Meet the Author: K S Stanley
Meet K S Stanley: author of titles such as The Holmbury County Seat War, The Line Rider and now back with a new novel, The Elitists.
- Of all your books which did you enjoy writing the most?
I have found them all enjoyable to write – therapeutic even, but I think The Elitists was the most enjoyable. The plot is different in that it has more elements of mystery about it, including the hero having to solve a murder. Also, the story evolved much of its own accord during the writing process, which is exciting for an author.
- What is the weirdest/most unexpected piece of research you had to carry out to write one of your novels?
Not weird but my research has unearthed some unexpected and interesting behavioural traits which have spawned some of the plots. For example, the advent of barbed wire brought about the end of the open range and eventually many cattlemen who had aggressively fought for the open range came to realize that it was far more efficient and effective to fence cattle in. This is the basis of The Line Rider.
Possibly a little weird, when compared with today, I found it fascinating how neighbouring towns would sometimes go to war with each other in order to try and secure the county seat and the result of this piece of research spawned The Holmbury County Seat War.
I have always found economic bubbles that blow up and eventually burst, intriguing and this was certainly the case with the over expansion of the western railroads in the late 19th century. This research inspired me to write The Elitists.
- Would you rather be the outlaw or the sheriff?
I guess I would rather be the sheriff but generally, I find outlaws more interesting to write about: especially those that morally justify their actions and behaviours to themselves and consequently attempt to convince others!
- Do you have any habits or superstitions when it comes to writing?
I set myself targets as regards research and writing and I am disciplined about achieving them so as not to let the creative energy dissipate into the ether. For example, at the macro level, I do my research in the winter, do the plotting in spring and the actual writing in the summer, (ideally outside in the garden if the weather permits!). Logically, there is no reason to stick rigidly to that seasonal cycle but I do and I guess that is a superstitious habit.
- What role do the reader’s expectations of westerns have in writing?
I strive to ensure that the historical backgrounds of each story are as accurate as possible and that my plots could actually have happened and that the characters in them could have been real people. I guess reader’s expectations have been largely shaped by the film industry and when I write, I try to visualize each scene as being one on the big screen!
- If you could go anywhere to gain inspiration for your next novel where would you go and why?
My best ideas come from ‘day dreaming’ ie being in a mental state of ‘flow’. I have found the best place to trigger this, is a warm climate by the sea, such as a Canary Island!
- Are there any similarities between Surrey and the Wild West?
Surprisingly perhaps, I think some of the rural landscapes in Surrey could be similar. I recently went for a walk in the Headley Heath / Box Hill area and envisaged some of the vistas I saw, being used to film scenes for a western!
- Were there any scenes that were difficult to write? For example, emotionally or stylistically- taking many drafts to write.
I frequently use a prologue to ‘set up’ the story in terms of location and key character concerns. I sometimes rewrite these to give them more pace and reduce the contextual detail to the strictly necessary. Similarly, I occasionally re-write or even axe complete paragraphs if I think they destroy the rhythm of the read.
- Do you write with the final chapter in mind or do you start writing and the final chapter takes shape?
I normally start writing with some sort of overview of the final chapter in mind but not the full detail. This can start to emerge as the story begins to take shape but doesn’t always! When I wrote the penultimate chapter of The Siege of Morton’s Cross, I had no idea of the detailed content for the final chapter and how the story might conclude in an exciting fashion. I ended up taking a break for three or four weeks and eventually, having regained my inspiration, I was able to write the story’s resolution, without any rewrites, in a couple of days!
- Are there any personality traits that you enjoy writing into your characters?
I use a personality model called the ‘Enneagram’ when I am developing my characters’ personality traits. This model recognizes nine different personality types and describes the positive and the negative side of each type. The beauty of it is that not only are there overlaps between the different types rather than rigid lines of demarcation but also, the model describes how to reduce the negative behaviours and increase the positive ones for each type. I use this as a checklist to ensure that my characters’ behaviours are consistent with their personality types. Needless to say, my ‘baddies’ personalities exhibit more of their negative traits, and my ‘goodies’ exhibit more of their positive ones!
- What are you reading at the moment or are there any books coming out that you are particularly looking forwards to?
I have just started reading a 400 year history of the class system in America. This potentially looks interesting and may end up influencing the plot of a future western! In a different vein, I have pre-ordered and am looking forward to receiving, a book of the paintings of the 17th century Dutch artist, Pieter de Hooch. I love how he make use of light to bring his paintings to life.
Find K S Stanley’s books here
Read Paul Bedford’s interview here