I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Carl, but we do have some things in common. We both hail from Northern California, have a love of books, and have an intense interest in history.
Carl’s debut novel, The Life And Times Of Jackson Haines: Fairshot, is a not-so-typical historical western novel set in Wyoming, and is out now. See below on where to purchase it.
Here’s a little more about Carl and his novel.
Author name: Carl Randal
Book title: The Life And Times Of Jackson Haines: Fairshot
Tell us a little about yourself and your background: I grew up loving reading and books. As an only child who lived in a very rural location—in a house surrounded by orchards on all four sides and five miles from the town of Red Bluff, California—I’d often ask my parents to take me to the library, where I’d check out an armful of books, mostly novels and histories.
Later, when I moved down to Sacramento to attend college, I majored in Political Science with a minor in English, and then earned a master’s degree in English Literature, with an emphasis on creative writing. Because I elected to remain largely self-employed in the career world throughout my working years, I never had occasion to use either degree much, but I remained an avid pleasure reader, devouring literally hundreds of books over the years in my leisure time.
I always harbored the desire to become an author myself, dreaming up a vast array of plots, storylines for novels, and characters with which to inhabit those books over the years. As a lark, I enrolled in several adult education classes in writing fiction after I finished my formal education and usually was able to rise from student to being regarded as a peer by my various instructors during the course of the semester.
Now, with the release of my first novel, I’m realizing a long held dream.
Tell us a little about your novel: My current release, The Life and Times of Jackson Haines: Fairshot, may be thought of as fitting squarely in the western genre, but it is not your typical western novel. For starters, there is a gay bathhouse and barbering establishment owner who figures prominently in the story, and I’ve given the small town of Fairshot, Wyoming, in 1890, mind you, a gourmet dinner house which serves haute cuisine. There is a feisty, progressive-thinking preacher’s daughter who is all for women’s right to vote and a more independent role for American women and who nevertheless, has no qualms about seducing the book’s hero to get what she wants.
And my protagonist, Jackson Haines; you’ve never met a fictional character quite like him before. He is the best man in the world with a gun, and he knows it. He is flamboyant, theatrical by nature, and he enjoys putting on a show. Jackson is great friends with both society elites, by virtue of his dime novel fame—which he eagerly helps to nurture and grow—and with bona fide western legends like himself, like The Earp brothers, Doc Holliday, Luke Short, and Bat Masterson. He also counts Buffalo Bill Cody as a close friend and has toured England with the Wild West and met Queen Victoria in person.
The girl Haines meets in the novel, Hannah Barnes, is a good example of how some characters tend to take over a novel. She was totally unplanned, as a character.
She came out of nowhere and became central to the book. Hannah didn’t even have a name, in my mind, until she did. She was just some bit of business I came up with out of the blue, to help flesh out an unimportant scene.
Have you written anything else (including novels, short stories, novellas, etc.): Nothing I’d want to lay claim to publicly; just some romance stuff under a pen name.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk: When things are going right, creatively, I don’t really write, I observe the characters actions and conversations, their thoughts in my mind and simply type them out. Sometimes their actions come as a complete surprise to me; they become real people and “take over” a story. I guess it would be fair to say I’m not the sort of author who outlines carefully and adheres rigidly to pre-thought out plan.
What are the big themes in your book: There really are no grandiose, hidden, symbolic themes running through this book. It is, at its base, a simple tale about a man who is accustomed to winning doing so again, against overwhelming odds and how he goes about doing it.
How did you decide on the setting for your book: I’ve been to Montana numerous times. It is still relatively big and empty, even today, and it must have been even less populated in 1890, the year the events in the book take place. I needed a setting like that, for the book to work, and Montana seemed perfect.
Which of your characters was the most fun to write: Hannah was far and away my favorite. She appeared out of nowhere and all but takes over the last half of the book with her feistiness, her bubbly personality, and her innate courage. She has a sort of naïve quality about her through all she experiences in the book that I find enchanting.
If you could be a character in your book, which would it be: Jackson Haines, of course; he’s handsome, bold, and a perennial winner in all he attempts. And he gets the girl. What’s not to like about being him?
What is your next project: Haines proved such and interesting character, I’m currently researching the second installment of his saga. There is, unfortunately, a lot of research involved in recreating the exciting period Haines lived in, just before the nineteenth century became the twentieth.
Reading about the times themselves, the intricacies of stage Buffalo Bill’s Wild West extravaganza, then disassembling it and moving it to the next stop on the tour—it is fine points like this that separate good historical fiction from the mundane. And I have no desire to write mundane fiction, be it historical or contemporary.
What authors have most influenced you as a writer: Reading the fiction of Ernest Hemingway made me want to be a writer. In addition to his larger-than-life persona, his prose was simply revolutionary for its time. If you don’t think so, try reading the novels of Henry James or Theodore Dreiser—both leading literary lights of the late nineteenth century—and then reading The Killers one of Hemingway’s early short stories, written during the first quarter of the new, twentieth century, and contrasting its stark, minimalist style with theirs.
Since I discovered Hemingway, I have read and enjoyed the work of many other writers. After all, I was an English Lit major!
