“This is writing. And to me, it’s always been fun. If it’s not fun, why do it?”
Just love Elmore’s energy! And you can bet he’s had more fun writing than a barrel of monkeys, because he’s 86 and still going strong. He just published his newest book, Raylan, which brings the total to 45 or so, but who’s counting? Not Elmore, he’s too busy having a ball creating whackily lovable characters, speeding-bullet plots, and snappy dialogue that’s endeared him to both readers and writers.
Listening to Elmore chatting on about writing, I was struck by how relaxed he was about the whole business. No muss, no fuss, no angst, no agita (don’t think that’s a word, but it should be!). Consider this little snippet: “I have to please myself and hopefully please my readers. I don’t write seriously, I always have fun….But I make myself sit down and write every day.” That’s every day since the ‘50s, my friends!
When Elmore started working at an ad agency, he would wake up at 5 AM, go downstairs to his basement and write two pages before heading off to his job. “For ten years, I sat there writing stories, getting better,” he recalled. From 1951 to 1961, he wrote 30 stories and five novels, and scored two movie sales. When one of his books, Hombre, was chosen by the Western Writers of America as one of the best westerns of all time, he finally decided to quit his job and devote himself to writing fiction full time.
When the market for westerns dried up, Elmore moved on to crime stories and really made his mark. He’s been called “the Dickens of Detroit” because of the colorful gallery of characters he’s created. What’s his recipe for success? Here are a few ingredients:
Surprise: Elmore doesn’t use an outline and doesn’t know the endings of his stories. “Just let it happen. You get the ideas when you’re writing…there’s always an opportunity to surprise the reader and yourself.”
Egoless Writing: “I never intrude. I never inject myself into the story. I’m nowhere to be found. I never use a word that my characters wouldn’t use.”
Excitement: Elmore is still having fun and he’s still curious. On the book front, he’s “excited about writing the next one. I can already see the different people in it.” You go, Elmore! Write on.