Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Summer of Interviews: Virgil Alexander

Today I'm pleased to welcome Virgil Alexander!

1. What was your inspiration for your book? Can you tell us about how your own experiences influenced this story?

My writing is inspired by the wonderful mix of natural environment, geology, geography, history, and dynamic cultures of the American Southwest.  The interaction of the land and the people in melding of the Old and New West creates so much opportunity for story lines, characters, and odd twists.  I was born in rural Arizona and have experienced many of the things I write about.  My stories are modelled after people, places, and situations I’ve experienced or heard about from family and friends.  Dozens, maybe more like scores, of close family have been or are in law enforcement so cop tales and mysteries come naturally to me.

2. Would you classify this series as plot driven or character driven?

The stories are definitely plot driven, but the characters are strong and continue from book to book.

3. Can you tell us a little about your main characters?

There are three characters with equal “main billing” in my stories.

Brenden Allred is a Graham County, Arizona deputy sheriff, assigned to the western quarter of the very large county.  Bren is a former homicide detective in the Mesa Police Department who returned to his hometown for the sake of his family, and his love of the area.

Allen Victor is a full-blood Apache Indian and a San Carlos Tribal Police officer.  A former US Army Ranger, tracker, and military policeman, and Middle East war veteran he married his hometown girlfriend and moved back to the reservation.  Al and Bren became friends in their first job as police officers working for the Globe Police Department.

Manuel Sanchez is a new Graham County deputy reporting to Bren and assigned in the scenic and rural ranching area of Aravaipa Canyon.  Manny is highly intelligent, a Southwestern history hobbyist, and information junkie.  His lack of experience in police work is always a concern for Bren, though Manny shows good instincts and aptitude.

Important recurring characters are Bren’s wife Monica, Al’s wife Bonny, and Manny’s girlfriend Jenny Mondragon.  These relationships add some romance and personality to the stories.   Others include Sheriff Bear Bitters, rancher Jim Martin, various townspeople, some odd characters, and a few other law officers.

I share a lot of Apache lore and culture, and many of the incidental things that happen to Al Victor are from true events told to me by my Apache friends.  Al is physically modelled after a native Arizona Highway Patrolman I know.  Many of the things I write about were told to me by my friend Harold Victor (the source of Al’s name) who sadly passed away last year.  I did volunteer work on the reservation for Boy Scouts and church, and taught classes for Eastern Arizona College on the reservation.

4. Without giving away too much, tell us about the main conflict.

In my first book, The Wham Curse, the tension is created by a lost treasure from an actual 1899 robbery, which when found in the current time results in a murder.  Nothing makes sense until the old crime is connected to the new.

In my new book, Saints & Sinners, it stems from a hit order issued for a girl in a small Mexican village who is secreted (without our character’s knowledge) in Graham County for protection – in Deputy Manny Sanchez’ parents’ home!  International law enforcement works to dismantle the cartel, and protecting the girl from assassins lands in the laps of our rural cops.

5. What do you hope readers take away from this book?

What I want them to get out of it is enjoyment of a well-told story,  appreciation of a place and people that I love, and an understanding that people of different cultures, religions, and interests can respect each other and be trusted friends.

6. What song best describes your writing style?

“Don’t Fence Me In”.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLoYFvbR0XY

7. Night Owl or Early Bird?

Most unfortunately both.  I’m typically up ‘til 2:00 AM, but usually awake by 7:00 AM.  I can rarely go back to sleep, so find myself napping in the afternoon; sometimes in my desk chair.

8. Skittle or M&Ms?

I am a sweet addict.  My mom used to say, “Virgil will eat anything if you put sugar on it.”  So I really like both, but chocolate would have to get the nod.

9. Who are your favorite authors?
I have quite a number.  Tony Hillerman.  After that in no particular order Alistair McLean, Helen McInnis, JA Jance, Michael McGarrity, Clive Custler,  Mary Anna Evans, Michael Crichton, Doris Kearns Goodwin, John Grisham, Marshall Trimble.  There are several others but the list is long enough.  I really quite like a novel by an emerging author, Big in Japan, by Jennifer Stewart Griffith.

10. Can you tell us about any other future projects?

I’m well into my third novel of my “rural cops” series, called The Baleful Owl, dealing with theft of Salado Indian artifacts (particularly the title artifact), and of course, murder.  Fourth in the series is a concept outline of heavy industrial theft on a grand scale.

I am nearing completion of the non-fiction Ranching in the Heart of Arizona.  This is a history of ranching in Gila County; a project I started about six years ago, but it has grown well beyond what I anticipated (expected 50 ranches, identified 380).  Hope to release volume one by end of the year.

Meet Virgil Alexander

Virgil Alexander was born and raised in rural Arizona. He grew up in the outdoors shooting, hunting, fishing, hiking, and riding his family’s horses. He loved exploring historic places and studying western history. He had an interest in law enforcement because many members of his family were law officers. His neighbors were ranchers, miners, and small town merchants and officials. His friends came from among those families and included Hispanics, Apaches, and descendants of immigrants who came from all over Europe. These experiences are all reflected in his stories, mysteries set in small town and rural Arizona, often reflecting the natural and human history of the area. His first book, The Wham Curse, introduced Deputies Bren Allred and Manny Sanchez, and San Carlos Apache Tribal Policeman Al Victor, who are also the protagonists in Saints & Sinners and a third not yet completed mystery The Baleful Owl.

Saints & Sinners and The Wham Curse are available from Amazon Books at:  http://www.amazon.com/Saints-Sinners-Virgil-Alexander/dp/1610091558 

Other links and bookstores are listed on my author Webpage under the "Buy" tabs:  http://virgilalexander.weebly.com/