Please welcome Gordon E Tolton, an author with a fascination for history and an ability to bring it to life in his novels.
What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book “The Rocky Mountain Rangers” actually began as research for a living history project or organization. I wanted to form a re-enactment group based on the historical military unit. While I did manage to join such a group, and two groups did organize under that name to an extent, I found myself immersed in the research of the pure history. That research led me into the publication of a historical paper as a book, and led me into even more historical research.
How did you come up with the title?
“The Rocky Mountain Rangers” was self-titled based upon the historical subject.
Is this your first book? How many books have you written (published or unpublished)?
Rocky Mountain Rangers: Southern Alberta’s Cowboy Cavalry (Lethbridge Historical Society, 1994)
The Buffalo Legacy (Fort Whoop-Up Interpretive Society, 1996)
With The Mounties in the Boot and Saddle Days (editor/designer) (Riders of the Plains, 2006)
Prairie Warships: River Operations in the North-West Rebellion (Heritage House, 2007)
Deep Roots, Promising Future (Centennial History of United Farmers of Alberta) (UFA Co-op, 2009)
The Cowboy Cavalry: The Story of the Rocky Mountain Rangers (Heritage House, 2011)
The Last Blast: The Fur Trade in Whoop-Up Country (editor/designer) (Fort Whoop-Up Interpretive Society, 2013)
Healy’s West: The Life & Times of John J. Healy (Heritage House, 2014/US edition: Mountain Press, 2014)
I have four more books in various stages of production.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Just to awaken the sense of relevance of history to people’s lives.
How much of the book is realistic?
All of my books are highly researched, and only my conclusions are creative, though based on hypothesis.
Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The latest book, Healy’s West, I obviously could not have known personally. However, I have found myself close enough through the study of writings, character sketches and historical context, have come to know almost through a sense of channelling.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I would wish to make it a larger book, with more room to expand on subjects that I had to compress, and more room for photographs.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I just want people to be able to look at a location, or a place, an institution, or a piece of geography – and understand that there was a time before their lives.
What is your favorite part/chapter of your book/project?
The research, and the gathering of materials into a cohesive chronology and form.
What is your favourite theme/genre to write?
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
Never say never, but I doubt I would ever write any fiction.
What book are you reading now?
Getting through the very thick works of eastern American historian Allan Eckert, primarily working on That Dark and Bloody River.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Peter Stark has a book called Astoria: Astoria: Astor and Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival. He covers a historical tale in a very interesting and comprehensive way, with an engaging writing style.
Do you see writing as a career?
Yes, but it is very challenging. Unless sales take off unexpectedly, I will likely never support myself as a royalty author. I will always have to look to outside employment, grants, and commissions in order to do what I want to do.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Very likely, still doing what I am doing, but hopefully, with a slightly larger profile that will give me a certain level of safety in continuing the process of writing and researching. I may even get to the point where I have more research than I know what to do with, and can target book projects to specific markets.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Distractions, and self-discipline; the volume of material to get through, maintaining travel and justifying the expenses in the research aspects of the process.
Have you ever hated something you wrote?
No. That’s counter-productive.
What book do you wish you had written?
“Frontier Farewell: The 1870s and the End of the Old West” by Garrett Wilson
What is your best marketing tip?
No matter what your market is, no matter how good your representation is, the author is his/her own best sales person. People want to connect with the creator, and want to understand their process. The author needs to push their product as if it was any other, find their niche, and promote themselves to the media, libraries, book stores, and any other venue that can be related. In my case, I have also promoted my product to museums, historical societies, and even at local farmer’s markets and cowboy poetry events.
What genre is your next project? What is it about?
I am still working in history. The next is of a small railroad company that aided in developing the settlement of southern Alberta and northern Montana. I do not yet have a publishing contract for this.
Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
Other than the above, I have books on the go regarding the early buffalo fur trade on the prairies; a political history of Alberta, regarding the farmers movement in the post-World War I era into the depression; the impact of Lewis and Clark expedition on Canada; and a book on the defense of the north-west coast of Canada and the United States during the Second World War.
How do we find your books, blog and bio?
Healy’s West: The Life and Times of John J. Healy
The Cowboy Cavalry: The Story of the Rocky Mountain Rangers
Prairie Warships: River Navigation in the Northwest Rebellion
Author Biography: http://www.heritagehouse.ca/author_details.php?contributor_id_1=1400