Tuesday, August 17, 2010

It All Began with a Pair of Roy Rogers PJs!

Now this is a busy man! Join me as we read about Stephen Bly. You're going to be wondering if this man of many talents ever has time to sleep! 

Stephen Bly has authored and co-authored 102 fiction and nonfiction books, including historical and contemporary westerns. He’s a Christy Award winner, Westerns, 2002, for The Long Trail Home and a Christy Award finalist for 3 other westerns. He has served as mayor of Winchester, Idaho, pop. 308 (1999-2007) and pastors Winchester Community Church. Bly's been a speaker for men’s retreats, family conferences and writers’ groups all over USA and Canada. He’s a collector of antique Winchesters and is roving editor for Big Show Journal, a magazine for gun collectors. Bly and his wife, Janet, mentor beginning writers for Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. He’s a summa cum laude graduate of philosophy from Fresno State University, CA, and holds an M. Div. degree from Fuller Theological Seminary. He’s been married 47 years to his high school sweetheart, Janet Chester Bly, and they have 3 married sons, 3 grandchildren, and have co-authored 18 books. The couple reside at 4,000 ft. elev. on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation.

SDC: Whew! I'm out of breath, reading all this about your background. Over the last couple of months, I’ve found myself drawn to talk with several western authors. It’s interesting because it hasn’t been my plan. Now I am learning you and your wife enjoy writing for the western audience too. Tell us what the first thing was that drew the two of you to your genre, and how do you think a western differs from writing in other genres?

SB: Folks often ask me if I always wanted to grow up and write books about cowboys. Nope. Not me. I never wanted to be a writer. But I did grow up on a farm and wanting to be a cowboy. I had Roy Rogers PJs and curtains and a plastic statue of trigger on my dresser.

However, as a lad, I only read a few western novels. Not much different than kids in the Old West. They had dime novels then too. Most were written by men who had never gone west. They invented many of the clichés and stereotypes that linger today. Think of them as old time supermarket tabloids and you get the picture.

But what really caught my fancy was history. I liked the nonfiction accounts of life in the Old West. I learned to grab all the University of Oklahoma and University of Nebraska titles that I could find.

After I married and started raising kids of my own, I read lots of western fiction. One birthday my mother gave me some Zane Grey stories. Then, I picked up novels by B. M. Bower, Owen Wister, Will James, Luke Short, Ernest Haycock, Elmer Kelton, Vardis Fisher and, of course, Louis L’Amour. Somewhere in the middle of the 63rd L’Amour book, the idea struck m: I can write one of these.

By then, I had a dozen nonfiction books to my published credit, so I knew I could fill the pages. But I didn’t know if I could spin a tale people would want to read.

One summer wife Janet and I and our youngest son camped in the Beartooth mountains, south of Red Lodge, Montana. I took along an old typewriter and wrote my first western novel, called The Land Tamers. Since I had no idea if I’d ever have the chance to write another, I tried to pack every scene I ever wanted to write in that one book. An editor commented that it moved about as fast as the movie, Raiders Of The Lost Ark. She meant it as a critique. I took it as a compliment.

As it turned out, that was just one of many tales I was allowed to write. I haven’t run out of ideas yet.

As to your other question. . .westerns are about the triumph of good over evil that includes some shootin’ and dyin’. There can be plenty of humor and romance along the way too.

SDC: Westerns give us a little bit of everything, don't they! This is a three-part question, Steve. How do you make faith, love, and hope work together in a western story? And if you focus on one theme, what would that be, or does it vary? And what kind of responses do you receive from readers who have not yet come to know the Lord, but have been influenced greatly by one of your books?

SB: The themes of most every one of my novels involve forgiveness, redemption, and taking a stand against evil. I receive letters from many in prisons who tell me they relate to the stories and the action of some character causes them to want to make something different of their lives. Many other fans love to give my books as gifts to relatives or friends who enjoy westerns (authors such as Louis L’Amour, Larry McMurtry or Zane Grey), but have no spiritual commitment. They pray that the books may prepare their hearts to receive God’s truth.

SDC: That is great seeing how your work is being used. I’m only now beginning to tackle my first western historical. How difficult would you say it is to find a publisher for westerns? And how do you build your particular audience?

