Inside the Literary Mind of Gene Shelton
April 28, 2017
I like to define my writing style as entertainment based on historical accuracy. I consider my writing as nothing more than story telling.
Gene Shelton, a Texas native, grew up on a big ranch in the Panhandle, where many of his stories are set. He is the author of twenty-six published novels, about half of them under his own name and the rest under pseudonyms.
As a young man Shelton worked as a ranch hand and horse trainer, and rode bulls and roped calves and steers in rodeos on his free weekends. Retired after thirty-five years in the news business, he lives in Sulphur Springs with his wife of 50-plus years, Barbara. Shelton has been a creative writing teacher and currently is a member and mentor with the Silver Leos Writers Guild of East Texas A&M, and continues to write short stories and novels in his spare time.
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Question: Tell me about your newest book and what was the inspiration behind your writing it?
Gene: My latest original novel, Houston Madam, chronicles the life and times of Pamelia Mann, a real-life, colorful and complex Texas frontier woman, set in the period spanning the fall of the Alamo through the Runaway Scrape and the formation and early years of the Republic of Texas. While researching another novel (which didn’t pan out), I ran across a few passages about Pamelia’s life and times. Her story had never been told, according to my research, and it needed to be. The deeper my research went, the more captivating she became. In short, Pamelia refused to go away until the book was done.
Question: Why and when did you decide to become a writer?
Gene: I had been writing for newspapers when had just finished reading two really bad Westerns, obviously written by people who had never been on a horse, never saw a cow from the rear view, and knew nothing about the settings. I decided I could do better. The result was Track of the Snake, which sold unagented, over the transom, to the first publisher I sent the manuscript to, and the novel went through many reprints over the years.
Question: Where do you find ideas for your books?
Gene: In addition to reading the footnotes, acknowledgements, and bibliographies of various nonfiction books on Texas and the Old West, I often find ideas for a book in the places I’ve been, the people I’ve met, reprints of period newspaper clippings, or even snippets of conversations overheard that triggered a story idea.
Question: Where do you find ideas for your characters?
Gene: The characters in my work are either real-life historical figures, or, in fiction, people, places and events I’ve known first-hand. Those characters were not always human. I have used horses (each one has a different personality and abilities, just like people) as characters in a story. I’ve also used droughts, sandstorms, blizzards, heavy rains and other forces of nature as characters. Mostly, though, my fictional characters are composites of people I have met over the years.
Question: How would you describe your writing style?
Gene: I like to define my writing style as entertainment based on historical accuracy. I consider my writing as nothing more than story telling, a chance for the average person to escape real-life problems for a few hours. If a reader picks up some details they didn’t know about, fine. But I don’t write literature – just the events and escapades my characters construct.
Question: What do you consider the most difficult part of writing a book?
Gene: Personally, I find the most challenging part of any story to be, in descending order, the opening sentence, paragraph, page and first-chapter cliffhanger. I often spend more time rewriting those four elements than I do anything; if I’ve done that well, I feel I’ve snared the reader. The characters write the rest of the book with a bit of help from me along the way.
Question: What are your current projects?
Gene: Currently I’m working on polishing short stories for possible inclusion in an anthology and/or publication in eBook form, and a one-act stage play. I have other projects in mind for short stories or possibly a novel; we’ll see where that idea takes me if it flies at all.
Please click HERE to purchase Houston Madam.