The Book Train hosts book signings by two western authors
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Novelists Steven Horn and Lou Dean Jacobs will sign copies of their new books this weekend at the Book Train, 723 Grand Ave.
Horn will share his Sam Dawson mystery series of books, “The Pumpkin Eater” and “Another Man’s Life,” from noon to 2 p.m. Friday, July 18. Jacobs brings her tales of traveling by donkey across northern Colorado “On My Ass/Riding the Midlife Crisis Trail” from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 19.
Arts and entertainment contributor April Clark caught up with the two traveling authors to find out more about their craft in preparation for their Glenwood Springs book signings.
Q&A with Lou Dean Jacobs
1. What was the motivation in promoting nonviolence in schools as the basis for “On My Ass/Riding the Midlife Crisis Trail?”
After the tragedy at Columbine, I read everything related to school shootings and teen violence. I argued passionately in favor of troubled kids, and some of my closest friends told me I was obsessed. I often quoted the author of “Cries Unheard,” Gitta Sereny, who spent her life studying evil and believed that kids don’t kill because of evil — they aren’t motivated by evil but by hurt and pain.
2. Why did you choose northern Colorado as the area to travel by donkey?
We chose northern Colorado because I have been a resident of Blue Mountain (8 miles east of Dinosaur) for 20 years. We left from my place and rode east to Steamboat Springs, north to Walden then on east to Fort Collins, Sterling, and into Holyoke on the Nebraska border. The trip took 31 days on the trail, and we traveled 367 miles. We stopped and visited schools and talked to kids along the trail.
3. What are a few of the unforeseen challenges encountered along the trail?
The weather was our biggest challenge. It started raining on Day One and rained hard the first three days on the trail. On Day Four, near Maybell, we awoke to blizzard conditions. We had blowing wind and snow in Steamboat Springs and again in Walden, then when we reached the Eastern Slope, we encountered blazing sun and problems finding enough water for our animals.
4. How did your past play a role in staying in the saddle?
Having been raised in Oklahoma on a farm, I grew up with an attitude of never give up. I also learned a lot about perseverance from being a writer for three decades. But I think the single biggest motivation to stay in the saddle was my passion to help troubled kids.
5. How did you document your experience during the trek?
I documented the trip with journal entries and photos along the trail. We met so many wonderful Colorado folks that helped us along the way; all of them are mentioned in the memoir.
6. What do you enjoy most about being an author?
Being an author and connecting with people through my words is an honor. To think that my writing actually can make a difference in someone’s life is a huge blessing for me.
7. Are future trips planned in the saddle, and is a new novel in the works?
Any future trips in the saddle will probably be fun trips up on Blue Mountain with my two grandsons. After launching this book throughout the summer, I will go back to several other projects on my desk.
Q&A with Steven Horn
1. Describe the “The Pumpkin Eater” plot and how you developed it.
“The Pumpkin Eater,” the first in the Sam Dawson Mystery Series and 2014 Benjamin Franklin Gold Award Winner, is a fictional account of America’s attempts to improve the human race through eugenics. Sam Dawson’s investigation uncovers the mass murders of young women, victims of genetic experiments, while revealing a sinister plot involving his daughter and sister.
Three events inspired the development of the novel’s plot. First, while sitting in an airport, the discovery that everyone I saw looked like someone I knew. The realization that genetically we’re all related and that phenotypes (outward appearances) are limited was sobering. Second, a news story about a gynecologist/obstetrician who was impregnating his patients and overwhelming the local gene pool peaked my curiosity about reproductive science and how it might be used for the benefit of an evildoer. Third, an NPR story and readings about orphan trains and how east coast orphanages periodically purged their populations by sending trainloads of orphans West. The vulnerability and anonymity of these young people allowed for their exploitation.
2. What areas from Colorado are featured, and how did you incorporate them into the book?
It’s fun to do a signing in Glenwood Springs since a pivotal part of the novel takes place in the area. New Castle is the home of a central figure in the story, while Glenwood is where a child, buried in a pauper’s grave at Linwood Cemetery, provides intrigue in this mystery. The Front Range from Boulder to Pueblo is where much of the story takes place, especially as it relates to state government. The fictional town of Cambridge in southeastern Colorado like the story and characters is a creation of my imagination.
3. How have your experiences living and working in Colorado influenced this book?
Nearly three decades of traveling the backroads of Colorado and more than 15 years of working in state government helped shape the storyline of “The Pumpkin Eater.” Kirkus Reviews said that “Horn has constructed a truly unsettling mystery backed by in-depth knowledge of science, Colorado bureaucracy and politics, and history.” I certainly could not have written this novel without these experiences. Colorado was my muse.
4. What type of feedback do you receive from readers about ““The Pumpkin Eater”?
Sam Dawson is an anti-hero, a flawed individual who is not a typical sleuth. People consistently tell me that they like Sam and can identify with him. Also, I have often heard from readers that they enjoy a novel where they learn something. The eugenics movement in this country is known by few today, but at its peak was quite pervasive into the lives of all Americans. Writing about the mistakes of the past will hopefully prevent us from making the same flawed decisions in the future. If I can move a reader emotionally, I have accomplished my goal as a writer. When they tell me they were haunted by my novel and challenged by the politically charged social issues presented in the novel, I smile. Mission accomplished.
By far the most frequent comment I receive is, “When is the next Sam Dawson mystery coming out?” That, of course, is music to an author’s ears.
5. What have you enjoyed the most about traveling around the U.S. for book signings?
Meeting and talking with people who enjoy reading. I love it when a total stranger says, “Tell me about your book.” Also, I really like doing book signings at small, independent book stores. Like others who love books, I worry about their ability to compete with the big chain stores and online book sellers. These quaint and often eclectic stores serve their communities in an irreplaceable fashion. I want them to survive.
6. Are there plans for more novels in your future?
I’m busy working on the next Sam Dawson mystery now. I hope to see it released in 2015. In the interim, readers may be interested in my highly acclaimed debut novel, “Another Man’s Life.”
7. What is one characteristic about you that your readers may be surprised to learn?
That I am a very private person who never divulges personal characteristics that would surprise my readers.
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