Craig Johnson talks about AN OBVIOUS FACT
An Obvious Fact by Craig Johnson combines a mystery within a western setting. This novel allows readers to jump on the motorcycle with the characters as they go on a wild ride in Hulett County Wyoming having to face biker gangs, neo-Nazis, gunrunners, a mega millionaire, and undercover ATF agents. Readers will have plenty of action, humor, and twists.
Elise Cooper: Did you get the idea for the story from Sheriff Matt Dillon?
Craig Johnson: I did not draw on any fictional characters, but based him on a lot of actual sheriffs. I did a lot of ride alongs and started assembling the idea of Walt. The majority of my ideas come from Wyoming small town newspaper articles. This keeps my plots and his character grounded in reality with issues that Wyoming sheriffs actually handle.
EC: One of the supporting characters is Henry Standing Bear, a Cheyenne Indian. Is this character based upon anyone?
CJ: The Cheyennes’ are my neighbors, friends, and practically family members. A good friend, Marcus Red Thunder is who Henry is partially based upon. The more time I spend with him the more I am aware of the mystic natural world that Henry speaks about. There are so many people on the Reservation who are characters in my books. One of my favorite quotes, ‘ The greatest piece of fiction is the disclaimer of every book that says nobody in this book is based on anyone alive or dead.’ There are a lot people who claim to be in my books that I never met. I take that as a compliment. Fortunately for the books and TV show they are extremely popular on the reservation.
EC: You explain in this book how Walt speaks for the disenfranchised. Please explain.
CJ: He feels a connection with them. He has a sadness about him. I wanted to define him and give him a voice different than anyone else. For Walt, there is no sliding scale; there is just right and wrong. If you commit wrong you better look over your shoulder because Walt will go after you. The one you want if you are in trouble is Walt. He constantly questions if ‘this is what I should be doing, and am I good at it?’
EC: So Walt saves the damsels in distress?
CJ: In this book readers are able to find out about Henry’s romantic past. Lola, who he named his car after, asks for his help in finding the person who ran her son off the road. At one point of time she meant a great deal to him. But with this story I wanted to show the dichotomy between Walt’s view, as in the Old West, that every damsel in distress needs saving; and Henry’s view of the contemporary West, that certain damsels in distress might be the ones tying people to the railroad tracks.
EC: What about the relationship between Walt and his deputy Victoria (Vic)?
CJ: The advice I received from some authors is that there can be sexual tension but nothing should happen for about seventeen books. My immediate response, ‘what kind of women are you dating that would wait seventeen years for something to happen?’ In the third book Walt and Vic were in Philadelphia and something happened between them. This complicated their lives. I had them have the opposite gender response. Walt felt, ‘that was a big mistake,’ while Vic’s response, ‘it was just sex. Why are you being so weird?’
EC: Motorcycles seem to play a large role in this plot?
CJ: In the contemporary American West the new horse is the motorcycle. We have the largest motorcycle rally in the world in the little town of Sturgis. When I was a child I started racing motorcycles and have had motorcycles my whole life. I had all these small, independent book stores that wanted me to come and do events at their stores so I began doing the Great Northwest Outlaw Motorcycle Tour on my own that takes in Wyoming, Montana, Washington, Oregon, and Utah.
EC: There is a major Western theme to your books. Agree?
CJ: I consider myself a Cowboy Author who writes mysterious westerns. I live westerns. I built my ranch completely on my own in Northern Wyoming. After I was done I sat down and started to write. The western environment has a tremendous affect on my life, which is evident in the books. In my family I had a grandfather who was a blacksmith so I have been around horses all my life.
EC: What do you want the reader to get out of the book?
CJ: I have messages I try to get across. A large theme is reflected in this book quote, ‘You spend most of the time in life running after things that aren’t that important, and the pursuit becomes more desirable than the prize.’ It is based on the Oscar Wilde quote, ‘There are two major tragedies in life: not getting what it is you want in your life and the other is getting it.’ Once we achieve what we want it turns out very differently than what we thought.