jim satterfield jim satterfield jim satterfield

Q&A for Saving Laura


Saving Laura

Tell us about your new novel Saving Laura.

A: I tackled this story after writing two historical novels, The River's Song and Soon You Will Cry, both of which took a LOT of research. So, I wanted to write something easy! I also wanted to write a little more contemporary novel after learning for myself how hard it is to sell westerns. Saving Laura was also an experiment in that I had never written a story from the first person, which turned out to be a lot of fun.

The story is set in the region and era I grew up in. So, I didn't have to spend an enormous amount of time researching. I have always viewed this story as a modern western. You've got the hero, villain and damsel in distress of the classics, as well as the western setting, only the characters drive trucks and jeeps instead of horses, and cocaine is the drug of choice for many instead of rotgut whiskey.

You also have, ultimately, a satisfying ending, where good prevails over evil, but hopefully not before the reader is damned scared things might not work out!

The premise of the novel is pretty scary and deals with a very timely issue although it's set in the recent past. Where did the idea for the novel come?

A: The first thing I wanted to write about was a young man on the lam, using his wits to survive in the wilderness (or at least in a remote setting). Then I had to flesh out the plot, provide a romantic arch, and of course, a villain. Growing up around Aspen, I'd seen and known of women who became entangled in the trouble my heroine does. Finally, I wanted to describe some of the off-beat characters I'd known growing up. That's where Wilbur and L. Q. come in. When you read one of my stories, most of the goofy thing people do usually are actual events I've witnessed. For example, I really did know a guy who traded an old truck and two horses for an airplane...then taught himself to fly it without bothering with lessons or licensing. I guess the biggest idea of this story, though, is redemption, the notion that a young man sees enough in a women that he wants to save her, no matter what the risks.

In a previous interview you said that the hardest part of writing your novels is coming up with the right ending. Does this mean that you're not privy to how the novels end from the start?

A: Yes. I do not outline my stories. I usually don't know how they're going to end until I'm a few chapters from finishing. If I've learned anything about writing, it is that there is no one best way to do something. Some swear by outlining, some don't. I say if you have an approach that works for you, the heck with what others say! For me, trying to outline each scene on a little card would stifle the magic. Many times, ideas come to me that I never thought of. For instance, in the second chapter, when Shelby hitches a ride with the teenage couple, it never occurred to me to have those two get in trouble with the law until I wrote the scene. It just popped in my head.

Jim how did a nice guy working for the Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks in Montana lead to becoming an author?

A: Since I was in high school, I've been playing music—guitar and banjo. About 7-8 years ago, I developed a repetitive stress injury in my right arm, basically preventing me from playing, which is very tough when you've been playing at a pretty high level your whole life.

So where does the creativity go?

A: I'd been a technical writer since graduate school, writing a thesis, dissertation and my share of technical and scientific publications. But I always wanted to try fiction.

On your bio you said that your most enduring professional accomplishment to date was the Colorado Governor's Award for you work with inner city youth. What did that work entail and do you work with youth in your present position in Montana?

A: While working for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, I was the Statewide Angler Education Coordinator. My crew and I develop an urban fishing program in Denver, allowing several thousand children a year an opportunity to learn how to fish. I won the award for my supervision of several high school and college students, many from the inner-city, who did all the real work—and, believe me, it is work—teaching a hundred kids a day how to cast, tie knots, release fish, learn the regulation, be an ethical angler.

I am no longer in education, promoted to management a while ago. Now I'm a pencil-pusher.

You have written both contemporary and historical fiction. Do you have a favorite genre to write?

A: After 5 novels, I'll still haven't figured that one out! Mainly, I consider myself a nature writer, first and foremost, usually set in the West. I write evocative stories to make the reader feel something. For every story, I try to fulfill my promise to the reader. I think I am an honest writer.

You belong to a writer's group The Authors of the Flathead. Tell us about the group and what you do.

A: Authors of the Flathead (AOTF) is where I went to learn fiction. The writing group was formed around 20 years ago by Dennis Foley, who was a very successful writer in Hollywood for a long time, writing on several succesful TV shows and movies. I started going to their open reading to get my stuff critiqued. That led to joining a critique group. Eventually, I became president for three years. The biggest lesson is the four things virtually all successful writers MUST do: Read a lot, Write a lot, Study the craft, Spend time with other writers.

What do you enjoy reading and who?

A: I have read most of Elmer Kelton's books, who was voted by Western Writers of America as the best western writer of all times. I read and re-read the classics by writers such as A. B. Guthrie, Michael Shaara, James Welch. I love Gary Paulsen's young adult novels. I read a LOT of stories by unknown writers who I meet at conferences. Probably my favorite writer of all time is John Steinbeck. And my favorite story of his is Of Mice And Men.

Your working time looks to be spent quite a bit outdoors. What do you enjoy to do recreationally?

A: I have a 17-year-old son. My main role in life is serving as his hunting and fishing guide.

Jim do you have any signings or events planned where fans could meet you in person?

A: My wife, Gloria, and I are finishing details on a signing tour this July in western Colorado, basically retracing Shelby's journey. Looks like we'll be in Craig, Aspen, Grand Junctions, a few other towns. I'll have the details on my website by early June.


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