SB: This is not an easy market time for western writers, especially ones just starting out. There’s many (somewhat complicated) factors for that -- economics and marketing and culture-wise. However, there’s still plenty of fans of westerns here in the U.S. and across the seas. Each author must figure out how to find them and connect. Each writer must find their own opening, his or her own venue.

I’ve gained my audience of fans one reader at a time over a span of thirty years. . .through much speaking to a wide variety of audiences, through response to every one who contacts me (often personal notes thru snail mail), through our website, by giving away cowboy poetry books and CDs/cassettes, keeping an up-to-date mailing list and sending postcards a couple times a year, and through a twice monthly “On The Trail” cowboy-slanted e-mail devotional, to name a sampling.

SDC: We all have good days and bad days as writers, it’s clear. That’s part of life. Some writers even have a theme verse they select for their stories. What would you say is the one verse that sustains you and your writing partner and keeps the two of you in focus?

SB: My life verse is “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). I consider writing an “added thing,” not the main thing of my life. God and the work of His kingdom is of prime importance. That’s why my ministry as a pastor, as a father, as a husband, rate higher in priority.

Janet’s theme verse is “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which He has prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). From the early days that she gave her life to Christ, she has always been on a search, at times a restless one, to do the things that God directs her to do.

SDC: Two great verses. And I love Janet's especially! Before you tell us about your newest book, Steve, who do you enjoy reading the most in your spare time?

SB: There’s many ‘whos,’ no particular one. Fiction: lately I’ve been re-reading Owen Wister’s The Virginian), The Heritage of the West, short stories by Zane Grey, and Railroad West by Cornelia Meigs. Most often I read nonfiction—history of all eras and places, which I enjoy very much. Of course, for research for my classic westerns, I focus on nonfiction resources in the west, 1860s to early 1900s. As part of my devotional reading, I’ve been going over J. I. Packer’s Knowing God again. Read it many times over the decades.

SDC: I love researching through that era too, Steve. I understand you have a book you would like to share with one of our readers if we receive enough responders. Tell us a little about it. Also, what question would you like one of our viewers to answer to help me select the winner?

SB: Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon. . . (A little about it)

A 10-year-old boy wearing red straw cowboy hat, cap gun, leather bullet belt with silver-painted wooden bullets, visits his granddaddy summer of 1954. They spend an afternoon with six old cowboy pals in the lobby of the Matador Hotel in Albuquerque, who love to play cribbage and tell windy stories of the old trail days. Meanwhile, a damsel’s in distress. A drama develops right before them. They all hop in a ’49 Plymouth with open trunk for a last cowboy stand.

This novel’s as close to memoir as any I’ve written. I was a 10-year-old boy in 1954 and often spent time with my grandpa who talked about the old days while we played cribbage. Pop in the story has the name Theo and his wife is Kate—same as my grandparents.

Question for the readers to respond to: Do you think you were born 100 years too late? Why or why not?

SDC: Interesting question. It will be fascinating to see what kinds of answers we receive. While we wait, let us know where we can reach you and where we can find your books!

SB: You can get hold of me via e-mail at stephenandjanetbly@connectwireless.us  or interact at our website (which includes a bookstore) http://www.blybooks.com/  or our “On A Western Trail” blog: http://www.blybooks.blogspot.com/

I sure don’t mind if you order any of our books from an online source such as http://www.amazon.com/  or through your favorite local bookstore, or even check them out at your public library!

SDC: Thank you so much Steve. We have greatly appreciated having you here at A Pen for Your Thoughts. It's great having you here.

SB: I thank you very much for the privilege of allowing me some space on your blog. Greatly appreciated! Look forward to sending a copy of Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon to one of your followers. . . .



  1. I was completely born 100 yrs too late. Although I am not sure I would handle not having an opinion and the ability to be indendent well, I love the western culture. I was raised on Louis Lamour's and John Waynes. Both of my grandpas were ranchers and from very on I heard stories of what real ranching was like and how hard it was. My favorite times were on the back of a horse and I craved everything horsey from early on. I remember great adventures that I went on with my horse "Silver" and watching Zorro's latest adventure after school. I feel like we are loosing something with our culture when we step away from some of the western mentality. I know some see it as stereotypical and old-fashioned but its such a great legacy to leave behind and I thank my family for it.

