In the past couple of years, Richard Prosch has become one of my favorite contemporary writers. Maybe that's partly because I know he is Nebraska bred and born, and remains a devout cornhusker at heart even though he presently resides in Missouri … No, that's really only icing on the cake; I'd still like Richard's writing as much, even if he was a "coaster" of some ilk. He's that damn good.
Prosch writes Westerns. Some in a contemporary setting, most set in the more traditional "Old West era" of the late 1800s. His writing is subtly stylistic, thoroughly evoking the time and especially the place he is writing about. His characters are simple and human, yet at the same time somehow colorful and memorable.
With the exception of one novella (and a fine one) entitled HOLT COUNTY LAW, Prosch's work so far has been in short stories, some appearing elsewhere, most of them gathered into story collections of his own. Many of his stories feature two recurring characters: Featured most prominently among the stories collected in DEVIL'S NEST, there is John Coburn, also known as The Peregrine (a wanderer or drifter), who has a mysterious, quasi-mystical air about him, a man with a reputation for being good with a gun yet not a gunslinger per se`; and Whit Branham (featured in the aforementioned HOLT COUNTY LAW), a young lawman who at first seems somewhat unassuming – a horse lover and a bit of a dreamer – but gradually proves to be as tough and resourceful as his job and the frontier demand.
I could go on, but there's really no need to when the best thing is for interested readers to check out Richard's work, all available on Amazon. A good place to start is with his just-released latest, ONE AGAINST THE GUN HORDE (featuring John Coburn/Peregrine in the title story) --- for which, in conjunction with this blog post, I recently put up a 5-star review on Amazon.
Also, to get to know a bit more about the personal side of the man behind the byline, I offer the following Q&A session he recently agreed to participate in with me:
WD: You grew up on a Nebraska farm and then went on to become a writer,
artist, and teacher living in such places as Wyoming, South Carolina,
and Missouri. Can you give us some details about that transition?
RP: The transition was abrupt. Living in the city, even a small place
like Laramie, brought both petty annoyances (night noises of traffic and
the AC unit at a nearby grocery store) and simple luxuries (walking to
the store for a Coke whenever I felt like it). The move from Wyoming to
South Carolina was much more of a culture shock. What’s funny is that,
after ten years in the Upstate, moving back west was an equal shock.
Once again, I share my days with cornfields and cattle, but it bothers
me that I can’t find local green peanuts to boil!
WD: Not surprisingly, writing seems to be at the core of all beyond the
farm work. Is it safe to say that writing/becoming a writer has always
been the strongest force driving you? At what age did you first
recognize you wanted to be a writer yourself, and when did you first
produce what you consider a significant piece of work?
RP: Growing up, I was always writing and drawing. Commercial art and
cartooning was my initial career choice because I could make more money
at it, but I was always making up stories in my head while on the
tractor or doing chores on the farm. I remember turning in a short
vampire story in the 5th grade and my teacher saying, “You should be a
writer when you grow up.” I held onto that. First significant piece is
hard, but I’d have to say that co-writing the Emma Davenport comic strip
in 1993 for the Comics Buyers’ Guide was both personally and
professionally gratifying. Up until then, my published writing creds
were all for nonfiction business journals or fluffy romance and
religious pieces. So I think that comic forced me to grow in ways that
are still valuable today. You have to make your words count when they
need to fit inside a word balloon.
WD: I presume you likely took some writing courses --- anything to
share from that? Perhaps a teacher who was particularly encouraging (or
not)? Obviously, things like plot basics, proper formatting, query
letters, etc., can be taught. But I've often wondered if you can
actually make a writer out of someone who, at their core, doesn't
already have something pulling/pushing them in that direction? Any
thoughts on that?
RP: There’s all kinds of writing, from business copy to commercial
fiction, and I think anyone can learn the craft they choose. I learned a
lot in school about writing, but very little about being a professional.
That said, I do think it takes dedication if you want a professional
lifestyle. Lots of people can make a sale or two, but continuing to
work, to learn, to improve, that’s a choice. And it’s easy to fool
yourself for a while. It’s about sitting down and doing the work. The
writers I have learned from have work ethics like my old German farmer
WD: In 1988, during your journey from farm boy to professional writer
and co-honcho of Lohman Hills Creative, you met and married your lovely
wife Gina (the other co-honcho of Lohman). You have told me how
supportive and important she is to your writing, and it is clear to
anyone who reads her recurring "Simple Pleasures" observations on
Facebook that she is a very talented and perceptive person in her own
rite. Care to tell us more and brag a bit about Gina? Also your son
Wyatt? It is clear from our personal correspondence back and forth as
well as the Facebook posts by both you and Gina that you have a very
close knit family, one you are --- and should be --- very proud of.
RP: Thank you, Wayne. Gina taught at a college level for many years and
is my best friend and critic, first reader and teacher, and I trust her to slap me as
needed. Her knowledge of literature and the humanities far exceeds mine,
and I don’t think I ever would have continued in art and writing without
her. During the last 25 years we’ve written a lot together, more than
the comic strip. We co-wrote dozens of business articles and have
produced web site copy for a lot of different industries. We’ve even
remodeled a house together without bloodshed! Wyatt is the opposite of
his parents. For him, it’s all about science and engineering, and that’s
widened my perspective and opened windows I thought were shut long ago.
He continues to inspire both of us.
WD: Tell us a bit about your writing regimen. Do you have a particular
schedule? Are you a careful plotter/outliner or are you what has become
commonly called a "pantser"?
RP: Until recently I outlined everything. Didn’t always follow the plan,
but I needed that anchor in place to even get started. Lately, like with
the latest batch of stories, I’m more often “writing into the dark” as
author Dean Wesley Smith says. As far as word count, I’m still doing
wind sprints. Sessions of a few hundred, to a few thousand words on any
random day. Then I go for a day or two without writing. Never more than
two or I start feeling anxious. More than three and Gina doesn’t want me
around. But I’m not happy with that. It leaves me feeling jangled. I’ve
rearranged my schedule for summer to try for a more even keel.
WD: What writers have influenced/inspired you?
RP: From the printed page it’s Bradbury and Harlan Ellison, Dorothy M.
Johnson, and Robert B. Parker. I have so much admiration for the
wordcraft of David Edgerley Gates. In personal, one on one advice, Peter
Brandvold and Dean Wesley Smith have turned my head around more than
once. These are people who take the work seriously, who care about the
writing. Not the awards, not the blogs or the association memberships
WD: Can you discuss what you're working on or planning now? What can
readers look forward to next from the Prosch byline?
RP: Right now, I honestly don’t know. I have a few irons in the fire,
each of which might go a different direction. I’m most enthusiastic
about finishing up the current body of work and getting a fresh
perspective this summer. Like I said before, trying more to just “write
into the dark.”
WD: Finally, why have you chosen to primarily write Westerns? Don't you
know that dusty, musty old genre was pronounced dead many years ago ---
and several times since?
RP: Unlike anywhere else, the West lets me tap into my personal
experience and opinion. There’s a sense of integration when I write
about walking the range or chasing a cow, things I’ve done over and over
for decades. In my earliest memories I sat on a stool and watched my
grandparents work cattle. And only yesterday, I chased a cow out of our
garden. That sense of continuity keeps me planted firmly in small town
and western settings.
WD: Thank you for your time, Richard.
RP: You’re welcome, Wayne. It’s great to visit with you!