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Western Writer Patrick Dearen Spent 30 Years Writing 'Perseverance'

Patrick Dearen Shown

Patrick Dearen shown in mountains of Texas as he writes his observations

Patrick Dearen shown in mountains of Texas as he writes his observations

Title 'Perseverance' Inspired Patrick Dearen To Not Give Up For Three Decades On Novel

Before he was a Spur Award-winning novelist, Western writer Patrick Dearen wrote the first lines of his modern Western Classic Perseverance which crossed the lines of several genres and placed the Midland, Texas author in the mainstream of contemporary literature. Dearen recently sat down for a second interview with for an interview about the book which no number of rejection slips could stop.

l. What is your novel Perseverance about?

"In 1930s Texas, Ish Watson hops a freight train to reach a dying relative on the Gulf Coast. Along the rails, he meets up with the wayward and the runaways, the dope addicts and prostitutes, the winos and criminals. Aimlessly following the Road to Nowhere, these victims of the Great Depression have an impact on Ish, just as he does on them. Meanwhile, the freight train barrels onward carrying all of them to their destinies."

2. Why did you write this novel from the first person point of view?

"Although a first person point of view limits the author to the mind of a single character, it reflects life as it really is. In reality, we experience things only through our own senses, which in turn informs how our minds perceive life. By adopting a first-person narrative, I hoped to create intense reader identification. Is there anything more personal than the question of life's meaning? My goal was to allow readers to participate vicariously in the thought processes of my main character as he pursues this most important of searches."

Masterpiece Crosses Several Genres

3. Does this novel cross over several genres? Which ones?

"Perseverance runs the gamut between a historical novel (the Great Depression) to a mainstream work to an inspirational novel. I've always been intrigued by life along the rails in the 1930s. It provided the perfect setting for this story of a young man seeking life's purpose."

4. How significant is the Christian theme of this book?

"To me life is either a dead end, or it's a journey toward hope. I choose to believe it's the latter; a journey toward hope. This conviction guides not only my writing, but my life, and I think the novel represents that."

Source Of Inspiration For This Classic

5. What inspired you to write it?

"I grew up hearing my father's stories of riding freight trains in the Great Depression, a time when four million people took to the road or rails in search of jobs, homes, and hope. He told me of trains so loaded with hoboes that he didn't know how the locomotive managed to untrack. There were cold nights and long days when he never knew where his next meal would come from. And yet, for me at least, those hard times held a fascination that couldn't be satisfied until I wrote Perseverance. Of my thirteen novels and ten nonfiction books, it's my personal favorite.

What Was Inspiration For Main Character?

6. Who or what inspired the character Ish?

"Although every novelist draws upon himself in creating characters. I took it to the extreme in Perseverance and in a companion novel, When the Sky Rained Dust, which also concerns the Great Depression. Throughout both novels, I played the what-if-game; If I were in a situation, and this or that happened, what would be my response? I thereby lived my fantasy of riding the rails in Perseverance, while at the same time, revisited my personal quest for the meaning of our existence."


Significance Of Name For Main Character

7. Is that name a symbolic reference to Ishmael in Moby Dick?

"There was no conscious reference to Moby Dick. On the contrary, I've always liked the SH combination in names. It may be that I was influenced by an Apache character named Ish-kay-nay in The War Chief by Edgar Rice Burroughs, as I wouldn't be a writer today if not for my lifelong admiration for Burroughs' works."

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Jack London Part Of Research For Book

8. What research did you do for this novel?

"On multiple occasions, I conducted taped interviews with my father about his experiences riding the rails. I also interviewed another survivor of the Great Depression about his own experiences hopping freights. I supplemented this research by studying a marvelous book titled The Road, in which Jack London chronicles his adventures riding the rails in the 1890s. Still, nothing is better than firsthand experience. Although the days of steam locomotives and the 'honorable' hobo are long past, I spent time with modern-day hoboes in a train yard and then, with permission, rode a freight train across West Texas. Even today, I recall fondly the thrill of grabbing a passing ladder and hopping a freight.

Dearen's Sequence For Writing Novel

9. In what order did you write it?

As I do with all my novels, I started at the beginning of the story and pushed through to the end, although I eventually made many changes.

Is Ish Best Character Of Dearen's Writing Career?

10. Ish is very likeable. Is he one of the best characters you have created?

I no doubt knew Ish better than any other character I've created, because I personally served as the prototype. Whether that makes me likeable as well I'll leave for others to decide!

Perseverance Required For Writing' Perseverance'

11. How long did you persevere writing this novel?

In my first month out of college decades ago, I isolated myself on a Central Texas farm and wrote the beginning chapters by kerosene lamplight. A year or so later, I completed the first draft, and then spent months revising it into what I considered the final version. Little did I know that my work was only beginning.

As rejection slips accrued, I rewrote the novel again...and again...and again. I eventually generated eleven full drafts, two partial drafts, and four polishes--seventeen versions which received scores of rejections. By the time Eakin Press, a respected publisher in Texas, finally published the novel, thirty-two years had passed since I had written that first line.

People ask why, after all those decades, had I not given up. How could I title a novel Perseverance and then not have the perseverance to see it through?

But there was an even more important reason. I truly believe that perseverance is the key to sucess in almost anything, whether it's writing or some other job or interpersonal relationships...friendships, marriage, the dynamics between parents and children. As Romans 5:3-4 says, "Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."

How Does This Novel Rank With Other Dearen Books?

12. How significant do you consider this novel compared to your other twelve?

Undoubtedly, Perseverance is the most important novel I've written, including my award-winning novels The Big Drift, for which I received the Spur Award of Western Writers of America, and When Cowboys Die, a Spur Award finalist. But readers shouldn't get the idea that Perseverance is some sort of dry lecture. It's a novel that reflects the adventure and drama of riding freight trains in a desperate era. There is even romance, as my main character meets up with a young woman on the run for her own mysterious reasons.

How Important Was Winning The Spur Award?

13. How did you feel when you won the Spur Award in Lubbock, Texas in 2015?

I first heard of the Spur Award at age sixteen, when I learned that Leigh of my writing idols...had received a Spur for her novel Follow the Free Wind. For me, winning a Spur became a dream that, as the decades passed, seemed more and more remote. Nevertheless, I "persevered" for forty-eight years, which I think serves as another example of the importance of bulldogged determination in our lives.

Patrick Dearen Enters Pantheon Of Alltime Great Western Writers

Dearen's perseverance has certainly paid off as he now enters the pantheon of alltime great Western writers along with Elmer Kelton, Zane Grey and others. Dearen's novels cross beyond the boundary lines of traditional Western novels with subtle Christian and inspirational themes permeating throughout including a whiff of romance. He determined as a child what his career goals in life would be and has followed through overcoming adversities which would've broken a lesser man. Along with his two readers his son and wife, the horizon looks bright for this great writer.

His winning of the Spur Award, comparable to an Oscar for an actor, cements his place among the alltime greats and only made official what many readers already knew.

Dearen Shown Winning Spur Award In Lubbock, Texas

Patrick Dearen displays Spur Award for best Western novel of year on July 2015.

Patrick Dearen displays Spur Award for best Western novel of year on July 2015.

© 2017 Edward Lane

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