Stories. Always stories. Pop's stories of his life as a Montana cowboy, ranching, and later as a railroad worker. Mom's stories of her life in a Norwegian farm community in Minnesota, and later how she taught school in Arizona to find a dry climate that would cure her TB. Stories on the radio, listening to the Lone Ranger, The Shadow, others -- in a dark room lighted only by the radio's own incandescence.
Books. "You've always got your nose in a book." No matter where we moved, I would set out immediately to find the library.
From the age of 3 I would tell myself stories to go to sleep by. No one knows when I learned to read, and after I learned to write I began setting the stories on paper.
Nose in book. Pencil, pen in hand. Now a keyboard. Always stories.
I majored in English so I could keep reading stories, got a PhD for the same reason, but studied poetry and wrote my dissertation on William Wordsworth.
Collected an obese file of rejections until the acceptances came in, but they were for nonfiction. Articles on gardening, garden history, and three books. The best of those is Wordsworth's Gardens (2001), a top ten finalist for the 2002 Washington State Book Award. My best seller probably sold 100+ copies, but came with a large airplane because at that time I was a technical writer for an aerospace company.
Then retirement and coming home to Montana. I continued to write articles, now in equine journalism, but the bell was tolling for me. If not now, when? The future is suddenly a finite quantity. Switch to fiction.
Consequently, God's Thunderbolt: The Vigilantes of Montana. Because 55 years ago I stood in the hangman's building and heard the ropes creak.