Interview with Gordon Rothwell, Author of The Seventh Bull
Gordon Rothwell was born in Seattle and got a BA in Journalism from the University of Washington. As an advertising copywriter—one of the original Mad Men— he wrote material for over 100 major firms in California, including PR for the Apollo lunar space program. He received numerous awards including a CLIO (the Oscar of advertising). He’s also a sportswriter and screenwriter, and many of his screenplays have won and been finalists in the Motion Picture Academy's Nicholl, Acclaim, Chesterfield, Hollywood Symposium, and FADE IN competitions. He’s published articles and stories in numerous men's magazines as well as youth-oriented publications like BOY’S LIFE. He enjoys the fanciful and macabre on screen and in books. Gordon now lives in the shadow of Mt. Shasta, surrounded by a loving family and one sweet pit bull named “Dreamer.”
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Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the 1930’s and ‘40’s in Seattle, Washington. It is a pleasant place to live---surrounded by ocean and majestic mountains, with plentiful lakes in town to enjoy. I loved sports, primarily basketball. And since those were the days before television, I was an avid radio listener. I especially loved the adventure and thriller shows like ESCAPE, SUSPENSE, DIMENSION X, I LOVE A MYSTERY and LIGHTS OUT. And I went to the movies quite frequently, as it was 25 cents and all the popcorn you could eat. My favorites were also the more adventurous and thrilling stories. I read some books as a boy, but my friends and I felt we got more out of comic books and Big Little Books. My serious reading came later.
When did you begin writing?
I had done some writing for the school paper in high school. But it was mostly about student activities and sports events. It wasn’t until I entered the University of Washington that I was introduced to the world of books and writing. My professor in the School of Journalism, Robert Mansfield, encouraged me in his magazine article writing class to take a crack at researched non-fiction and stories. His wife, Katherine Mansfield, was a well-known magazine author who established an enviable record by having 13 of her stories published in The Saturday Evening Post in a single year. Nobody had ever done that before. She encouraged me as well. That led to serving as Sports Editor of the University Daily and a featured writer in The Columns, the school humor magazine.
What is this story about?
Once at the top of his journalistic game, Robert Dunne is now a drunken hanger-on following a highly acclaimed matador. Paco Garcia is known and revered on the circuit as "The Bullfighter Who Can't Be Killed." Dunne hopes to jumpstart his languishing career with a bestselling book revealing the mystery of Paco's phenomenal ability to escape "death in the afternoon." But circumstances take a macabre turn when the famous matador fires his beautiful manager---despite her dark warnings. Will Dunne heed the woman's threat of dire consequences---or is he prepared to give the Devil his due?
What inspired you to write it?
I suppose it all began when I went to see Tyrone Power in Blood and Sand in the early 1940’s. I was enthralled by the pageantry, colors, tradition and spectacle of one man standing up to a charging thousand pound bull with a tiny stick and a little square of red cloth. I was also influenced, too, by the writings of Ernest Hemingway in Death in the Afternoon. Over the years, I collected many boxes of magazine tear sheets and books on bullfighting. Sort of as a hobby. I saw my first bullfight in person in Barcelona, Spain, and another memorable one featuring the Number One Matador in the world at that time, Antonio Ordoñez, at the Plaza Monumental in Tijuana. I wrote two screenplays with bullfighting as a backdrop, Matadora and Even The Sea Must Die. Several producers and studios were interested for a while, but nobody could get financing, and everyone was afraid PETA would throw blood in their faces at the premiere. This story evolved from my lifelong observations of the world of bullfighting.
Who is your favorite character in the story?
None of my characters are very nice. I think I’d have to say the bullfighting world is the character that drives the story, and will fascinate the reader. It is a world of beauty mingled with danger and sudden death. It is a tragic ballet of man and beast with a predictable and horrific conclusion. It is a drama few can tear their eyes away from, or erase from their memory once they’ve seen its three acts performed.
What is one piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors everywhere?
I am an old man. I have been writing now for more years than I care to say. I have been lucky enough to have made my living writing in various forms. I have had a lot of disappointments and roadblocks. Teachers who said I had no talent. Relatives who thought me half-mad. A wife who thought I’d outgrow it. Bosses who scoffed and derided my dreams of being a writer. Agents and managers who turned away from me, or robbed me with expensive handling and critique fees. Editors by the ton who sent me little rejection postcards or form letters. To all this, I say: “Get out of my way. Nobody stomps on my dream”. My advice is don’t listen to anything but your heart. Tell that inner critic to take a hike, too. Stay the course. Keep sitting in that chair with your hands on the keyboard. Keep writing and keep believing. If you hang on, it will happen. And as George Burns once said “I’m almost one hundred years old. I been at this so long all my competition is dead. Nobody can stop me now.” Be like George, and keep on until all your competition is eating your dust.
What is up next for you?
I am finishing up a romantic time-travel novella I call The Time Trolley. A young San Francisco journalist whose wife has been brutally murdered by a killer called “The Slasher” is given a tip that leads him on a dizzying chase. When the reporter jumps aboard the trolley to apprehend The Slasher, he finds himself transported back to 1906 San Francisco. And he has only a few days to catch the killer and save a young socialite’s life before the city is engulfed in a horrendous, shattering earthquake.
Is there anything you would like to add?
I would like to thank you sincerely for having me on your blog. It has been a pleasure and a privilege.