Jesse VanDeWalker Publishes his first Novel “Crow Wing”

Posted by on December 13, 2011

So how did it make you feel winning the Creative Quill Prize for your short story “Drywaller”?
It was empowering. That sort of outside validation really does wonders for one’s confidence! I was thrilled that someone else, or even a group of someones, saw as much promise in my work as I did.
How did you come up with the idea for the story?
The story that won, Drywaller, actually sprouted from the opening images of the story. A man ripping down old drywall is surprised by a torrent of human teeth pouring out of it. Who is this guy? How would he react? Where did those teeth come from? It was a blast answering all those questions.
You also published your first novel Crow Wing at around the same time you won the short story prize.
I mentioned earlier the shot in the arm my confidence got from winning a prize in the Creative Quill? I heard about the win before it was official, and that was when I started looking into getting Crow Wing into print. I had shopped it around to agencies and publishers for a few years and always got back the same rejection letters: They received so much unsolicited material they didn’t have time to read any of it. Basically, unless I had a connection in the industry the book was going nowhere fast. The self-publishing process was intimidating at first, I started out by researching which web site I was going to use and that alone took a month. Never mind doing another edit on the book and formatting the pages down to the pocket size the book was released in. A writer doesn’t have to do all that alone, but I wanted to get the project done on a shoestring, only spending money where I couldn’t do something myself. That ended up being in cover art and design. Besides my time, that has been my single biggest investment. I’m glad to say I recently recouped all my design costs and the only cost I have now is for inventory of the book.
Explain Crow Wing.
It’s a story about a gold heist. When I tell people it’s a western, a lot of them get turned off. All my readers tell me it’s more of a crime novel with western clothes on. The story goes; a gang of four men want to rob a stagecoach carrying gold from a California town (Crow Wing) to Sacremento. They need a fifth man, and so hire a professional robber to help them pull it off. On the other side of law is the Sheriff of Crow Wing and the a new arrival in town. She’s a young woman with a long history. The story is how all these characters mix up, and who walks out in the end with the gold.
What was the hardest part in writing your first novel?
The hardest part of writing a first novel, for me, is the hardest part about writing in general: Sitting down and committing to doing the job. Folks that collect checks for writing may not have this problem but when a person has a salaried job, college, relationships, social events and even other hobbies to devote time to; finding the time to sit in front of a keyboard and write can be nearly impossible. What really helped me in writing Crow Wing was to set a goal for how many words I wanted to write each day. My goal was generally 1,000 words every day. They didn’t even have to be good words or even stuff I thought would make the final draft but sitting down and pounding out my thousand each day had the same effect on my mind as doing 100 sit-ups every day would on my abs. It made me better, sharper. It brought the book into clearer focus each time as well. By the time I got to the final confrontation in the book, it practically wrote itself without a lot of input from me.
What is your favorite literary genre?
If I had to pick just one favorite, I suppose I’d pick fantasy. I just love the raw creation of making a whole world from scratch. Done poorly, it can lead to very bad, very frustrating reads. Done well though, you’ve got something that can change the real world. Look at Tolkien’s Middle-Earth. From that we have a whole genre of fiction. Not only that, but a whole subset of the hobby industry in the Dungeons & Dragons + competitors. That game then inspired its own generation; the video game designers over at Bethesda Softworks recently released Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. This is the fifth game in a hit selling series of fantasy role-playing games all based around the designers’ personal D&D game table. In recent history, last summer everyone was talking about Game of Thrones on HBO. The rich, dark fantasy world George RR Martin created sucked in viewers of all kinds.
Who are your favorite authors?
Richard Stark – The Hunter, The Man with the Getaway Face, The Outfit, Comeback, Backflash
George RR Martin – A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords
David Weber – On Basilisk Station, The Short Victorious War
Bernard Cornwell – The Pale Horseman, Lords of the North
C.S. Forester – Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, Beat to Quarters
Joe Abercrombie – The Blade Itself, Best Served Cold
Steven Pressfield – The Afghan Campaign, Killing Rommel, The Gates of Fire, Legend of Bagger Vance
Joe Hill – Horns, Locke & Key, 20th Century Ghosts
Ted Chiang – Stories of Your Life and Others
Joe R. Lansdale – Dead in the West, The Big Blow
Max Brooks – The Zombie Survival Guide, World War Z
Stephen King – Skeleton Crew, Everything’s Eventual, Nightmares and Dreamscapes
Art Spiegelman – Maus
Robert E. Howard – The Phoenix on the Sword, The Frost-Giant’s Daughter, Rogues in the House
Brian K Vaughn – Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina
Brian Azzarello: 100 Bullets
Garth Ennis: Preacher, The Boys
Steven Brust – Agyar, Jhereg, Dzur, Issola
You have a Kindle.. right? Is this the future or will the bookstore always be around?
E-readers are definitely here to stay. To the left of that, us bibliophiles will always be around. Batteries wear out, a book is always there. I do love my Kindle though. Nothing could be easier to transport and I can save favorite clippings as I read, etc. There’s a lot of functionality packed into that little device. I can see the major bookstores collapsing, going the way of Borders. There will still be demand for books in print though, which means someone will step in to take advantage of that market. I hope it means a resurgence of the mom & pop type new and used bookstore but it probably just means a larger book section at Wal*Mart and Target.
Any upcoming work, either short story or novel?
I’ve got the sequel to Crow Wing, Saint Lucy, in manuscript form and I’m editing it as we speak. In the meantime, I’m debating putting out a short story collection with the title ‘Short Stories from a Hard Heartland’. I’ve got quite a few of them stored up with varying amounts of polish, so keep your eyes out for Saint Lucy sometime in 2012 and possibly some short stories before that!

Thank you for your Interest in Minnesota School of Business.