Do you have any pointers or advice for aspiring writers: Read a lot, and be sure to study what you read. How did he or she DO that? Why was that scene so gripping? Was it the pace, the language, the subject matter, the way the author presented it? Pay attention, all the time, and remember what you’ve learned.
Favorite song: I don’t really have a favorite, but I do greatly enjoy listening to the Beatles—even today.
Favorite movie/tv show: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Probably the greatest TV miniseries I ever saw was Lonesome Dove. The best weekly series was Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Chosen superpower: Invulnerability
Toilet paper: over or under: Over, usually
Real book or tablet: Book
Star Trek or Star Wars: Star Wars
The first thing he did, when he’d ridden back into town and stabled his horse again, was to stroll into the general store that Roscoe Cone owned a half interest in and buy a pruning saw that folded up, the blade sliding neatly into a slit in the middle of the handle that had been cut for just that purpose, easy storage. He slipped the saw into the saddle bags he was toting over his shoulder, picked up his Winchester, and started back to his hotel.
He nearly ran right into a very pretty young lady on his way out of the store. She came bustling in the front door just as he was heading out of it.
Tipping his hat and smiling in apology, he deferentially backed out of the way to allow her to enter. She was probably in her early twenties, and was extremely attractive in a countrified, growing-up-in-the-middle-of nowhere, in rural Wyoming, sort of way. Her complexion was slightly wind-reddened and apple-cheeked, and her deep blue eyes were almost startling in their clarity and brightness.
“Sorry, Ma’am,” he told her as he stepped completely out of her path. “I was in a rush to get back to my hotel, and I didn’t look where I was going.”
“Oh, that’s quite all right,” the girl told him, blushing just slightly in a most beguiling manner. “I’m afraid I wasn’t watching where I was going either. I’d heard that Mr. Crosby had gotten in some of the latest style hats from back east, and I couldn’t wait to see them.”
“I’m sure none of them are pretty enough to do you justice, Ma’am,” Haines said, flirting with this fresh-faced prairie belle a little, enjoying himself immensely.
“Oh, aren’t you kind?” the girl smiled, her blush deepening. “You said that you were at the hotel. Are you staying in town long, Mister….uh, I’m sorry. I don’t know your name.”
“Smith,” he told her, bowing and tipping his Stetson just slightly, “I’m Timothy Smith, and I’m not sure how long I’ll be here. I’m looking over some business opportunities here in your fine city.”
“Oh, how exciting!” the girl bubbled. “I’m Hannah Barnes. My father is the Reverend John Barnes. You must come and hear him preach this Sunday, at nine o’clock, sharp, if you’re still in town.”
“What denomination does he represent?” Haines inquired politely, as though he might actually consider attending a sermon.
“Oh, we’re Baptists, through-and-through, of course,” she said, as if everyone who was anyone around these parts was a Baptist.
“Well, then, I’ll make it a point to attend, if I’m still here this Sunday, Ma’am. I’ve always enjoyed Baptist sermons; I’m partial to a little fire with my brimstone, you see.”
With that, he tipped his hat politely once more and went out the door, leaving the enchanting Miss Barnes to puzzle out whether he was, indeed, a dashing stranger or a saucy rogue of some sort, what with that chiding bit of banter about fire and brimstone.
Haines walked up the street, a huge smile on his face. He’d genuinely enjoyed flirting with young Miss Barnes and teasing her just slightly.
He took a deep breath, liking the bracing Wyoming fall air very much, and positively reveling in his last afternoon of freedom and anonymity for the foreseeable future.
In just a few hours, he’d be Jackson Haines once more. When he wasn’t the internationally famous Haines–when he was masquerading as nobody Tim Smith–he could do whatever he pleased.
He could sleep late, stop for a beer, chat with a pretty girl—a girl who wouldn’t have said “boo” to him, had he been decked out in all of his Haines finery and sporting the big hat and fancy guns. She’d have been too intimidated to even acknowledge him, had she run into the famous western legend in that store just now, instead of affable saddle bum, Tim Smith.
Haines sighed. In some ways, he much preferred being Timothy Smith to Jackson Haines.
When he donned the Haines regalia, it was like dropping a large red bull’s eye over his chest and across his back at the same time. Once people knew that Jackson Haines was amongst them, things changed abruptly for him; there could be no more careless strolls down the street. When you were Haines, there was only vigilance and watchfulness and caution; hands hovering near your guns at all times, your eyes and ears searching constantly for possible ambushes and back-shooters.
Oh, well, he thought, you are who you are. No one notices Tim Smith, but then no one is clamoring to pay him thousands of dollars to take care of their problems for them, either. You can either be anonymous and broke, or famous and on your guard at all times, I guess.
With that, and a final small backward glance toward the front of the general store–where Miss Hannah Barnes had just emerged wearing a very fetching new hat with a wide brim and a bunch of fine white lace on one side of it atop her golden-brown mane of upswept hair–Haines turned on his heel and crossed the street toward his hotel.
When he got there, he stowed his gear in the closet, took off his boots, and laid down on the bed for a nap. His last thought before dropping off to sleep was: need my rest–tonight should prove to be a busy night.