jim satterfield jim satterfield jim satterfield

Q&A


Tell us a little about yourself, how and when you started writing?

A: Looking back, I realize I was always a pretty good writer, even when I didn't do too well in my other classes. I took honors English in college and received compliments on my writing. I slipped into graduate school, despite mediocre grades, because my major advisor knew he wouldn't have to write my thesis for me.

As a natural resource professional virtually my entire adult life, my positions have always involved substantial technical writing—reports, plans, environmental assessments. I've authored and edited quite a few scientific publications. But I had wanted all my life to be a novelist.

What inspired you to write your novels?

A: After laboring through two historical novels, I decided to write a fun, fast read...a page-turner. Still using the West as a backdrop, I dialed the time up to 1979, exactly one century past my first two stories. I always wanted to write about a guy on the lam, having to travel through wild country before slipping into civilization to solve his predicament.

How do you use your life experience or professional background to enrich your stories?

A: The five manuscripts I have written to date defy a simple categorization, except that they are all framed by my vision of nature. I can't imagine writing any story without this backdrop. I have been fortunate to spend a lot of time in the field over the years, both during my work for natural resource agencies and in my spare time.

Anything autobiographical in your novels?

A: The plots of my stories are entirely fictitious.

Are any characters based on people you know?

A: A few are based on people I've known. Generally, I don't base a character solely on one actual person, but on a combination of traits.

Would you say that your novels are more plot driven or character driven?

A: Character driven...and landscape driven, too.

Jim Satterfield

What part of writing do you find the most challenging?

A: Coming up with the right ending, otherwise, the books write themselves.

What do you hope that readers will take away from you books?

A: I hope my writing is evocative. I always aim to make the reader feel something, happiness, excitement, sorrow.

How do you dial up the tension to keep your readers on the edge of their seats?

A: Make sure readers like your characters (the ones they're supposed to like). The more empathy the readers have for a character, the more they worry about their fate.

What writers have inspired you?

A: Michael Shaara, A. B. Guthrie, James Welch, Gary Paulsen, Ernest Hemingway, Jack O'Connor, Ted Trueblood, Andy Russell, Elmer Kelton, Robert Parker.

What is the writing process like for you?

A: When I'm in the middle of a story, the process is an obsession. During the six months or so it takes to write a draft manuscript, I eat, breathe and sleep the project. I do not outline my stories. For me, this would stifle the creative process. I start with a basic plot, but let my subconscious and the characters lead the way. I like to fly by the seat of my pants.

Jim Satterfield

What is the best piece of advice about writing that you've ever received?

A: In the midst of a story, try like hell to write every day. Otherwise, the story and characters grow stale. Regular work enables your subconscious to better contribute to the creative process.

What is the worst piece of advice about writing that you've ever received?

A: One well-known writer advised me not to touch my manuscript until I completed the entire first draft. But what works best for me is to edit yesterday's work before starting a new scene. This helps me get limbered up before I jump into new material.

Any final words you would like to say about yourself, your novel, or life in general?

A: Write a lot, read a lot, spend time with other writers, and study your craft.


Read a Q&A with Jim about Saving Laura