Interview and Giveaway with Rod Miller, Author of The Assassination of Governor Boggs
A VERSATILE WRITER, Rod Miller is author of two nonfiction books, Massacre at Bear River: First, Worst, Forgotten and John Muir: Magnificent Tramp; a Western novel, Gallows for a Gunman, and two collections of poetry, Things a Cowboy Sees and Other Poems and Newe Dreams: Poems by Rod Miller. He has also written many essays, magazine articles, book reviews, and anthologized short stories, and his poems have appeared in numerous maga- zines and anthologies.
Born and raised in a small town in Utah among horses and cattle, and a veteran of the rodeo arena, he comes by his love of the West and its history, culture, and people honestly. He is a member of Western Writers of America.
Along Highway 6 in central Utah you’ll find a small town called Goshen—if you look for it, that is, it isn’t really on the way to anyplace. When I grew up, about 500 others lived there. We had an elementary and junior high school, a motel, a café, a beer joint, two gas stations, and two small grocery stores. Now there are about a thousand people there, and everything else is gone but the elementary school and one gas station with a small convenience store. We always had horses, cattle, pigs, chickens, cows to milk, and the like, and spent the summers putting up hay.
It was one of those old-fashioned places where, as a boy, you could leave home in the morning and come home in the evening and your mother would never worry about where you were or what you were up to. We would ride or hike or just wander.
When did you begin writing?
For more than 30 years I have been an advertising copywriter. About 15 years ago, I decided, out of curiosity to see if I could write a poem. Later, I wondered about short stories, later still, books and novels. I have no education or formal training in creative writing—if I know anything about it, I’ve learned it from reading good books.
Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?
Pretty much whenever I can make the time. Having written on deadlines for all these years, I do not know the meaning of “writer’s block” or any such thing. If something has to be written, I write it. There are times when I don’t write, but it’s because I’m lazy or just don’t want to—but never because I “just can’t.” Since I write what I write (outside of business) mostly for enjoyment, I seldom force myself because I don’t want to take the fun out of it.
What is this book about?
The Assassination of Governor Boggs is a cold-case investigation into the 1842 attempted murder of Lilburn Boggs, former governor of Missouri. Given up for dead, and reported so in the newspapers, he survived. The crime was never solved. Twenty-five years later, following the Governor’s death, his family hires a Pinkerton agent to determine who fired the shot. We follow the investigator as he tracks down clues across the Old West on a trail that leads to Salt Lake City and Mormon gunfighter Porter Rockwell.
As a historical novel, the book is based on real people and events; it also a detective story, an Old West frontier novel, and something of a mystery.
What inspired you to write it?
The actual events behind the novel are fascinating—interesting people, the Mormon conflicts in Missouri, an unsolved crime—and seemed good fodder for a compelling book. It’s an intriguing story that hasn’t been told before, at least not in any detail. Plus, I have long been fascinated by Porter Rockwell and saw this as an opportunity to write about him in a way others hadn’t.
Who is your favorite character from the book?
Definitely Porter Rockwell. He represents so much of what made the American West a unique and iconic part of our history. He was a renowned frontiersman, scout, tracker, freighter, cowboy, horseman, gunfighter, lawman, outlaw, rancher, and just about any other Old West “type” you can come up with.
That said, through the research for the book I developed great respect for Lilburn Boggs. He is an infamous figure in Mormon history owing to his issuing the Extermination Order evicting the Mormons from Missouri under threat of death. But there is much more to the man that that. He, too, was an important figure in the settlement of the West, a highly regarded leader, and a respected frontiersman.
Of course I like Calvin Pogue, the troubled Pinkerton agent of my own invention. He is fearless and tenacious, yet demonstrates a softer side.
Do you have an agent or are you looking for one?
I do not have an agent. It seemed to me early on that finding representation with a good agent was just as difficult as finding a publisher, so I chose to approach publishers directly. Since my output is so varied—novels, short fiction, poetry, nonfiction, magazine articles, essays—mine is not exactly the sort of career that would interest an agent. Most agents (and publishers, for that matter) are looking for some sort of consistency on which to build a career. Me, I’m more interested in writing what interests me at the time, rather than repeating, in a sense, what I’ve already done. Which is why, I suppose, each of my six books is from a different publisher and appeals to a different audience.
Was the road to publication smooth sailing or a bumpy ride?
In some ways, too smooth. Early on, getting poems published encouraged me and led me to try short fiction and later books. There are so many horror stories about getting published, but I haven’t experienced them to any great degree. I guess I didn’t know any better, so I just went after it.
I don’t have a stack of unpublished novels or stories—pretty much everything I’ve written (outside of some poems) has been published. Certainly there have been rejections, but eventually I’ve managed to place all my work with legitimate publishers, large and small. Almost all my magazine articles have come to me by assignment, as have several other opportunities to write and publish material.
Right now I am in the middle of a somewhat untraditional traditional Western novel. I have also completed most of the research and some of the writing for a book of popular history. And there are a couple of magazine articles in the works. I am also reading a book to review for a history magazine. And, a poem or essay is likely to crop up any time.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Thanks for inviting me to talk to your readers. I hope you all enjoy The Assassination of Governor Boggs.
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