I had so many personal anecdotes and experiences to draw from that made setting the stage for the story fun and natural.
M.M. Wolthoff – 15 December 2016
The Back Flap
Hunter’s friend Ty survived war in the Middle East only to succumb to cancer at home. On a quest with his college buddies and Ty’s father, Hunter journeys from South Texas into the mountains and desert of West Texas to bury his close friend. During this trek, they’ll drink, hunt, party, and encounter unexpected people and enthralling landscapes as Hunter deals with his grief, compounded by his struggle with depression and obsessive–compulsive disorder.
The West Texas Pilgrimage is a love letter to West Texas and the wild culture that defines it. Author M. M. Wolthoff vividly depicts the regional landscape, exploring intriguing stops along the way and the authentic context of music, food, and language integral to this generation of Texans, while frankly and thoughtfully addressing relationships, mourning, and mental illness, with characters as unforgettable as the region itself.
About the book
What is the book about?
The book is a coming of age story of a young Texan who has recently lost his best friend to Cancer. Hunter is battling his own demons of depression and OCD while trying to find his way in life and mourn his loss. He and a group of close friends venture to the mountains of Big Bend in West Texas on an epic adventure to bury the ashes of their lost buddy. Hunter desperately searches for peace of mind amidst the heavy drinking, emotional bonding of friendship, encounters with fascinating people, and adventure into the Wild West Texas desert.
When did you start writing the book
I first started writing the story in 2012.
How long did it take you to write it?
I finished the initial manuscript in early 2015.
Where did you get the idea from?
The story is inspired by and loosely based upon an actual group of friends who take an annual “pilgrimage” to Big Bend National Park to visit a similar gravesite.
The main character’s struggles with depression and OCD are based upon my own personal struggles with these mental illnesses.
Were there any parts of the book where you struggle
To some extent, I struggled with describing the anxiety and depression that Hunter experiences and balancing that with my desire to make him a character that all readers can relate to. I also wanted this to be a balance between a wild story of misspent youth and an uplifting story of personal triumph and faith. That was particularly hard in the sense that the main character is at a stage in his life where there isn’t a tremendous amount of faith or purpose.
What came easily?
The depictions of the landscape, a region that I absolutely love, and culture of South and West Texas came very easy. I had so many personal anecdotes and experiences to draw from that made setting the stage for the story fun and natural.
Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?
I drew from many real world people to blend the characters together. I can assure you they are authentic!
We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?
Larry McMurtry and Cormac McCarthy have influenced me in their ability to bring characters to life and to paint natural scenery. As a kid I read a lot of Tom Clancy novels, which influenced my attention to detail in stories. Maybe most of all, I’ve been influenced by songwriters who I consider to be some of the greatest modern day poets and who you’ll see many references to in my writing: Guy Clark, Robert Earl Keen, James McMurtry, Willie Nelson, and many others.
Do you have a target reader?
My target reader in this story is my generation of young man. It seems that anyone from my generation has been touched personally by cancer, mental illness, impacted by the wars in the middle east, or faced with many of the struggles and/or issues that Hunter and his group of friends encounter.
Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?
I’m a one step in front of the other kind of story teller. I’m pretty methodical in going from point A to point B. In this particular story, I didn’t know how it was going to end until I got there. I took the story in chronological order and systematically developed it, one piece at a time, but never out of order.
Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?
I didn’t outline in this particular story as mentioned above. I’ve started to create an outline for my next project, but don’t think I’ll be able to truly complete it until I start writing the first chapters of the book.
Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?
I edit as I finish a section or chapter. I find it more manageable that way.
Did you hire a professional editor?
I did pay Greenleaf for editing services.
Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?
Yes! It is often music that inspires me to write. Music can take you back in time and trigger memories like nothing else can. The artists mentioned above do it for me.
Did you submit your work to Agents?
I randomly sent my work to various agents and publishing groups prior to connecting with Greenleaf Book Group.
What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?
When Greenleaf contacted me I was completely unfamiliar with my options to independently publish. Their “hybrid” model of paying for services and retaining more of the royalties really appealed to me because I believe in my work and feel like there is a large market for this particular story.
Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?
It was professionally done and I really like how it turned out.
Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?
Like everything else on this project, the answer is that I’m pretty much winging it. I’ve paid Greenleaf for some marketing services on-line, but other than that, I’m trying things on my own and learning as I go. What I’m learning quickly is that it pays to have a plan. I’ve spent a lot of time, energy, and money on some things that have been ineffective, and then stumbled upon some things that have really worked.
Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?
Don’t be afraid to get your work out there early and get feedback. I was surprised by some of the great feedback I got from friends and contacts after publishing that I will definitely learn from and use in future projects.
The other side of that is don’t compromise on your style and/or desired message. The beauty of being independent is that you call the shots and no one can force you to alter or deviate from what you feel is right. In my case, I paid Greenleaf for some consulting services, and they made some suggestions, some of which I took and some of which I didn’t feel fit into what I was trying to say, but at the end of the day I had the ability to take it or leave it.
Where did you grow up?
My Dad was active duty Air Force, so we moved every three years. As a kid I was in the Midwest, Japan, Spain, New Mexico, Alabama, and Texas. I call San Antonio and South Texas home because that is where my Dad retired from the military, where I went to high school, where I have lived the longest, and where I was always meant to be.
Where do you live now?
McAllen Texas; on the border; an hour in-land from South Padre Island; exactly where I want to be.
What would you like readers to know about you?
I have a beautiful wife and three amazing children that have helped provide me the faith and inspiration that my character seeks. I find my peace of mind in the shallow pristine flats of the Lower Laguna Madre and the wild brush country of South Texas.
End of Interview: