Riding with Bladen Cole in this, the first book of my new series, takes me back to the mountains and high plains of Montana where I rode when I was a boy. For this bounty hunter, the year is 1879, and for me, it was somewhat more recent, but we both rode under the Big Sky in that time of year when the leaves on the cottonwoods have turned golden and are beginning to fall. Each year, as the sun begins to spend its whole day close to the horizon, and the first few flakes of snow become the promise of winter fulfilled, there comes that time of quiet loneliness as you ride on limitless plains under that limitless sky.
For me, as it is for Bladen Cole, the openness of the country becomes a vehicle for pondering. Whether your vehicle is a saddlehorse – such as Cole’s trusty unnamed roan – or one with a motor – and a heater – the lonely infinity allows plenty of space for pondering and for figuring out.
For this bounty hunter, the pondering time is filled with figuring out that the only way justice can really be done is for the outlaws he is chasing to be brought back alive to point their fingers at the man who hired them — and him. For a modern man, this author, the pondering time might mean the figuring out of how a character fits into that landscape. The object of the author’s contemplation merges with that of his characters.
The relationship between an author and his characters is a close, though for me it is not so much a situation where the author becomes the character, but one in which the characters become houseguests in my mind. I suppose that it is different for all authors, but for me, I find myself not so much writing the dialogue, but taking dictation from these people who are temporary boarders in my head. They tell me what it is that they want, and need, to say.
So, as this author does his pondering within a cocoon of loneliness, I am gradually surrounded by a small crowd people. Generally ignoring me, other than to be certain that I am hearing what they say, they communicate, argue, compromise, and conspire against one another.
Yet it is the landscape, either real or made real with words — and regardless of the color, or even the presence, of the leaves on the cottonwoods — that facilitates the dialogue and drives the action which inspires, perplexes and carries the people who live within it to their fates.