  2. Another great interview! Steve and Janet were my CWG mentors.

    This is a great question. I'm an old soul. I don't know if 100 is the right answer for me, but I never quite fit with my generation.

  3. No, I don't believe I was born 100 years too late. I grew up on a farm without running water or indoor bathroom. Had to get water down at the pump out by the cow yard and use an out house. We had a big garden we had to do canning. Worked hard in the fields. My mom made a lot of my clothes and got hand me down from relatives. We did have electricity, though. My husband, however, did not til he was in his teens. I was close enough to living 'back then.'
    Please enter me.
    desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

  4. I enjoy modern conveniences like air conditioning and the internet, but if I were living 100 years ago, I know I wouldn't have any idea about things like that. I enjoy living now and reading about the Old West and cowboys. I had read 50 Zane Grey books by the time I was in the 6th grade. My dad and uncles sang like the Sons of the Pioneers, and I loved watching Roy Rogers on TV. I have always loved the West and continue to read westerns. I especially like the "faith" element in Stephen Bly's books that isn't present in Zane Grey books. Just on a side note - going back and reading ZG books now, I've noticed how much harder the old books are just from a reading and vocabulary standpoint.

  5. No, I don't think I was born a hundred years too late. I'd probably be dead if I had been born a hundred years ago!

    But I really enjoy reading Western history and think I was born too far East and because of my family, will never get to live in the West. However, the first time I visited Montana, I was in love. And I love reading stories set in the West. And I even have my own shotgun (it's an Italian Perazzi) but Winchesters are cool.

    Crystal Laine Miller

  6. I have always had a desire to live on a ranch and care take animals. Ever since I was a little girl my favorite animal has been a horse; I constantly was asking my Dad on Christmas and birthdays if he would buy me one. As I got older, reality sunk in and I realized that wouldn't ever happen while living under my Dad's roof. Through growing up and still today there is an inkling of desire to want to live in the ol' west, as they say. Living was simpler, money didn't quite rule everything yet, everyone had to work for what they had and couldn't live off the governement's money, people were more friendly... I think one of the main reasons I would have enjoyed living a hundred years ago would be our rights as American citizens. Our rights were still protected under the Constitution and we could still fight for our rights instead of jumping through hoops to get anywhere. Today, state jurisdiction and law have become so powerful, we citizens have a hard time just using the right under the 2nd Amendment: the right to bear arms. You can hardly open carry anymore without being hassled. Most stores and restraunts have a "no guns or weapons" sign up on their door or they have a store policy, in which if they are private property but public access they can ask you to leave if you have an open fire arm; and the usual quote you hear from everyone is: "this isn't the old west anymore, there is no reason to open carry anymore..." and so on. Well, in my opinion, you shouldn't be worried about the person who isn't trying to hide something, if a man open carries he's not a threat...it's the guy who has his gun hidden under his coat who has something to hide. As time progressed though, open carry wasn't permitted anywhere so everyone started having to carry consealed, now we can never really determine who is a threat and who isn't... In my overall opinion, we could use some good ol' west attitude today!

    I could go on and on about this but to get back to the original purpose of this..Do I think I was born 100 years too late..? My answer is no. As much as I would have loved to seen and witnessed what the ol' west was really like, I believe I was born at the time I should have been. God doesn't make mistakes, He put me here in this place, at this time for a reason and I will not even begin to explain or argue why that reason is. He knows what's best and how things are going to turn out. Past, present and furture are His ruling, not mine (and thank God, too!). I am very thankful to Him for putting me where He has and what He's given me. What a wonderful Savior we live for!

    Tessa Bailey-Olson

  7. No, I was not born 100 years too late. I love to read historical fiction but I could not live without air conditioning, electricity, and without indoor plumbing! Well, technically I could live without them because I have. My grandparents didn't have indoor plumbing until I was in High School. But I hated those trips to the outhouse!

