Thursday, June 05, 2008

Author Mike Cox

Mike Cox is the author of 13 nonfiction books as well as numerous magazine articles and essays. He’s also a newspaper columnist and writes for both statewide and national magazines.

Mike will be our Featured Author in September but he’s dropped by today for a quick Q&A. I’m excited he took the time to come by since he’s probably up to his knees in a marketing push for his latest book, The Texas Rangers: Wearing the Cinco Peso, 1821-1900, the first in a two-volume history of the Texas Rangers.

When did you decide you wanted to become an author?
My late grandfather was a freelance writer, my late father and my late mother also were writers. Naturally, I grew up thinking that every kid aspired to be a writer. And now, I’m proud to say my youngest daughter has shown an interest – and talent – at writing.

Do you have another job besides writing?
I’ve been a writer for more than 40 years, but during most of that time, like most freelancers, I had to have a day job. For nearly 20 years, I wrote for Texas newspapers. Then I was spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, which includes the modern Texas Rangers. I retired from the Texas Department of Transportation, where I was communication manager, in the fall of 2007.

Tell us a bit about your latest book and what inspired you to write such a story.
In a way, I’ve been working toward The Texas Rangers: Wearing the Cinco Peso, 1821-1900 all my life. I grew up hearing stories about some of the old-time Rangers from my granddad, L.A. Wilke. Then, as a newspaper reporter, I met a fair number of Rangers. Finally, as spokesman for the DPS, I dealt with many Rangers over a 15-year period. Most of the Rangers would sooner be in a gunfight than do a media interview, so I had good job security.

I had written a children’s history of the Rangers in 1990, following up in the late 90s with two collections of nonfiction stories about the Rangers. In 1999, I signed the contract to do this book, which I hope will stand for a long time as the definitive history.

How was your experience in looking for a publisher?
I was already an established author, so it wasn’t too hard. Interestingly enough, I’ve never sold anything through an agent, though I have had several.

From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?
Much longer than I anticipated. Fortunately, in Bob Gleason with Forge Books, I had a very patient editor.

What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?
Join a good writer’s group like the Writers’ League of Texas, read books on writing and attend workshops. Oh, and just start writing.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
My dad constantly told me “show, don’t tell” and my mother finally taught me to write in active voice.

Thank you Mike.

If you’d like to know more about Mike and/or more about the history of the second- biggest state in the nation (unless environmental warming thaws a chunk of Alaska), visit his blog. He doesn’t just write about his own (many) books. He reviews and discusses others.

Mike will return to Straight From Hel in September.

Lookin’ forward to that!

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