West Virginia Book Festival

Craig Johnson: Better late than never

In Thursday’s Charleston Gazette, Bill Lynch talks with Craig Johnson, the Huntington native who graduated from Marshall University and basically lit out for the territories. He eventually settled in a Wyoming town with 25 people and wrote a mystery series starring Sheriff Walt Longmire (now the basis for an A&E television series).

The whole interview is a good read (and if you can, you’ll want to pick up the print edition to see Kyle Slagle’s Western-themed design). Among the topics Johnson covers is how he came to writing relatively late:

The 51-year-old said he’d always wanted to write, but he didn’t really get started until he was in his 40s.

“I ran out of excuses,” he laughed — not that he necessarily regretted waiting until later in life.

Life had to happen before he was ready to write.

“I think one of the biggest mistakes a lot of writing students make is that they get these magnificent degrees in writing, and they don’t have any life experience to write about,” he said. “I don’t know about you, but if I read another novel about a novelist trying to write another novel about a novelist trying to write a novel, I’m going to bang my head against a wall.”

Johnson said he was following in the footsteps of Jack Kerouac and John Steinbeck: writers who had lives and saw things worth writing about.

“It took a while to find a story I thought was important enough that I had to tell it,” he said.

Johnson will address the question “How Many People Can You Kill in a Town of 25?” at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, at the West Virginia Book Festival.