Fellow author, Peacemaker-nominee Tom Rizzo, interviewed me for his “StoryTeller’s 7” series. He asked seven questions and I did my level best to sound as though I know what I’m doing (ahem). We touch on a number of themes, from spurs to volcanos and megayachts to Grandpa Walton and El Caminos….

April 23, 2013 – StoryTeller’s 7

MATTHEW P. MAYO is an award-winning author whose latest novel, TUCKER’S RECKONING, captured the Western Writers of America 2013 Spur Award for Best Western Short Novel. He was also a Spur Finalist in the Short Fiction category, and a finalist for the Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award.

He writes seven days a week, a commitment that has resulted in two-dozen published books and dozens of short stories. His novels include the Westerns WINTERS’ WAR; WRONG TOWN; HOT LEAD, COLD HEART; DEAD MAN’S RANCH; TUCKER’S RECKONING; and THE HUNTED. He also contributes to other popular series of Western and adventure novels.

Matthew also features a collection of non-fiction works; a full bibliography is available at his website. He and his photographer wife, Jennifer Smith-Mayo, have collaborated on a series of hardcover books. The two of them operate Gritty Press which he describes as “the flying spin-kick of the publishing world.”

A longtime magazine and book editor, his short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies including BAD AUSTEN; BEAT TO A PULP; A FISTFUL OF LEGENDS; SIX-GUNS & SLAY BELLS; HOW THE WEST WAS WEIRD 2; Moonstone Books’ SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE CROSSOVERS CASEBOOK and THE AVENGER: ROARING HEART OF THE CRUCIBLE; the DAW Books’ anthologies STEAMPUNK’D and TIMESHARES, and many others.

1. Congratulations on being awarded a 2013 Spur Award for Best Western Short Novel, from Western Writers of America, for TUCKER’S RECKONING. That had to be a thrilling moment when you found out. How important is it to be recognized by your peers?

Thank you, Tom, for inviting me to participate here at your blog. Winning the Spur is a mighty thrill for me. When I got the letter I stood in the road rereading the first sentence a couple of times, not quite believing it. I even checked the address to make sure I hadn’t mistakenly received someone else’s letter. Then it sunk in and I whooped it up, ran to the house, and called a few folks.

I’ve had short stories nominated for a Spur and a Peacemaker (from Western Fictioneers), and to win is quite a thrill. It’s a good feeling to know that people, whose work you’ve long admired, see merit in your own efforts.

2. What do you think was in TUCKER’S RECKONING that inspired judges to say, “Hey, this is a winner” ?

I hope it’s because they liked the story, the characters, and the situations I put the people in. Maybe it was the cumulative effects of those pieces coming together. When I finished writing it, I liked it a lot and I felt as though it had something special about it. I’m pleased that others felt the same way.

3. In your opinion, what makes a best-selling story—character or theme? Take us through your own process. And, how does genre affect what you decide to write about?

Hmm, if I knew the answer to what makes a best-selling story, I’d be dictating this to a personal assistant from aboard my megayacht, anchored just off my private island with the secret volcano lair. That said, I tend to like character-driven stories because interesting things happen to interesting characters.

I don’t have a process so much as a routine–I get up, drink coffee, take a three-mile walk each morning with my wife, more coffee, and dive into the day’s work, another walk at night. Rinse, repeat, seven days a week.

As far as the writing goes, I lob horrible, exciting, smelly, funky, and shiny things at my characters and then see how they deal with them. Genre affects what I write at present because I have a number of contracts, fiction and non-fiction, to fulfill, most in the Western vein. That said, I flat-out love writing about the Old West.

4. How would you describe what you write (fiction) to someone who has not read any of your previous novels?

I try to write about real people in real situations who deal with it as best they can, and with humor whenever possible. Just regular folks doing their best to be better (or their worst to be nastier).

5. Let’s play “What if?”—every writer’s favorite game. You’re hosting small private dinner. Your guests are Edgar Rice Burroughs, Mickey Spillane, and Arthur Conan Doyle. What one – and different – question would you ask each of them?

Three literary gods at my shack for fondue? Yow, no pressure there. I’m not a particularly impressive conversationalist, so I expect it would be an uncomfortable evening. At least until we were all sufficiently pie-eyed. Here’s me playing host after a few rounds of drinks:

“Edgar. May I call you Edgar? It’s a fun name to say. Anyhoo, Edgar, do you happen to have any half-baked stories locked in a trunk somewhere that I might help you finish?”

“Mick, Mick, Mick … you show up here late, exhaling gimlet fumes, sporting a dented fedora and a wrinkled trench coat, and smoking those godawful Pall Malls. Then you put one out in the dip? Oy. So, you want a beer, maybe a raw steak for that black eye?”

“Arty, let’s face iŧ you’re a brilliant man. But … the Cottingly Fairies? Seriously?”

6. How would you finish the statement, “I bet my readers or friends did not know these three things about me . . .”

I miss the old snack crackers called Tid-Bits.
Grandpa Walton is my favorite TV character.
Someday I would like to own nothing more than a notebook, a pencil, and a good pair of shoes (okay, and maybe a pair of jeans and a T-shirt….).

7. Other than the recent Spur Award, what has been your most memorable author moment?

Every time I get a check from a publisher! “Hey baby, fire up the El Camino, we’re headed to the Piggly Wiggly!”