Welcome to the inaugural post of Free Range Writers (FRW), a unique collaboration between writers Greg Zeigler, Pamela Beason, and Dave Butler, all of whom write books set largely in western North America.
In this first post, we introduce ourselves and explain how and why this collaboration was born. We hope you’ll be intrigued by our answers to a set of questions that we pondered together, and through those answers, better understand what has brought us together.
How did you meet each other, and why did you decide to work together?
Greg — If Dave, Pam and I had met on a trail, I could understand the chemistry brought on by an obvious shared interest (the outdoors), but how we “recognized” each other and connected at a conference for hundreds of mystery writers? Well, it’s a mystery. But, I’m sure glad it happened.
Pam— We all met at the Left Coast Crime conference in beautiful Vancouver, BC. I was the volunteer timekeeper for the environmental mystery panel that Dave and Gregory were on, and I was envious because I wanted to be on thatpanel, but was assigned to another on animals in mysteries. I was eager to talk to Gregory and Dave because of the subject matter of their books and our obvious mutual interest in wild places and outdoorsy experiences, and eventually these two guys invited me to be part of this little group that became Free Range Writers.
Dave – Once Greg and I knew that we were on the same panel at Left Coast Crime, we connected by email then made a point of meeting early in the conference. I immediately knew we had much in common, as if we were brothers-from-a-different-mother. Working together, somehow, made obvious sense. When we met Pam after our panel, we knew we’d met another kindred spirit.
Free Range Writers? Why that name, and what does it mean to you?
Greg — I immediately liked “Free Range Writers.” It captures the founding authors’ shared love of travel and nature, as well as one other critical ingredient. Pam, Dave and I are working very hard at our genre and at our consortium, but we are also having fun. Our name adds a bit of whimsy.
Pam – I’m probably attracted to any title that begins with “free” because it smacks of independence. And “range” sounds western-ish, and we’re all westerners, even though we’re from two countries. So the title incorporates the wide-open spaces we like to travel through as well as the incredible places the three of us live. Plus, the URL was not yet taken.
Dave – To me, Free Range Writers means we’re free to roam on at least two levels. On one level, we’re not bound by the conventions of specific literary genres. Our books fall somewhere between mystery, thriller, suspense and eco-fiction. On another level, we travel amongst and write about a wide range of inspiring western landscapes. And like free-range wildlife (or perhaps cattle), we choose from the best the landscapes have to offer, wandering and sampling, staying in one place for a while when the grazing is good, then moving on when the next ridge beckons.
What do you hope that this unique collaboration leads to?
Greg— It has already helped me greatly but if it can “move the needle”—as marketing people are wont to say—for all of our authors in terms of sales and name recognition, then I will be thrilled.
Pam — There are thousands of books launched on Amazon every day, both from traditional publishers and indie authors. How can an author expect to even get noticed? It helps to find authors you share a readership with, and so that’s my hope, that Greg’s and Dave’s readers will become my readers and my readers will become theirs. I am a voracious reader myself and always looking for new authors who write similar stories to the ones I already know and love. I’m also hoping that our collaboration will be a lot of fun, and it already is.
Dave – I can’t add much to what Greg and Pam have already stated, other than to say that I hope we can share with readers our love of the west, inspire and motivate each other to be better writers, and together celebrate our successes.
You’re each living in different places in western North America. Is that an opportunity or a challenge?
Greg — Definitely an opportunity. We are all proven travel aficionados, this gives us an excuse to meet in beautiful places and pretend to be working.
Pam — The distances and different time zones can make it a bit of a challenge to arrange to talk via phone, and of course even more so to meet in person, but it’s fun to work that out. And bringing experiences from different places and different backgrounds is definitely a plus. And even though Gregory said we are pretending to be working, collaborating with colleagues is working (right, IRS?), even if it’s in a beautiful location during happy hour.
Dave – in my mind, it’s an amazing opportunity to share our love of western North America. And if we draw a triangle with Cranbrook, BC, Bellingham, Washington and Jackson Hole Wyoming at the three corners, there are a whole lot of interesting places inside that triangle where we can meet to talk writing.
Tell me where you live, and describe the role those landscapes plays in your writing?
Greg — Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I write in a room with a grand view to the East of the Sleeping Indian Mountain atop the Gros Ventre Range. These mountains inspire my writing and are in fact in my writing (The Straw That Broke).
Pam — I live in Bellingham, Washington, where I can easily kayak in the U.S. San Juans and Canadian Gulf Islands, and hike, snowshoe, and cross-country ski in the U.S. Olympic mountains , the North Cascades, and Coast Range mountains of Canada. I spend a lot of time out in the wild, and I keep track of all the ways to get into trouble “out there.” We mystery writers are sometimes a gruesome bunch. Don’t get us started on all the ways to commit crimes and kill people…
Dave – My home base is Cranbrook, British Columbia. Less than an hour north of the Canada – US border, it sits in the Rocky Mountain Trench. With the Rocky Mountains on one side, and the Purcell Mountains on the other, I live in an open valley carpeted with ponderosa pine forests and dramatic views in every direction. When I write, I like a balance of people, plot and place. However, like it does in Greg and Pam’s stories, place becomes a unique character in my novels.
Tell us about your books? What’s unique about them?
Greg — Perhaps the most unique aspect to my eco-thrillers is the fact that the radical environmentalists offer a perspective that is interesting, indeed even compelling, to the reader. There is lots of gray, just not quite fifty shades.
Pam — It’s difficult to come up with any plot that’s truly unique. I try to keep mine exciting but plausible. I’ve worked in a lot of fields, including sleuthing as a private investigator and managing hi-tech multimedia projects, so all my crazy variety of experience fuses with my love of wild animals and wild places in my Sam Westin mysteries.
Dave – Most mysteries start with a crime and then build a story around it. In my Jenny Willson mysteries, I start with a land use or environmental issue that we face as a society, then build a crime around it. I love to explore how these issues often divide us, with bad guys and good guys on all sides, and none of us quite sure who is who. I hope my novels entertain, but I also hope they encourage readers to think about their own perspectives, and how they might differ from those held by others.
When you need inspiration, what’s your favourite place to find your muse?
Greg — By moving water, preferably near mountains.
Pam — I don’t really need a muse because I always have more ideas than time to write them. I’m often working on two novels at once, so whenever I get stuck on one, I switch over to the other for a while. But when I really get stuck, I go for a solo hike or paddle in my kayak, and that usually jogs my brain out of the rut it has sunk into.
Dave – Like Greg, I usually look to a piece of moving water in the mountains if I’m in need of inspiration. If that water contains cutthroat trout, and if they’re willing to rise to a dry fly, even better.
What’s your favourite drink around a campfire?
Greg – Bourbon.
Pam — Good red wine. And before U.S. proofreaders chime in, yes, the word is spelled “favorite” in the U.S. But we’ll do it the Canadian way this time so Dave feels at home. (Canada has a big stash of extra U letters that they need to use up.)
Dave – In order to use some of those extra Us, I prefer the amber colour and rich flavour of Writers Tears Irish Whiskey. At our next FRW meeting, it will be my honour to share a bottle with Greg and Pam, my new FRW friends and neighbours.
Watch for future posts from Free Range Writers on a “range” of topics of interest to Greg, Pam, and Dave. Check the “About Us” page for more biographical details and contact information.