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Home of authors Holly Hunt & Jophrael L. Avario

Inspiration for a Welsh Western by Jude Johnson


What comes to mind when someone mentions a Western? Do you think of old movies? Shoot ‘em up black and white television shows? I did–and thought all of them boring. The characters seemed all the same: the noble hero, the mustachioed villain, the damsel in distress, the saloon gals, and unschooled but kindly cowboys. I never in my most outrageous dreams thought I’d ever even read a Western.

Then I watched a miniseries called “Lonesome Dove,” based on the novel by Larry McMurtry, and it not only blew me away, it ripped my heart out and stomped on it. Here were characters who weren’t clichéd, who had depth and faults and pathos, and who stayed in your mind long after the show had ended. And the novel was even better–filled with neglected details of the hardships life entailed in those days. I thought about sending Mr. McMutry a note about how much I enjoyed the journey but never did.

Fast forward a decade and a half. I’m in Bisbee, Arizona with my son’s school field trip into the copper mine when suddenly I’m possessed with the notion of writing a story about the men who had been brought there to assay and dig out that mine. Because our guide told us how the mine managers had specifically gone to Wales to recruit the best in the mining business of the mid-nineteenth century, my imagination took off. What a shock it must have been to come from one of the wettest, greenest places on the planet to the high desert of Southern Arizona, where it didn’t rain for months on end and the Apaches were none too pleased you entered the neighborhood!

I couldn’t wait to start researching the details, Delving into the stacks of articles, magazines, and photos at the Arizona Historical Society was addictive–I lingered for hours, soaking up the little pieces of daily life in the days before public sanitation and running water were brought West. I wanted to share with friends who had never been to Arizona its unique beauty and dangers. I wanted friends who live here to experience how an immigrant might see what we take for granted. And I wanted to transport every reader into a time when hot water was a luxury and infection could kill. While I can’t compare my books to the sweeping grand saga of Lonesome Dove, I kept its complexity in the back of my mind as I wrote.

Dragon & Hawk evolved into three books–so far. The saga of a Welsh miner and the Mexican healer he reluctantly comes to adore covers some of the wildest, most dangerous events in Arizona history as well as the attitudes and prejudices the characters must face and overcome while dealing with the obstacles all relationships encounter. It takes the reader on a trip back in time and into different cultures, hopefully imparting some information while entertaining along the way.

And in a serendipitous moment at my local convenience store, I literally ran into Larry McMurtry just after he’d won an Oscar for co-writing the screenplay for “Brokeback Mountain.” In my mind, I articulately expressed just how much his book had meant to me. In reality, I hadn’t had my vital first cup of coffee yet, so all my mouth got out was “Duh, hey,” and handed him the sugar.

At least I didn’t spill anything on him. Thank goodness.

Author Bio:

Jude Johnson is the granddaughter of a curandera and authored the Dragon & Hawk series for Champagne Books, as well as a non-fiction compilation of biographies about Welsh immigrants, Cactus Cymry: Influential Welsh in the Southern Arizona Territory, published by Open Books Press. Her real profession is that of a chiropractic physician in practice for thirty years and counting. She’ll do just about anything to avoid housework. She lives in Tucson, Arizona with her husband, son, and two deranged cats.

The Dragon & Hawk Series, published by Champagne Books:

Dragon & Hawk

Out of Forgotten Ashes

Dragon’s Legacy

Also from Champagne Books:

Within The Mists (short story)

 Non-fiction, published by Open Books Press (print only)

Cactus Cymry: Influential Welsh in the Southern Arizona Territory

 

Website: http://jude-johnson.com

Blogs: wordsthatremain.blogspot.com

thewritersvineyard.blogspot.com;

geckogalsink.blogspot.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/JudeJohnsonAZ

Twitter: @JudeJohnsonAZ

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September 9, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized

9 Comments

  1. Great interview, Jude and Holly. I loved Lonesome Dove, so is it any wonder I loved Dragon and Hawk? I was a great read and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

    Comment by ute | September 10, 2012

    • Aw, thanks Ute!

      Comment by Jude | September 11, 2012

  2. Oh, dear, another series I have to add to my TBR list! But as the descendant of a Welsh pirate, I can’t wait to read about my countrymen in AZ.

    Comment by Nikki Andrews | September 10, 2012

    • True, the world’s most effective pirates were Welsh… now there’s another storyline, eh? Thanks, Nikki!

      Comment by Jude | September 10, 2012

  3. And Big Mike, a movie would be absolutely fine with me, especially if they film it as close to the real locales as possible. We can use the revenue!

    Comment by Jude | September 10, 2012

  4. Great interview! I love how the field trip inspired you to hit the research and write. Funny where those little moments come from, huh? You just never know!

    Comment by J.A. Garland | September 10, 2012

    • Thanks JA. And then those characters won’t leave you alone, having conversations and arguments just when all you want to do is go to sleep… ;-)

      Comment by Jude | September 10, 2012

  5. Hey ladies, your big bud big Mike visiting, and Jude, I do luv those covers. This will shock ya as a big strapping alpha dude but I loved Lonesome Dove. The characters were so unbelievably enveloping. Guess ya got me hooked now. Going to have to buy your series. When’s the movie coming out?

    Michael Davis (Davisstories.com)
    Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
    Award of Excellence (2012)

    Comment by Michael Davis | September 10, 2012

  6. Thanks so much, Holly. I’m looking forward to your Launch Party!
    ~Jude

    Comment by Jude | September 10, 2012


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