MA: Peggy Bechko is a multi-faceted writer. Some would say she’s far-stretched, others, multi-talented. Born in Michigan, raised in Indiana and Florida, she now lives with her husband in New Mexico, a beautiful state of mountains, pines, desert and cactus.
Fiction has been her passion from about the age of fourteen. Her only quandary was that she could never write anything short. So, in the course of things, she just kind of skipped over short stories and jumped right to novel length and submitted what she felt was her first marketable works when she was nineteen, to a literary agency in New York. They welcomed her into their ranks of writers, addressing her as Mister Bechko, which at that time went uncorrected as she was then submitting westerns and was told, repeatedly, “women can’t write westerns.”
Her first sale was to Doubleday, the editor with whom she dealt, was also greatly surprised to find himself talking to a young woman. But, over time, everybody adjusted. The book, THE NIGHT OF THE FLAMING GUNS, written it in the first person as a middle-aged man, was published when she was twenty-two. Doubleday went on to buy a total of five westerns from her.
Congratulations, Peggy, on your success as a writer, a career which began unusually early in life. Most authors don’t publish until they are older, after experiencing life a bit and dabbling in different careers. Given your quick start, I assume not much preceded your writing endeavors?
PB: There’s not a lot to tell about the prequel of my writing career since it’s pretty much what I’ve always done: write. I had my first novel published with Doubleday when I was 21. After that I published on a fairly regular basis, westerns, then romance, and finally fantasy. Along with that, as westerns rarely pay all the bills, I did frequently hold jobs as well. I’ve been a bookkeeper, an administrative assistant, an assistant bookstore director at a college and legal assistant. I took a few years off writing novels to be mentored in screenwriting, optioned several scripts domestically and abroad, wrote a script for an animated TV show airing in France and now work on script or novel – whichever appeals. I’ve also written articles, reports and other commercial projects to help keep the bills paid.
MA: Talk about your passion for fiction, in particular novel-length stories.
PB: I chose to write novels mainly because I couldn’t stop. Never did write short stories (though I did more recently and won an award for it). First writings were simply novella length and they expended right into novels when I learned how to fill in the details.
I’ve written in several genres. Western, romance and adult adventure/fantasy. Western and romance are in hard copy format. Fantasy is Stormrider, published at www.fictionworks.com as an Ebook.
MA: Do you find it difficult to write, especially the basic mechanics, plotting, character development, and the like?
PB: Developing characters – protagonist or others, has always been a pretty natural progression for me. I usually get a story idea first, then ideas for the characters flow into the mix. It was all launched by the protagonist in my first western who was actually my grandfather in disguise. The strengths of my hero or heroine are good character, solid resolve and adaptability…weaknesses are they’re human!
MA: As an accomplished writer, how much do you think an author’s personal life experiences should find themselves inside the plot of a work of fiction?
PB: I think every writer’s real-life experiences are factors in every plot they write. It’s life experiences that mold us and give us the grist for our collective mill. It’s those experiences, life’s pain and triumph, defeat and victory that we instill into our characters. Living life and being human is the basis of our experience and thus that of our characters. Understanding by experience what it’s like to love, to hate, to fear – that’s all part of what we write. Without that experience we’re empty and have nothing to put on the page. I discuss just that in my book for new and young writers at http://www.newwriterguide.com
MA: Those are some powerful words, and spot-on observations. So, what’s next?
PB: Beyond this – novel writing, which I am currently doing in the form of a new paranormal romance, I plan to write more scripts (have several ideas that need fleshing out) and do more ghostwriting and commercial writing. I usually dedicate part of my day to my own projects and part to the projects of someone else to keep the bills paid.
MA: Do you have any words of advice to aspiring writers?
PB: Writing, in any form, is my first love. Unfortunately very few fiction writers can earn a living writing full time; it’s a small percentage who do. Fortunately, there are other ways for writers to fill the gaps. Think of everyday life. What doesn’t include writing? Who writes the newspaper articles serious or fluff? Who writes screen or TV scripts? Who writes magazine articles or the reports or instruction books or catalog copy or sales letters or the web content or the blogs? If everyone suddenly stopped writing for a day what would be the result? So all my writing life I’ve moved through different areas of writing and have loved every minute of it. I recommend other writers who love to write, love to sculpt the sentence and paragraph, do the same. You don’t have to do the shotgun effect, but find several areas of writing you delight in and pursue them.
MA: That’s some great advice. Peggy, thanks for visiting with me today and sharing your insight and inspiration with my readers. Peggy has several websites and social media sites which I encourage everyone to visit: