Crossing Oceans
Kim Ford 

Author Interview

Kim Ford Interviews Our Featured Cover Author
- Stephen Bly

Stephen Bly

Stephen Bly has authored 100 books and hundreds of articles. His book, The Long Trail Home, (Broadman & Holman), won the prestigious 2002 CHRISTY AWARD for excellence in Christian fiction in the category western novel. Three other books, Picture Rock (Crossway Books), The Outlaw's Twin Sister (Crossway Books), and Last Of The Texas Camp (Broadman & Holman), were Christy Award finalists. He speaks at colleges, churches, camps and conferences across the U.S. and Canada. He is the pastor of Winchester Community Church, and served as mayor of Winchester, Idaho (2000-2007).

Contemporary, historical, or romantic cowboys: Which is your favorite? Why?

That’s like askin’ which of my sons I like best. I love ’em all. All cowboys are romantic. Even the most dastardly villain has a misguided dancehall gal hangin’ on his arm. The easiest for me to write are the traditional Westerns: cowboy stories set in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. There is a rhythm. I call it the tune. Anyone can learn to write the words, the lyrics, but the tune comes from the heart. It’s God-given, just like an ear for fine music. But the real love for me is creating wonderful, strong, slightly wacky characters. I just try to keep the story within my area of expertise.

After more than one hundred books, coauthoring with your wife, writing nonfiction and fiction, do you have a favorite story from your pen? What would it be? Why?

I’ve never written a story or novel I didn’t love. Each one captures my heart and my spirit. If a reader wants to know Stephen Bly as a boy, then read Cowboy for a Rainy Afternoon; as a fiction author, then read Paperback Writer; what it’s like having two working writers in the same room, read The Hidden West Series (coauthored with Janet); my view on a woman surviving against all odds, read The Outlaw’s Twin Sister. If you want to know my view of marriage, read the Stuart Brannon Series; my point of view as a dad or grandpa, read The Fortunes of the Black Hills Series; my childhood background, read The Skinners of Goldfield Series; the most heroic woman I ever created, read The Last Swan in Sacramento; my take on how all women should be treated, study Brady Stoner & Linda Austin in the Austin-Stoner Files. If you’d like a description of how a couple can age gracefully and still have a dynamic impact on their world, read The Carson City Chronicles (cowritten with Janet.) So, you see, it’s an impossible choice for me.

Adult fiction, young adult fiction: What are the unique challenges of each? Which do you prefer to write?

Again, no preference. I hurry to get the stories out of my head. It’s like cleaning an attic that’s been crammed for decades. I may forget what’s up there, but there are lots of treasures stored. The challenge of youth fiction is capturing the minds of young readers in a tech generation. That’s why I lean to writing historical fiction for kids. The challenge is to make the story fun so they won’t stop reading. It’s not a matter of genre or age demographics, it’s an issue of which stories in my mind need an outlet.

“We have the need to be searched for and found . . . the need to complete something we promised ourselves long ago. We have the need to do the right thing, even if no one knows it. The need to make a stand against all odds. And the need to be a friend (and have a friend) through all the struggles in life.” This is a quote from a previous interview for Can you share with us more about this writing/life philosophy? How has it been realized in your life?

A good story engages the reader. You don’t view it from afar . . . you live it. The books we like best, and the ones readers remember, are the ones that add something to daily living. For that to happen, the scene must make sense, be believable, and stir latent heroic qualities.

We are created in the image of God. Buried in all of us is the urge to make a stand for what’s right. Whether Western or mystery or detective story, we want good to triumph over evil. Not just the characters, but we, personally, want to be victorious. We’d like to think we have what it takes.

We have a need to know that our lives matter, that in the battle of good and evil, somehow we’ve made a difference. Fiction allows me the awesome privilege to make a difference through my characters, to inspire the readers to do the same.

“. . .If your story drags . . . shoot someone. Of course, that’s from the perspective of the Western genre, but the principle works for others too.” This quote from an interview you did on Novel Journey back in 2006 grabbed my attention. What is your biggest challenge to keep your stories from dragging with the fewest casualties? Can you make a practical application of this advice for writers?

Many assume my advice of shooting someone when your story drags is just a play at humor, but I am dead serious. Do something, anything, that makes your reader jump up and shout, “He can’t do that!” To keep a story alive, you have to produce compelling action and crisp, fast dialogue. I suggest writing an entire chapter of dialogue without any narration, without any identifiers at all. Once you have that transcription, tweak the words until it excites joy or crushes emotion. Once your dialogue zings, you can elaborate the other details with confidence that they won’t distract or diminish.

What is your favorite writing collaboration you’ve completed with your wife? What is the biggest challenge of working together?

I love doing anything with my Janni-Rae. We’ve been known to sit hand in hand and watch everything from beach sunsets to desert anthills. So when it comes to cowriting, I’ve enjoyed each and every project, every part of it—the brainstorming, the research, the discussion about who does what.

