It was Saturday afternoon, around one o’ clock that I arrived at Book Lovers bookstore in Sacramento, California, off of Madison Avenue and Manzanita. I knew that there would be a couple of writers there, and hoped that at some point I might be able to pull one of them aside and speak to them about the process of writing and what techniques they used personally in the process of writing their novels. Upon entering the bookstore, I found that there was a small group of people milling about near the front of the store. That’s where a couple of tables had been set up, with authors sitting behind them, waiting for someone to take an interest or strike up a conversation. Both authors were Christian writers, and though one of them wrote books about high school dramas, there were no young people in the crowd at the front of the store. The gathered crowd seemed to consist of older churchgoing folk – people who didn’t mind spending an idle Saturday gathered around, talking about stories from bygone days. I wandered around the aisles of books and tried to find a way to sneak through the crowd and get hold of one of the authors. It took a while, as I was trying to be polite and not just push my way through. In the meantime, I disturbed the nap of the bookstore’s fat white cat named Sugar, who had been lying on her back on the carpeted floor. She seemed a bit upset at first, but quickly forgave me and wanted more of my attention. And I listened to the older men who seemed to have some sort of a military history, as they talked about how they don’t understand the art that’s being produced these days and how they would never buy any of the pieces they’ve seen in the galleries. Frankly, I would have to agree. That these men thought so too, made me laugh.
I was finally able to get to the front of one of the tables, however, and I struck up a conversation with one of the authors - a man named Frederick Ransom Gray, who had four different novels sitting there on display. He was a kind-looking older gentleman with completely white hair. One of the books on display was a “Christian Western” – a genre that I had not heard of. It was a book called Sagebuster’s Domain and featured a sepia-toned photo of a man on horseback on the cover. I asked how the author got the inspiration for this book in particular, and for his novels. He answered that the ideas just come to him and that he prays to be able to write and he is able to. He related the tale of how he had come up with the idea for this novel in particular, and how the idea had sat in a drawer for nearly twenty years before he came back to it and turned it into a novel. I had a pleasant chat with this author, who said that for this novel, he thinks he should have done research by staying for at least a week at a ranch, and admitted that he’s no cowboy. His research was done online through Google and by advice and information gained from talking with friends who had experience in horsemanship. The author seemed very excited about his books. I asked how he does his writing – what setting he prefers and whether he ever has to contend with writer’s block. He said that he writes for two to three hours at a time, and always inside at his computer, where he can have all of his spreadsheets of character information surrounding him. And – amazingly – he says that he has never had to deal with writer’s block! However, he did say that he takes breaks in the process of writing, and my guess would be that this is how he deals with writer’s block. It’s hard for me to imagine any writer not having the experience of writer’s block at all. The most important thing, for him, seemed to be that when an idea comes to him, he writes it down immediately so that it is not lost. He said that if he does not, the idea is instantly lost and beyond recovery.
This was a great experience. I bought myself a copy of Sagebuster’s Domain and asked the author to sign it for me. He said that it was a pleasure talking to me, and I definitely enjoyed the experience and insight.