I write because I believe in the power of books and the power of stories.
June 18, 2013
The Interview with author Jim H. Ainsworth appeared in the Wood County Democrat.
You’ve had a successful career in the world of finance. Why did you leave it to write books?
My first books had to do with the world of finance. I found myself almost accidentally in a niche market of teaching CPA’s to become financial planners. My first book was a training manual that was sent to a fellow in Montana who was helping my brokerdealer to train our reps to pass the securities exam. He liked the training manual so much that he suggested I send it to John Wiley and Sons. He even provided a name. That name was critical. The editor called me two weeks later and said they wanted to publish the training manual as two books. Two years later, another editor called and asked me to write a book called How to be a Successful Financial Consultant. I wrote it in six weeks, because I already had the research.
I have either been blessed or cursed with a low boredom threshold and believe that life is too short to do the same thing your entire life. I retraced my ancestors’ trip across Texas in a covered wagon from Ranger to Cooper in 1998. I published a memoir about it in 2001. I learned the power of books and the power of stories from this first nonfinancial book. In 2001, after my mother’s death, I started writing memories in story form. That resulted in In the Rivers’ Flow, published in 2003. This book changed my life.
In 2005, I published Rivers Crossing, the second in a series of at least three, possibly five novels.
Why do I write? Because I believe in the power of stories. Because I do not want my library to burn down when I die. Because words are things. As Lord Byron, said, “Words, when combined with small drops of ink, falling like dew on paper, cause hundreds, thousands, even millions to think.”(paraphrased)
My fondest memories (and worst) are expressed in both novels. I loved Little League baseball, the picture show on Saturday afternoon or Saturday night and I loved riding horses and working cattle. Hitchhiking as a kid. The Cooper Square on Saturday night. Shopping with cotton patch money for new clothes each fall.
Do you love baseball as much as Jake Rivers does?
Yes. I wanted to be a professional baseball player and thought I was pretty good until I played with some guys who were really good.
Who was the inspiration for Griffin Rivers, the patriarch?
He’s a combination. My grandfather (Hiram Griffin Ainsworth) was primary, but there is a little of my father and myself in the character. (I am a grandfather seven times)
Do your characters come to you full grown or do they develop as you write?
I know quite a lot about them in the beginning, but they definitely develop as I write. Some just walk up without notice. At first, I do not know why they are there, but it always comes to me. For example, Wilbur Penny walked up in the first novel. I did not know why at the time, but he served a pivotal role in the climax of the book and helped the protagonist to resolve a lot of issues.
Who were your literary influences?
English and literary professors in college at East Texas State influenced me, but if you are asking about writers, I would say Steinbeck and Faulkner, especially Steinbeck.
Are you happy to be living back in northeast Texas? Has there been much change since your youth?
I left Northeast Texas when I graduated college. I thought I wanted to get awaythought I would detour before I even came though Commerce again. Eight years in big cities changed that.
Even when I was working in Dallas, I commuted. I like living here. Of course, there have been many changes, but some things about this part of the country never change. One of the biggest changes for me is that a lot of my boyhood haunts are now at the bottom of Cooper Lake.
What modern author do you admire?
Many. I am an eclectic reader. I think an author has to be. I like Pat Conroy, but his continuous criticism of his father is wearing me down. Get over it.
I like Charles Frazier Cold Mountain is one of the best novels I have ever read. I also like Larry Watson (Montana 1948 and the Orchard)and Leif Enger (Peace Like A River) and Cormac McCarthy. They all influenced me. Also Elmer Kelton. When friends found out I had written a novel, they all assumed it was a western. One day, I will write one.
The land is an integral part of your writing. Do you think the love of the land is something we’re born with or something that develops over time?
For me, it definitely developed over time. I am ashamed of how ignorant I was as a kid about my surroundings and the history of where I was born. I’m trying to make up for not listening closer to the stories my parents and grandparents told me.
Do you have more stories to tell about the Rivers family?
Oh, yes. The third novel is about a third finished. I expect there will be at least four or five. However, I may take a break between to write a business thriller or mystery or that western.
Please click the book cover to read more about Jim H. Ainsworth’s novels on Amazon.