Interview: Fred Staff, Author of The Bass Reeves Series

StaffYoungBassReevesDear readers, clap your eyes together and on the screen to welcome author Fred Staff to the blog. His books, Young Bass Reeves and Bass Reeves, Lawman, are about the first Black US Marshal west of the Mississippi. Join us as we chat about famous authors, Bolivia, history, and more.

Are minions/sidekicks just throwaway devices in a tale? Can they become more? Do they need to become more?

I hope that every character in my stories are there for a purpose.  In fact, there are always at least three people in a story that are key elements  My first book ROCHA’S TREASURE OF POTOSI had a terrifically powerful side kick that the protagonist depended on for advice and protection.  There will be a sequel to the Rocha book and his sidekick will be the protagonist in it.

My Bass Reeves Trilogy had so many real and famous people in it that a book could have and/or has been written about them.

SERGEANT GOLDSBY AND THE 10TH CAVALRY is also filled with real people who played an important part in the development of the west.  Its sequel THE OTHER GOLDSBY, CHEROKEE BILL will have many of the same characters, plus some other notorious people from the time.  Most all of my characters have ties with many people who deserve their own story and a large per-cent already have.

Who are your non-writer influences?

Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Abe Lincoln, Gandhi, Now you should ask why and the answer would be that they stood their grounds on things that they thought were right and had the nerve to put forth great effort for what they believed in.

StaffARocha'sTreasureOfPotosiWhich ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?

There are too many to list.  I spend most of my reading in research and seldom have the time or energy to just sit down with a specific book and read it from cover to cover.

In my experience, some of the best fiction is based on facts and history. How do you build your research into your fictional works?

I spend nearly as much time in research as I do in writing.  I am an old history teacher and my goal is to expose people to historical events as accurately as possible and at the same time entertain them.   I have written nothing that could not have happened in the time that I was writing about.  I love to write dialog and if an event took place there surely was some communication leading up to it or after it happened. This is where the fictional part comes to play.  No one was there taking notes, so I do my best to try and convey what the people would have said in this situation.

If you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors, who would you invite to the table? What would they order?

Mark Twain, Robert Service, Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, and John Steinbeck.  I am sure there would be plenty of liquid refreshments.  I would think that some rare beef would be involved and possibly a fish dish.  Capote would probably want to order separately.  I don’t think there would be a vegetarian in the bunch.

StaffBassReevesLawmanIf you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in historical fiction, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank,  several books by Teddy Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, Animal Farm, The Grapes of Wrathpoems by Robert Service, For Whom the Bell Tolls,  To Have and Have Not, The Godfather, All Quiet on the Western Front, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, and Of Mice and Men.

What do you do when you are not writing?

Waste my time.  I love good conversation with people that are smarter than me.  I feel that you should never stop learning.  I read and watch the news daily.  I read historical articles.  I live in Bolivia so I like to take in the sights that are so unique to the area.  It is a different world and culture and the exploration of even minor things is very enlightening.  I am now involved in the making of a video about Potosi, Bolivia.  This was the source of a tremendous amount of wealth for the Spanish Empire.  My first book got me into its history.  The video will consist of three approximately 30 minute segments.  The project is designed to be used in the classroom as well as for history lovers.  It will cover The Rich Mountain (El Cerro Rico) or The Mountain That Eats Men, depending on whether you were one of the 8 million killed in the mines or one of the nobles and church leaders who lived the life of luxury provided by the unlimited wealth that flowed from the mountain for over 300 years.  It will cover the over 60 churches that were constructed there in the 15th and 16th century.  We will do an in-depth visit to the mint that produced the legendary amount of silver that could have built a bridge from Chile to Spain   This city was the largest city in the Western Hemisphere and on top of that, is at an elevation of 13,450 feet. The early engineering triumphs here are amazing, yet few know the story.  The project will be a positive source for history, sociology, geography and Spanish classes.  The mine still operates and there is also some danger involved in the making of the video, because we will film inside and there have been recent cave-ins.  I see this as a great adventure as well as my being able to leave something to students that they will never be able to experience.

What are the top 3 historical time periods and locations you would like to visit? 

The Wild West 1865 to 1910.  The Colonial and the Civil War period.  Roman times and Greece. I know that is more than you ask for but as a history teacher there is so much I would really liked to have seen.

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