Interview with Amazon.com
Q: How did you begin writing?
Did you intend to become an author, or do you have a specific reason
or reasons for writing each book?
RD-O: I have written and thought of myself
as a writer as long as I can remember. Although my family was extremely
poor and rural and we had few books, my mother and father were both
great storytellers, and later when I was in school, my mother started
writing stories and publishing them in the weekly newspapers of nearby
rural towns. I was an asthmatic and often at home alone with her on
school days. It seemed natural that after doing the many housekeeping
and farming chores that she would sit down and write for several hours.
I chose to become a scholarly writer and studied history, completed
the Ph.D. and have published several books and articles on the history
of colonialism in the western hemisphere. My just published, "Red
Dirt: Growing Up Okie," is a departure in that it is a memoir
although I call it "life history," using my own life story
and that of my family and community to tell the history of rural North
Q: What authors do you like
to read? What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your
RD-O: I strongly favor books with poor
and working class themes--Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo, Knut Hansum,
William Faulkner, Eudora Weldy, and more recently the work of Dorothy
Allison and Jim Grimsley. I am also drawn to history and stories of
marginal individuals and peoples and dysfunctional families, such as
a lot of the work of the nineteenth century Russian writers, Tomas
Mann, D.H. Lawrence, Jose Camilo Cela. I'm now reading the three new
biographies of Ernesto Che Guevara (Jon Lee Anderson, Jorge Castaneda,
Paco Ignacio Taibo 2nd) and J. Anthony Lukas's "Big Trouble," a
historical study of the Industrial Workers of the World during the
first two decades of this century. My grandfather was a Wobbly and
my father is named after the Wobbly leaders (Moyer, Haywood, Pettibone,
who were on trial in Boise during the summer of 1907 when he was born.
I read a great deal and always have and have been influenced profoundly
both in my life and thinking as well as my writing. During the past
decade, working on the memoir, "Red Dirt," and attempting
to tell history through a family story, I have been most influenced
by the nonfiction work of Richard Slotkin (especially "Gunfighter
Nation") and by the fiction of Afrikaner South African writers,
especially Andre Brink, and by the bounty of fine writing from Asia,
especially Salmon Rushdie.
Q: Could you describe the
mundane details of writing: How many hours a day do you devote to writing?
Do you write a draft on paper or at a keyboard (typewriter or computer)?
Do you have a favorite location or time of day (or night) for writing?
What do you do to avoid--or seek!--distractions?
RD-O: I write best in my own study during
the early hours of the morning. The rest of the time I can do editing
and revision, but the original writing pretty much takes place at my
desk. I write all first drafts by hand on a lined legal pad, then revise
on the computer. To write and even to edit and revise, I have to stay
home, so when I travel I don't even try to write, except letters and
some in a notebook.
Q: Do you meet your readers
at book signings, conventions, or similar events? Do you interact with
your readers electronically through e-mail or other online forums?
RD-O: I love to meet my readers in any
setting or through mail and telephone. Lately, I have been doing a
lot of readings and signings and really enjoy it, although I haven't
been getting much writing done. I am a university teacher and love
interaction with people which involves the intellect, imagination,
and emotions. I'm not a lecturing kind of teacher, rather more interactive.
Q: When and how did
you get started on the Net? Do you read any newsgroups such as rec.arts.books
and rec.arts.sf.written, mailing lists, or other on-line forums? Do
you use the Net for research--or is it just another time sink? Are
you able to communicate with other writers or people you work with
over the Net?
RD-O: I've been
on the net for several years now, although I use it mainly for email
and to read the daily news and reviews. I really love not having to subscribe
to so many magazines I never finish reading.