This interview is being posted in memory of one of a crop of popular Western authors that popped up over the last few years. C. Emerson Law was both a loyal friend and client, and he loved the Western genre. This is the last interview with Emerson—and one that I believe you will enjoy reading. Enjoy words of wisdom from one of those writers that readers love to read.
C. Emerson Law was conceived on a 160-acre Alaska homestead that his dad was able to get under a special program afforded for World War Two veterans. Life was not easy in Alaska in those days. His dad’s dream of having a big cattle ranch did not happen due to hungry grizzly bears and the almost impossible task of keeping the cattle safe. His dad decided not to put his wife through another pregnancy in such primitive circumstances. They moved to Denver, Colorado just before Emerson was born. They were living in a home that was a converted chicken coop at the time, being unable to find anything better before the birth of their fifth child, Emerson.
Ten months later, they moved to a little town near Durango, Colorado where they had a run-down house on two acres. There was no indoor plumbing, so Emerson grew up using an outhouse, splitting kindling, hauling buckets of coal into the house for heat and cooking, and pumping water from the outside well and carrying the buckets inside. He also had to take turns emptying “the thunder mug” (otherwise known as the chamber pot) outside in the mornings, and they all took baths in a metal tub with water heated on the wood/coal cookstove.
He grew up poor, but never realized that he was poor because there was always fresh meat and garden-grown vegetables and fruit on the table. He learned the value of hard work since everyone had to pitch in, taking care of the garden, fruit trees, livestock, and irrigating the pasture. There was always love and happiness in their home, no matter what the financial situation was, and there was always time to ride the neighbor’s horses, usually bareback, and explore the woods nearby. They had a Welsh Pony for a while. It was an ornery and lazy little stink that didn’t like to be ridden. It would buck you off without a moment’s notice!
He is a Vietnam era Marine Corps veteran and has worked as an aircraft mechanic, dairy farmer, rural letter carrier, Halliburton oilfield worker, and jack of all trades for a natural gas company. He finally retired and decided to try his hand at writing classic Western fiction, inspired by his grandfather who wrote his life’s story when he was 85 years old.
He has been divorced twice and has three grown sons and one grandson. He currently lives contentedly alone in Nevada on two acres of ground where he enjoys using his tractor and planting things that would never grow in Alaska. He also loves his hobby of gold prospecting in the Nevada hills.
Thank you for agreeing to this interview Dennis, let us start with asking this.
When did you realize you wanted to be an author?
1992, that’s when I wrote my first book. I never did anything with it. I had a hard copy of it, so I went ahead and edited it and sent it to Nick. When I retired, I got bored in the winter, so I went to do it. Cherokee Parks gave me his email, so I sent the rest of the book to him, and it happened.
How do you feel about signing with DSP for a contract?
I was excited about it; I didn’t do anything to celebrate.
How long did it take you to come up with an idea for your first novel?
Not very long at all. I love history and an actual figure, a bounty hunter, in Western history. He was a bounty hunter.
What advice would you give for new authors?
Don’t be afraid to write. What I do is I sit down and start writing. I let it flow and edit it later. When my grandpa wrote his story, it was on a typewriter. To be successful, you need a good time to publish and promote it. I recommend getting a good publicist. I never have writer’s block. I told someone to sit down and write, no matter what. Whatever comes out, you can work with. Once you open up, it comes out.
What does a typical day when you are writing look like for you?
I would like to travel more but it’s restricted right now. My book is 3/4 finished because I’m not familiar with the area. It’s set in southern Arizona. I would like to go there. Typically, I research on the same computer I write with. I’ve lived in a lot of the areas I write about. I’m a big fan of photography and researching. You have to be historically accurate, even when writing fiction.
Is there anyone who influenced your writing style?
Louis L’Amour. His down-to-earth way of explaining things; he doesn’t over explain. He brings life experiences into his books. My dad lived everywhere. I got to get along with all types of people and factor that into the writing.
Which character would you say you are most similar to?
Cody Jenkins or Badger. Badger was a marine, so they are the most I’m similar to. Cody wanted to live alone and enjoy his life.
If you could choose any author to co-write with, who would you choose and why?
Louis L’Amour. I would just like to sit down and have a beer with him. He was a sailor; his whole life was amazing. He went out with soldiers on the front line. Cherokee Parks met him; he’s a good guy. He helped me get my start and introduced me to Nick.
Where did the idea come from for your latest series?
Nick said that mountain men novels are popular right now. I’m familiar with the Rockies because I grew up around there. I just started writing about that area. Most of what comes out of my brain, I leave in there.
How would you approach it differently if you were to repeat it today?
I started writing my latest series in first person instead of third. Why didn’t I do this in the first place? People want me to spend more time with character development with my books, so I try to improve.
What got you interested in writing Westerns?
I was raised by an old cowboy. My dad and mom both rode horses and the love Louis L’Amour.
What do you think makes for the perfect Western?
Louis L’Amour. There’s very little profanity, no graphic violence. If you’re a good writer, you don’t have to do that. I think of my nieces and nephews—I want to keep my novels tame but have plenty of action and romance. Things that cater to the audience. I include more animals like horses and dogs. I grew up on farms, so I grew up around animals.
What do you have planned for the future if you could write anything?
I bat around romance novels and the ideas. A romantic comedy. I like comedies. The more you take life seriously, the more miserable you will be.
These were excellent answers, Dennis. Thank you for taking time out of your day to do this with me. I appreciate it very much.