    Michelle V

  8. Great question. Sometimes I think so, mainly because of our country's previous commitment to God and His ways. But, like other "commenters," I'm not sure I could have lived this long had I been born then. :) Please enter me in the contest. Thanks!

    annette at annetteirby dot com

  9. I love this question too. I don't know if 100 years is accurate for me, although I love to write about times past rather than times present. I prefer a more hermit-like way of life, and I'm sure others would agree that they see me that way. We only use wood heat to keep our house warm even these days. I love to eat food right from our garden or anyone's garden for that matter. I love fresh hunted meat and freshly caught fish. And my husband burns the meat better outside than I do inside. And for a year we lived in a cabin several miles out from the real world and had a pretty good time of it, except when our kids forgot all their manners, and it was a real hassle coming into town for anything.
    Still, I have to admit I'd HAVE to have my computer and internet with me even if I didn't have access to electricity or phones. So I guess I'd better get back down to earth.


  10. I wouldn't want to have been born 100 years ago since I'm still young, but I have always been fascinated with the Old West and all things Western so I think I would fit right in. While I love the modern conveniences that we have today, I'm all for the simple life. Sometimes I dream of living somewhere way out west on a ranch out in the middle of nowhere and how peaceful and relaxing that would be. Maybe someday!

  11. I've enjoyed all the responses so far! Thanks much for the posts. I'll be sending a couple replies I received through Facebook too.
    On the trail,
    Stephen Bly

  12. Got this note from Jerry B. Jenkins, via Facebook...Re: ANSWER THIS QUESTION...WIN A BOOK! "No, but I'll bet my mother thought I was."

  13. Another note via Facebook from Sarah Love Davis:

    Hi, I am going to try and answer this question without making it too long =)
    I sometimes feel I was born 100 years too late in the lifestyle I have chosen and the way I long families to be as they once were in that time.
    For example: I live on a farm with my parents and I would love to make a living from the food, milk and products we produce for ourselves to support the us and our animals raised here, but the government doesn't allow us the freedom now-a-days to sell and produce as I'm sure they were able to with trading produce for other items needed. I know helping each neighbor when harvest time comes around, to share in each others hard work and bounty, working the land, lending a hand where needed, working side by side had to be inspiring and boundless in love and a giving-nature.

    I also long to see mothers be able to stay home with their children should they choose and be able to raise them and teach them in Gods ways without having to be judged on staying home and not having enough money to get by on what her husband can bring home in the 10 plus hours needed now to just get buy.

    I long for fathers to be able to spend more quality time with their children playing and teaching them character as my Grandfather shows me he learn from his father.

    Life a 100 years ago must have been hard, I know they didn't have all these wonderful electronics around to fill up their days, yet, they seemed happy then, and I think it was because family is what was important. Relying on each other to help get chores done and taking the time to talk and learn about each other....as my mother says bonding time =)

    There are three songs that I love to listen to that to me speak of what life is on a farm and these are it: Come harvest time-glen campbell, dreaming fields-trisha yearwood and growing time-dan fogelberg(sp?) If you should listen to them, I hope you enjoy=)

    As you can see I could talk about this for a while so I'll stop.

    God Bless,
    Sarah Love Davis
    115 Tiffany Drive
    Brandon, MS 39042

  14. I've had the opportunity to talk to some of those that were born 100 years before me (Sorry to say they're all gone now) and no, I'm glad I didn't have to put up with some of that.
    Yes, there were some great things about those times, but I got to touch on some of those and then to study (research) them and write about them. By writing about them I got to "live" them and not have to endure the hardships.


  15. Hmmm....100 years too late? That's a tough one. I would have to say yes and no. Yes, because I enjoy the simpler way of life. While most say "simpler way of life?!", I have to explain that what i mean by that is, there wasn't all the hustle and bustle of traffic and crime in the world then. Sure there were outlaws and criminals, but nothing compared to today! And I would have to say yes simply because I love the outfits the women wore! But, in retrospect, I would have to say no because I wouldn't have my faithful computer :-)

    Thanks for this chance!
    Mollydedwards AT yahoo DOT com

  16. Shirley: Here's another post that was sent directly to me for the contest here. . .
    I would like to have been born a hundred years ago cause I like old history stuff but I was not, I was born in the 60s.
    Debbie Rempel

  17. SOme of the things I love about 100 years ago were the dresses...I so love dresses with lace and that are feminine looking. I love how family was the focus in those days. On the flip side I am totally a wimp and so love indoor plumbing and being able to be in touch with my kids and grandkids with the modern things we have today. I know God knows me well enough to know I can enjoy my dresses today and have the comforts I appreciate.....He knew now is the time for me to be here. :) Blessings, Connie Sue