Author Mark Spragg visits The Bookworm of Edwards on Thursday
August 18, 2010
Author Mark Spragg has visited the Vail Valley twice before, and if it weren’t for an errant spring snowstorm he would have made his third visit this past March. Lucky for us the weather in August is far more predictable. Spragg will visit The Bookworm Thursday at 6 p.m. for a free event to discuss his new book “Bone Fire.”
Mark Spragg is no stranger to sudden and extreme weather. He was raised on a dude ranch in the northwest corner of Wyoming along the eastern border of Yellowstone National Park. By age 15 he had experienced more of the wilderness and its unforgiving conditions than most people do in a lifetime. The solitude and strength gained from this upbringing became the framework for his literary future.
Spragg’s memoir, “Where Rivers Change Direction,” chronicles his early adolescence working for his father on the ranch, wrangling horses and hunting elk. His three novels to follow, “Fruit of Stone,” “An Unfinished Life” and “Bone Fire” all take place in the fictional town of Ishawooa, Wyoming – a place informed by Spragg’s own home in the high country.
1. Vail Daily: All three of your novels and of course your memoir, “Where Rivers Change Direction,” are set in Wyoming. Describe your connection to Wyoming as a place in the West and your home?
Mark Spragg: It seems very natural for me to set my books in the place where I grew up and have lived for most of my adult life. I care for Wyoming and try, at the very least, to render it – and its people – with some accuracy: with some degree of honesty.
2. VD: Where do your characters come from? Are they rooted in real people that you know?
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MS: Of course I hear rhythms in the manner in which people speak, and there are aspects in different characters that I’ve observed through a lifetime and no doubt many of those observations blend into the characters I create, but I believe writing is more complicated than simply parroting one’s experiences. It’s more magical than that. I think that if we, as writers, leave ourselves open to intuitions from a greater collective of experiences that they become – to some degree – available.
3. VD: What is your writing process like?
MS: I work nearly every day. Ideally, I begin very early in the morning, around six, and edit work that I did the day, or week, before. When I feel I understand something about the momentum of the piece I switch over to first draft, and then finally back to editing again at the very end of the day. It’s not unusual for me to do 40 or 50 drafts of any piece of work.
4. VD: Do you ever feel pigeon holed as a western writer?
MS: Certainly, there is a canon of literature by men and women who live west of the plains and east of the West Coast. However, there are, thankfully, fewer books being published from the West that rely on the dated mythologies that helped sell movies and television programs in the ’50s, or the “penny dreadfuls” at the turn of the 19th century. Now, the diversity of voices found writing from the West, from McCarthy and Momaday and Haruf, Stegner and Shepard and Silko, Harrison and Proulx, to McMurtry and McGuane should speak volumes. Classifying any group of writers by region or, for that matter, gender or race is becoming less convincing and less useful all the time.
5. VD: If you were to write about any other place in the world, where would that place be?
MS: I’m very anxious, in fact, to set stories in new places. When I wrote “The Fruit of Stone” I didn’t think that I’d be curious enough about some of those characters, or the place, to set two more novels in that fictional Wyoming town. Now I’m working on a new novel that is not set in Wyoming, and also, some short stories that are set all over the county, in fact, a few are set outside of this country.
6. VD: What are you reading now?
MS: It’s usual for me to be reading several books at the same time. I’m just finishing Paul Harding’s, “Tinkers,” but also skipping around in several short story collections: Maile Meloy’s “Both Ways Is The Only Way I Want It,” Jay McInerney’s “How It Ended,” Ron Rash’s “Burning Bright” Richard Bausch’s “Something Is Out There” and J.M. Coetzee’s novel, “Summertime.”