Q&A: Author of mystery series to have book signing in Glenwood Springs | PostIndependent.com

Q&A: Author of mystery series to have book signing in Glenwood Springs

Carla Jean Whitley
cj@postindependent.com

At a glance, Steven W. Horn's career trajectory may seem irrelevant to his work as a novelist. Horn's experience includes years as Colorado commissioner of agriculture and president of the Western United States Agricultural Trade Association. He was the dean of University of Wyoming's College of Agriculture and a professor of animal science at the school.

Those roles may sound irrelevant to writing. But Horn's life in the West informs his novels.

He'll visit Glenwood Springs Saturday to sign copies of "When They Were Young. It's the latest in the Sam Dawson mystery series.

Dawson is wrestling with his life's direction when he comes across a child's body while fishing in Wyoming. Sam and his daughter set out to uncover the truth of the child's death. The novel explores relationships and mystery in the setting of Wyoming's Laramie range. We spoke to Horn via email in advance of his visit.

Post Independent: How have your experiences in Colorado or the West in general informed your writing? Along those lines, I'm also curious about if and how your career in agriculture factors into your novels.

Steven W. Horn: In spite of the population boom along Colorado's Front Range, the state is still incredibly rural. The small town nature, isolation, scenic beauty and rich history of its many agricultural and mining communities are inspirational to me as a writer. Working with farmers and ranchers all over the state provided me with much grist for my writing mill.

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PI: How did you come to make the transition from that work to writing?

SWH: As with most writers, writing for me is a passion that cannot financially sustain even a modest lifestyle, let alone send the kids to college. I've always been a writer. It has transcended several career choices and only now (in retirement) have I had the opportunity to seek popular publication of my stories. Writing is work, however, and like most occupations requires a disciplined approach. When asked about the difficulty of writing, Hemingway said, "Ain't nothin' to it. Just sit down at the typewriter and bleed."

PI: What do you read when you're in the middle of a writing project? Does that differ in any way from your normal reading habits?

SWH: My fiction reading habits are wide-ranging in terms of genre. However, I try stay away from reading novels within the genre in which I write (mystery/suspense). I want my novels to be unique in terms of plot design and structure and not influenced by other authors. When researching my stories, I read nonfiction. Vacations are times for enjoying bestsellers or picking away at my personal reading list. Recently, I've enjoyed reading many novels at the request of their authors in order to provide a "blurb" for the back cover.

PI: What is your favorite bookstore in or near your hometown? What makes it special?

SWH: I love independent bookstores and enjoy perusing their shelves and sampling their unique themes. Unfortunately, small, independent bookstores are disappearing at an alarming rate. Antiquarian bookstores seem to be on the endangered species list. That is especially hard on book collectors like me. In my business, I am very fortunate to visit most of the independent bookstores in the region. Book Train in Glenwood Springs is one of my favorites. Carole O'Brien does an outstanding job of balancing her inventory to appeal to both the tourist and resident readers. Book Train is a sister store to my hometown independent bookstore in Cheyenne, City News, where my latest mystery was launched on Oct. 26.

PI: What are you working on now or next? Will it also be a Sam Dawson mystery?

SWH: I am busy working on the next Sam Dawson Mystery. It usually takes me a couple of years to complete a novel, and then another nine or 10 months are needed for the publication process.

Excerpt from "When they Were Young: A Sam Dawson Mystery" by Steven W. Horn

Chapter One

Girl

Her face was frozen to the icy ground. Her decomposing scalp had slipped forward in wrinkles above the dark sockets of her recessed eyes. Blonde hair, almost white, spilled over her pallid features as if she were hiding beneath it. His breath caught in the back of his throat. Just a child, he thought, maybe ten or twelve years old. Her body was curled into a tight fetal position, her wrists crossed under her chin, her knees touching her elbows. She had been cold.

Sam Dawson was cold too. He could taste the Wyoming air, sharp and metallic against the roof of his mouth. His nostrils flared against the sunless hollow, detecting the soft fragrance of pine, the pungent odor of decomposing aspen leaves, and the aroma of sage that drifted across the stream from the open meadows above. Tiny droplets of condensation formed under his nose as his breath escaped in foggy surges. He glanced at L2, who showed no interest in the corpse. Sam, not the dog, had found the girl. "You call yourself a bloodhound," he mumbled softly, without knowing why. There was no one to hear him. The waters of Crow Creek swallowed his words and murmured its own incoherent whispers, the confused gossip of the stream spirits.

If you go

Steven W. Horn book signing

Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Horn will sign copies of his latest novel, “When They Were Young.”

Book Train, 723 Grand Ave., Glenwood Springs | 945-7045 | besthometownnews.com/book-train