What was the inspiration for “The Hell-Bound Stagecoach”?

The title, of course, comes from Bob Bloch’s Hugo-winning “The Hell-Bound Train”. The notion was just to write a pleasant feel-good story about characters — the devil and Western desperados — who are not usually associated with such stories. “Writing against the grain”, I call it.

The identities of the passengers are a slow build, and yet we join the journey in the middle of the action, how did you structure “The Hell-Bound Stagecoach” in a way that allowed us the discovery of who each person was without sacrificing the constant drive of the coach?

By having Miss Abigail ignorant of the three shootists. The first does not announce his deeds or reputation to her, but when he tells her about the Wichita Kid the Kid just naturally tells her about Bloody Ben Bradshaw. And of course they recognize Apache Jack Keller and tell Miss Abigail about him.

Wichita, Abigail, Apache Jack and Ben – how deeply did you delve into their own personal histories for “The Hell-Bound Stagecoach”?

The three shootists could have been any three shootists, providing that they confined their shooting to men they thought deserved it and were respectful of Miss Abigail. She probably took the most work, simply because I needed a reason for her to be on that hell-bound stagecoach, without ever loosing what Bradshaw considered her aloof schoolmarm bearing and attitude.

How would you like to imagine Miss Abigail’s Rest Stop today?

I would imagine that the spiritual descendants of Bradshaw, the Kid, and Apache Jack are having one last high old time on the way to the fiery pits…and Miss Abigail is giving them one last great meal to remember for all eternity.

What is the appeal of “weird west” fiction? Why do writers—or you yourself—write about it? What do you think readers like about it?

I wrote 4 books of it because Lou Anders of Pyr Books phoned me and asked me to, and I wrote “The Hell-Bound Statecoach” because that was the theme of JJA’s anthology. But I have long been a student of that (admittedly small) segment of Western history dealing with Doc Holliday, Johnny Ringo, the Earps, Bat Masterson, Curly Bull Brocious, and the Clantons. In truth, I had always wanted to write a novel about Holliday and Ringo, the only two college-educated shootists in the Wild West, and I was afraid I was never going to get around to it until Pyr asked me for the series. It’s not quite the book I had planned — I’d been thinking of a straight historical — but at least t got done, it was a ton of fun, and I got my two favorite historical characters — Holliday and Teddy Roosevelt — into a few more books. That makes 5 for Holliday, 3 for Roosevelt, and who’d ever have thought I could pull that off in science fiction?

What are some of your favorite examples of weird westerns (in any media), and what makes them your favorites?

I liked Joe Lansdale’s RAZORED SADDLES, and there was a Clint Eastwood movie, I can’t at this late date remember the title, in which he is clearly both a shootist and a ghost.

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

THE DOCTOR AND THE DINOSAURS, the 4th Weird Western from Pyr, just came out. Next up are a mystery, CAT ON A COLD TIN ROOF, 3rd in a series I’ve been doing for Seventh Street; THE FORTRESS IN ORION, the first in a new series (“The Dead Enders”) for Pyr; and a collaboration with Eric Flint, THE GODS OF SAGITTARIUS, for Baen.

I’ll also be collaborating with Tina Smith on a Stellar Guild book, and with Lezli Robyn on another, all probably in 2014. And I’m editing Galaxy’s Edge magazine. Not bad for a guy who turns 72 in March.