Writer Robert Walton joins me today to discuss his current writing. Walton is a life-long rock-climber and mountaineer. He's made numerous ascents in the Sierra Nevada and Yosemite.
Much of his writing reflects on his time in the mountains. Most notably are his three short stories about climbing which were published in the Sierra Club’s Ascent. Other stories and poems have appeared in “High” magazine, “Loose Scree” and in “The Climbing Art”. He's converted a story named “Three’s a Crowd” into a radio play and it was broadcast on KUSF on November 22nd, 2006. It was later broadcast several more times on PBS. His short story “Don Francisco Rides to La Paz” won the 2008 Saturday Writers short story contest. “Dogwood Dream” won the 2011 New Millennium short fiction competition and most recently “Like a Thorny Child” won the 2012 CCW short story contest.
Robert, what other pieces have you written?
I’ve written novels, screenplays, poems, newspaper articles and well over a hundred short stories.
I have favorites. As far as short stories are concerned, I won’t likely do better than “Dogwood Dream”. I’ll also point you toward my Civil War novel Dawn Drums (2013). Its characters pinned me to my chair and made me become a better writer to finish it as they deserved. I’ll mention my out of print (1982) fantasy Joel in Tananar, too. It’s become a cult (a very small cult!) classic. My YA novels Chaos Gate (2011) and The Dragon and the Lemon Tree (1989) are worth a look, as is my SF novella Vienna Station (2012).
Where do your ideas come from?
When I was a young writer, I felt that I was endowed with both a unique vision and a special voice. I’ve learned over the years that everybody else is also so endowed. Realization of this truth has allowed me to become comfortable with my own window on the universe. I climb mountains, so mountains give me ideas, their scale of time and their beauty. I read history and find that history becomes more real when retold. I walk by a river daily and see what the rabbits and bobcats are up to.
Let me say again that I truly believe each of us has a unique perspective and a special voice. However, both can be affirmed only by working hard at the craft of writing.
If you could talk to any famous writer, what would you say?
I attended a teachers’ reading conference at Asilomar several decades ago and went to the bathroom after listening to Tony Hillerman give the keynote address. Who should step into the urinal stall next to mine but Mr. Hillerman himself.
Funny Robert, can't wait to hear what this bathroom conversation entailed.
It’s not the best place to begin a conversation, but I made a complimentary remark about his speech. This led to one of the best conversations of my life - after we stepped into the sunshine outside. We talked about writing and how neither of us was able to sit down and plan a novel. We both felt guilty about it, he less so than I. We both confessed that we started in the middle, at the end or in some yet to be determined place in the story and agreed that once we had good characters they would speak to us and let us know where to go. This exchange has sustained me in my somewhat chaotic writing efforts over the years and afforded Tony (I think) a small affirmation of his approach.
If I could, I’d ask John Steinbeck why he added several stupid lines to the end of Of Mice and Men. Was it because he couldn’t abide the fact that he’d created a subllime, perfect work of fiction?
Do you have help from other writers in publishing your book?
I’ve received a great deal of help from other writers (especially those at scribophile) in improving my writing. The grunt work of dealing with publishers and business details is too ugly to share. That said, other writers have at times pointed me toward a likely market or venue.
What have you learned the most about feedback from your work this past year?
Great writing is fluid and achieves its power through flow. Ideas and images become as inevitable as the incoming tide. Comments that help me improve flow, that prompt me to remove blocking words, or change the sequence of details were most helpful - and welcome! I’ve not written a perfect passage yet.
What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview?
Which elected official would you like to see shot at dawn? It’s a tough question. We have so many current candidates.
Thanks for joining me Robert.
Thanks for having me
Readers, please comment below.
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