The best way to understand the challenges of two writers working on the same project is to read our Hidden West Series. The protagonists happen to be a husband and wife writing team. Their names are Tony and Price Shadowbrook, but those who know us claim they’re really Stephen and Janet Bly, in essence, if not specifics.

For us, the best-worst fact is that we are very different as writers. I’m the idea guy. I write fast. I hurry through scenes, can’t wait to see what happens next. I rarely work with a plot in mind. Janet is the craftsman (okay, craftswoman). Every little detail and nuance must be exact, perfected. That works good as

a balance, most of the time. As long as she allows my heroes to drop their gs and doesn’t gum up the scene with things like a red velvet pillow labeled “Chicago 1881.”

What do you envision the future of Western writing to be? Is this genre seeing growth or decline? Or is there a pretty steady demand for cowboys?

As long as people read and hanker for heroes, there will be a place for cowboy stories. As long as men exist who feel something missing in the modern workaday world and as long as young girls desire the arms of strong, faithful men, there will be readers of Westerns. I believe the genre will survive.

What countries, outside the U.S., have a love for cowboys and Westerns? Have you developed a fan base in a country where there is a large demand for this genre?

Cowboy For A Rainy AfternoonMy books have been translated into German, French, Spanish, Indonesian, and even Chinese. However, I’d guess the strongest readership hails from Europe. The cowboy is the symbolic romantic hero of the planet. From the Arabic countries in the Mideast to the barren bogs of Siberia, the cowboy is king. In fact, the president of the Wild West Club of Siberia once showed up at my door. No kidding!

You still pastor a small church in your community in addition to all of your writing. What do your parishioners think of your books? Any fans among them? Any who aren’t so fond of a fiction-writing pastor?

Some of them are great fans. Others have never read any of my books. The Lord called me to preach way before He allowed me to write books, so the preaching is the foundation of everything. Paul said, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:16 NIV). That’s my life’s prime focus. That helps in keeping my characters real. My relationships give me insight into the human mind, heart, soul, and spirit.

Is writing a talent/passion you have passed on to your sons? Their children? What does your family think of the many stories you’ve written? What impact has it had on their lives?

A good question that I have contemplated as I’ve grown older.Creede Of Old Montana I’m not sure how my stories have impacted any particular family members, but I do hear from a general readership through tons of mail telling how my books influenced their lives.

Two of our boys (we have three sons) show real talent in writing. The third is an artist, taking after my father. They could develop their writing if they made it a priority. One of my heartbreaks is that my father died before I ever published anything. How I wish I could have handed him a novel and said, “What do you think, Dad?” On the other hand, my mother read dozens of my books while she was alive and loved them all.

“Sometimes I think a book is merely the subtitle of life. We live our lives with triumph and tragedy . . . and a good book tells the story in print . . . just in case you missed the storyline somewhere. So a good book, even historical fiction, is in sync with real life.” This is another quote from an interview with faithful reader. Is there a book (besides the Bible) that has “subtitled” your life? A book that has taught you something significant or caused you to consider something in a different way?

Nothing compares to the Bible or great nonfiction works like Knowing God by J. I. Packer, Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis, or Basic Christianity by John Stott as far as impact on my life. But as far as fiction is concerned, William Saroyan’s The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze or John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row or Ernest Hemmingway’s For Whom the Bells Toll, as well as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov each had strong influence (as did the films High Noon and Stalag 17).

What is your most recent life-challenge that has taught you something significant or meaningful? What is God doing in your life that is particularly exciting?

Discovering I have incurable cancer has given me challenges that I didn’t think I’d have to face for a long time. After a process of acceptance, I realize this disease is a kind of gift from God that has allowed me to grow in the likeness of Christ in ways that alluded me before. It has helped me better focus my life, my message, my family, and my Lord.

What is He doing that’s exciting? First, He’s given me even deeper, more incredible love for my wife of forty-seven years. We are enjoying some of the best times of a very magical marriage. Second, I’m playing better golf than at any time in my life. I don’t have a clue what that means, what could possibly be the purpose at my age, but birdies and eagles give me great joy and satisfaction.

Any closing words of encouragement you’d like to share with your readers?

Writing, no matter how enticing or successful, is merely an “added thing.” In itself, it will never satisfy or complete the missing parts of the soul. The challenge will always be to “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33 KJV). Don’t consternate or obsess with chasing added things.


Kim Ford has been a resident of Alabama for more than ten years. Originally from Georgia, she holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from Brenau Women’s College. She has spent the past 9 years in sales and marketing and has been an avid reader of Christian Fiction for more than 20 years. A mother of two teen sons and married to a technical writer and Army veteran, Kim’s life is full and blessed. She and her husband also volunteer as teachers for a resident rehab program for women with life-controlling issues. She uses her fiction to encourage the ladies she teaches. She blogs at: Window To My World