":
U.S. Marshal Alistair Taggart has spent almost seven years protecting the citizens of Bleeding Kansas from the lawlessness surrounding its push to achieve statehood. Now, Kansas has entered the Union as a free state, but the violence threatens to continue when the Civil War erupts only three months later. 
During one of Taggart’s regular visits to the former Kansas territorial capitol of Lecompton, local rancher James Harper enlists the marshal’s help to catch the cattle rustlers intent on stealing his livelihood. But Kansas is just beginning its reign as the wildest state in the Union, and Taggart must also deal with Jayhawkers, highwaymen, unpredictable weather, and those hell-bent on revenge. Taggart finds his job further complicated by a runaway slave and animals gone delinquent, along with his own concerns that age may finally be catching up with him. 
Solving the case will prove harder than Taggart ever imagined, and its resolution will cost him dearly. Sometimes, justice only comes with a price… 

It was all Taggart needed to hear. "Don't move! Any of you. If you so much as twitch, I'll blow a hole in you big enough for me to see the man standing in front of you. I have two guns aimed at you, and I have no concerns about shooting you in the back if you force my hand. Now, throw down your weapons."

No one moved, but the middle rider spoke. "Mister, I don't know who you are, or what business this is of yours, but there's four guns aimed at the man you're trying to protect. Either you throw down your guns, or we'll open fire on him."

"Then you best contemplate how much comfort that will be to you when you're dead," Taggart said. "I can take down three of you before you can get turned around, starting with the two holding rifles. I figure I can shoot at least two more while you're busy firing at this man. The remaining two need to be damned certain they're expert enough to hit me from atop a spooked horse. I'll have no such difficulty shooting you, as my horse doesn't startle at the sound of gunfire. Is this a gamble you really want to pursue?"

Still, there was no response. Taggart refused to give them time to weigh their odds.

"Gentlemen, I have things to do and places to be today. If you intend to turn this into a fight, then I would be wise to give myself the advantage and shoot first." A double click pierced the silence as he thumbed the hammer of his left gun.

Please leave a comment for J.D. He would love to give away a copy of his book in PDF, Mobi, or ePub.


  1. What a shame Kansas lost the town of Rising Sun. Wouldn't that be a terrific place to live if it still existed?
    I like the multifaceted character of Taggart...tough lawman and teacher.
    Personally, I don't mind a western without romance or a science fiction or mystery novel either. Sometimes the story is big enough, interesting enough that a side of romance isn't necessary.
    I liked the excerpt because it had some great dialogue in it. Taggart is obviously a character who keeps his feelings held tight--fearless. It must feel so wonderful to have created a character based on a cherished friend.
    So good to see you at the Sweethearts of the West blog. All the best to your corner of the universe, JD.

  2. Thanks, Sarah for the warm welcome. I really enjoy being on Sweethearts of the West.
    I agree with you that a lot of interesting history was lost when Rising Sun disappeared. There is one first-hand account of someone in Lecompton looking across the Kansas River and seeing three men swinging from the hanging oak one morning. I'm sure there were others as well. As far as vice and debauchery goes, it may well have been the Dodge City of its area.
    As I mentioned, I might try my hand at inserting a romantic interest in future works, but if it doesn't sound or feel right to me, I'm likely to cut some of it for fear it won't fly with readers. Maybe I should just have one of you ladies on here look it over and offer advice before I totally scrap it, though.
    My friend passed away as I was writing SoRS, so he never got to see the manuscript, but he did read my first book with the Taggart character in it. He got a big kick out of it and I was able to get him to read the part of Taggart when I produced an audio version of it. I treasure all my time spent with him but that time especially, since we spent eight or nine hours working closely on it.
    In some ways, having Taggart's character based upon my friend has made it easier to cope with his loss. I still feel a sense of connection to my friend whenever I am writing about the character. He was definitely fearless, as you say about Taggart (and pragmatic, too). An incident from about five years ago comes to mind about when he went to take his dogs to the park, and when he got out of his auto some young men told him not to let his dogs out of the car as their dogs were loose and would attack his. He walked up to them and gave them five minutes to get them gathered up and to leave, otherwise he would call the police. Instead of giving this five foot-four, eighty-year old man trouble, they left. He was an amazing fellow.

  3. Hey JD! So good to see you here at Sweethearts of the West! I really enjoyed getting to know you better--Celia always has some wonderful interview questions, and this was no exception. You're just to the north of me--I'm in Oklahoma City. Lots of wonderful history out in the part of the world!

    I've mentioned before how much I really love that cover for SoRS! I'm hoping to take a "reading vacation" this summer (I know that sounds crazy, since I edit other people's work all the time, but I hardly ever have time to just sit and read books I pick out!) LOL

    Glad you came by and visited with us today.


  4. Hi Cheryl,
    I'm glad to be here. I love the cover on SoRS as well. Laura Shinn did a superb job of using some of the original buildings from Lecompton present during the early days of the town. And such a gorgeous sunrise! We do have lots of western history between our two states and it's too bad Kansas doesn't capitalize on it more than it does.
    Good luck with that reading vacation. I can scarcely find time to write, let alone read much.

  5. J. D., you sure do look like a real cowboy! I love that fun picture with your gang as well!

  6. Hi JD, I'm glad Celia invited you over and introduced us to your book. This one sounds like the good ol' stories I grew us reading. I look forward to reading SoRS.


  7. Hi Morgan,

    Thanks for the thumbs up on the picture. If I had to live in some other century, that would probably be the one I'd pick. My front side may look tough, but I'm not sure my backside is tough enough for the rigors of corn cobs and Montgomery-Ward catalog pages. One of my distant relatives was a member of the Ward family and involved in the company. Not sure he would approve of that use for their catalog, especially by a relative.

