Why do I write the way I write? The Authors Collection
March 25, 2015
I was recently asked to be a guest on the Digiwriting blogsite in their I am a Writer Series. Here are my answers to questions they asked and a link to the site. I am a Writer Series
How does your geographic location affect your writing?
I’m a native Texan and Texas is where most of the scenes I write take place. My characters do leave the state, but they only go to places I have been often enough to establish deep familiarity with the landscape and the people. If I try to write about a place I have never been, I feel like a trespasser.
Where do you find your inspiration for characters?
I write what I know. With the exception of my historical fiction novel, my characters are almost all based on people I know or have known. And my historical fiction characters are based on characters I knew a lot about before I included them in the book. All of our lives are interesting if examined closely. And most are filled with fascinating people. I began keeping a list of all the characters I have encountered, with special emphasis on the ones who were the most memorable in a good or bad way. After seven novels, I still have a long list.
Do you write in more than one genre? Which do you find the most challenging?
I have written historical fiction that could be classified as western, though atypical. I have also written family sagas, contemporary fiction, a non-fiction short story collection, business books, and a memoir. I find writing technical non-fiction to be the most challenging because every statement must be researched thoroughly. My first novel started as a memoir, but I soon realized that I wanted my protagonist to experience very significant events that had a huge impact on my family. One of those events happened before I was born. I changed to fiction in order to place the events in a timeline that seemed more meaningful. Also, our memories are fallible and memoirs should be completely truthful.
Did you always want to be a writer or did you fall into the profession?
I fell into it. After preparing approximately 10,000 tax returns, I was convinced that the country needed to abolish our unfair and unwieldy tax code and go with a national sales tax. If I truly believed that, I knew I needed a new profession. Through no particular brilliance or foresight on my part, I found myself on the leading edge of the fledgling new profession of financial planning. That led to a new business venture and a training manual that was published as two books (a peculiar twist of fate brought that about). Those books led to two more business books. Then I chronicled a horseback trip I took across Texas with a covered wagon. That memoir inspired the other books.
When you begin to write a story, do you know how it’s going to end?
Almost always. However, the ending often changes as the story develops. I like to have an ending in mind so I can foreshadow it, hopefully without the reader noticing. To paraphrase Chekhov, if there is a rifle on the wall in the first chapter, it had better be fired at some point. Knowing the ending is like having a road map. I am inspired to keep a steady course toward the end.
Please click the book cover image to read more about Jim H. Ainsworth and his books.