  8. Hi Kirstin,

    I am delighted to be here among all the talented authors on Sweethearts of the West. I certainly tried to give readers a good ol' tale of the west, laced with few interesting relationships, some history, and a dash of humor here and there. Good luck in the drawing!

  9. Welcome to Sweethearts of the West, J.D. Your books sounds wonderful and I look forward to reading it. Very interesting getting to know about you here. ~ AKB

  10. Hi J.D. It's great to make your acquaintance. I thoroughly enjoyed your interview with Celia and the excerpt from South of Rising Sun. One of my Texas Devlins books features a cattle drive to Wichita. I had fun researching the Chisholm Trail and the famous cattle town.

    My story is set in the mid-1870s. I plan to buy your book and see what life was like in "Bloody Kansas" a decade earlier.

  11. Howdy, JD! (I figger I can speak Texan with a Kansan without rufflin' too many feathers, 'ceptin' maybe among them Okies in between.)

    I have got to read SoRS. You completely hooked me with the description of the marshal. I'm sure your friend is smiling about providing inspiration for the character.

    I had to laugh at your description of Ottawa. Don't sell those Baptist preachers too short! I come from a long line of 'em, and I could tell you stories that would curl your hair. :-D

    Thank your lucky stars Celia interviewed you. Some of us ain't quite as sweet as that "Sweethearts" moniker might indicate. ;-)

    Thanks for viztin with us!

  12. Hi Ashley, and thanks for the welcome. I've enjoyed visiting with all you lovely ladies here. Good luck in the drawing for a copy of SoRS.

  13. Hi Lyn,
    I'm happy to meet you, too, and glad you enjoyed my little interview. Researching the setting for SoRS was a real pleasure in that it renewed my interest in 1800s American history in general. I certainly learned a lot about a town which was sitting in my back yard and in which a close cousin grew up in. Unfortunately she never shared much of the history with me, so I didn't know just how interesting it actually was until I started writing. I'll bet you learned some interesting facts researching the Chisholm trail and Wichita. I imagine you dug some neat stories out of all your research. It's a shame Kansas doesn't take a little more pride in its western heritage.

  14. And a big howdy back at you, Kathleen. Thank you and all the other terrific ladies who stopped by to say hello. And no, I don't mind a little Texan coming my way at all.
    YOu're right; I am sure my friend is smiling down at me from somewhere. Gosh, I sure miss his steady presence in my life. I never had a friend I was that close with.
    As for Baptist ministers, I can imagine they might have had a few secrets they didn't want known. My father-in-law was a Baptist minister who mainly taught at the university in Ottawa, but if he had any secrets, he held them close to his vest.
    Shucks, I can't imagine any of you ladies being any less gracious and kind as Celia has been to me. She has really gone out of her way to help me promote SoRS, giving me my first review, which she posted several places. By the way, if anyone has any good tips for getting reviews, send 'em my way. They seem to be awfully hard to come by.
    This has been a real pleasure chatting with all of you. I will be checking this site often as there are some great articles I have seen on here.

  15. Hi J.D. So nice to meet you and happy you could hang out here at SOTW! Great interview, intriguing excerpt - I'm heading on over to purchase from here. Looking forward to seeing you back here in the future.

  16. Hi Carra. I'm excited to be here with everyone and glad you could stop by to say hello. I'm pleased you enjoyed the interview and I hope you'll enjoy SoRS even more. Take care.

  17. J.D., your excerpt is intriguing and I now have to read the entire novel. Welcome to Sweethearts of the West. We are happy you shared your work with us. Great interview.

  18. Thank you, Caroline. You kind ladies have made me feel quite welcome here. I'm so glad the excerpt piqued your interest. Perhaps you'll turn out to be the luck winner of the draw. Good luck, and thanks.

  19. How nice to meet you, JD. I enjoyed hearing about your life and writing style. It sounds like you were born to write and share your life of the west. I am glad you were able to come and visit with us.

  20. And hello to you, Paisley. I'm pleased you enjoyed listening to me babble on about myself. You all have made me feel very comfortable with baring my soul for all to see. Thanks for dropping by to greet me.

  21. Thank you, J.D. for being our guest. I believe you have a new following..if not from your book, maybe from your wonderful, fun answers to the interview questions. I do thank you, and I wish you all the luck in the world..for those of us who write and hope someone will read our stories,we say thank you, and please stay in touch.'

  22. Thank you all for having me, Celia. I enjoyed chatting with everyone. And I will be re-visiting this site because I discovered you ladies have put up some really interesting articles I could learn something from. Again, thank you for all the kind words and support, and especially you, Celia. Like I mentioned, you are a gem! I will be drawing the name of the winner for the book a little later tonight and I'll let them know.
    Thanks, everybody.

  23. Well, I threw everyone's name into my nearly forty year-old cowboy hat and let my daughter, Erin, draw out the lucky winner of the free book. And it just so happens that name belongs to the first gracious lady to leave a post, Sarah McNeal. Congratulations, Sarah. Let me know what format you would like me to send SoRS in and where to send it. And thanks to everyone who left comments. It was a pleasure meeting all of you.

  24. Thank you JD and Erin for choosing me!! I am so happy to have South of Rising Sun. I would love to have it in Kindle. I can convert PDF to use on my Kindle if you can't get Kindle or Kindle Mobi. My email address is starcriter at yahoo dot com
    Thank you so much, I've been wanting to read one of your books. I'm particularly excited to read South of Rising Sun.


Thank you for visiting Sweethearts of the West! We are very sad to require comment moderation now due to the actions of a few spam comments. Thank you for your patience.