The fear of death often proves mortal, and sets people on methods to save their Lives, which infallibly destroy them. Joseph Addison

Rick Just Interview Published on: 12, Feb 2018

Where did you spend most of your childhood? When you were a kid, how did you imagine your life turning out and how accurate were you?

I lived on a ranch along the Blackfoot River in Southeastern Idaho until I was 11. We moved to a nearby small town when I was 12 following the death of my father. I imagined that I would be a writer when I was young, because my great aunt was a writer. I thought I would probably always live on the ranch, and for years regretted that I was unable to. It took a long time for me to realize I never would was cut out for ranch life as an adult, though I loved the freedom it gave me as a child. Would you say that you have lived fulfilling life? What are some things you have as yet to cross off your bucket list? My life has been fulfilling, even parts of it that I experienced against my will, such as my being drafted into the Marine Corps. I have books to write and places to visit. I don’t have a desire to jump from airplanes or climb alluring mountains.

What was your experience working as the editor of Boise State University's literary magazine, Cold-Drill? How do you think this position helped shape you as an author?

The, cold drill (no caps) refers to a piece of mining equipment used to find new veins of ore. I enjoyed looking for the talent in young writers. Working with the faculty advisor, Tom Trusky, was one of the most satisfying experiences of my life. Many writers have an “audience” in mind when they write. My audience is always Tom, though he has been gone several years. In a way, he still guides my work because I know what he would say about what I’m doing.

When and why did you first start with the radio series "Idaho Snapshots"? What was the content you shared on this series?

Idaho Snapshots came about because Idaho was about to celebrate its centennial in 1990. I had been working in radio in 1976 and remembered a series of history vignettes that someone had produced in celebration of the nation’s bicentennial. It had occurred to me then that something like that could work with Idaho history. I proposed such a series to the Idaho Centennial Commission. They liked the idea but insisted on putting out a request for proposal for a series of 50 programs. I answered the request, along with others, and won the award. I then convinced them that 50 programs would not be enough. I ended up writing 200 of them, which ran daily on 39 stations for 18 months. I revived the idea of a daily Idaho history program last year and began writing a Facebook blog called Speaking of Idaho. It gets about 30,000 views a week.

Do you remember what you were doing when you were struck with the idea for The Wizards' trilogy? From all your characters, which one do you think had the most character development?

Some of my books have come about as a result of a fleeting idea, or from the dregs of a dream. I was methodical, though, about Wizard Chase, the first book in the series. I was reading a non-fiction book by Dean Koontz at the time called Writing Popular Fiction. I thought it might be fun to try my hand at a quest fantasy.

What are some books, myths, or movies that played a major role in influencing The Wizards' series? When writing fantasy, what has been your experience with always coming up with new and creative ideas that haven't been done before?

Tolkien’s books where an enormous influence on the Wizard Trilogy. I didn’t consciously know this until The Lord of the Rings animated movie came out in 1978. I had recently finished Wizard Chase and sent it off to a major publisher who liked it and had it under consideration. As I watched the movie I remember slumping down in my seat in embarrassment because it seemed to me that my story was too close to Tolkien’s great book. After holding onto the manuscript for about a year, the publisher decided not to publish Wizard Chase. I stuck it in a drawer and forgot about it until 1997. My niece, who had read the manuscript, emailed me encouraging me to publish it because of Harry Potter. I remember thinking “Harry who?” That same week Harry Potter was on the cover of Time Magazine. I did a complete re-write of Wizard Chase and published it shortly after that. There seemed to be more adventures ahead, so I followed up with the next two books.

What is an "Anjel" and what mythological or real creature are they inspired from? Consider your character Lasa, how do you hope she will affect young or older readers alike?

I am a metal artist, as well as a writer. The beauty of winged women, the angels of mythology, had fascinated me for some time. My attempts at capturing that used carved bodies from various types of common and exotic woods. They all had hammered copper wings, and many had copper mermaid-like tails. Winged angels were an invention of artists in the first place. There is no mention of wings in the Bible. So, why not long, luxuriant tails? Thinking about what angels should look like probably led to an early morning dream, the fragments of which stayed with me upon awakening. That dream was the basis for the beginning of Anjel. It was the vision of a newly hatched being attacked as they were emerging from their shell. I spelled Anjel differently to signal that these were not the mythical creatures we are used to. It is close enough that the word evokes them, nevertheless. Anjels are winged women, in a sense. They live on an unidentified planet where technology plays no role. They are apex predators who roost in trees at night and play in the sky during the day. The young practice flying skills for the day they will be able to hunt with their tribe. I had to smile when I read a review from someone who took me to task for describing a certain part of their reproductive cycle as “wrong.” I just didn’t know biology. Somehow that reviewer had missed that these beautiful creatures weren’t human, in spite of the part where they hatch from eggs.

What is your target audience usually and how do you balance between catering to their wants while also remaining true to your own writing?

My target audience depends on the book. Perhaps I have too many interests. I would probably do well to stick to a single genre, but I can’t. When I’m writing a history book I’m writing for the person who enjoys being entertained by history, not one who wants footnotes and citations. When I write a YA book, I’m writing for the reader I once was. That is, I want to tell the story that would have excited me as a young adult.

Tell us a little about your book "Ghost Writer" and its success. What do you think makes Sam (or for that matter, most of your characters) relatable?

Ghost Writeris a cautionary tale about the anti-vaccination movement at its heart. This doesn’t become clear until the final chapters. In the meantime, it is a story about two girls eager to experience life who have stumbled onto a little bit of magic. Who doesn’t want that in their life? Ghost Writer was a lot of fun to write because it was a breeze to research. Research is a big part of writing, even fiction. These girls needed to do quite a bit of research about historical events, genealogy, and disease. How would contemporary girls do that? The internet, of course. I was able to follow along with their thinking as it developed, looking up needed information on the web as I went along, just the way they would do it. I could even be a little sloppy with it, because they would be the same way. The exception to sloppy web research was my need to know how a girl in 1912 might write in her diary. For that I found a young girl’s diary from that era in the archives of the Idaho State Historical Society. I got the tone of her writing, incorporated some of the things she wrote about—movies and books—and used some stylistic elements, such as many, many exclamation points. I didn’t copy a single line from that girl’s diary, but in a small way I brought her back to life. She had lived to be only 17, so I was pleased to share a little piece of her short life with modern readers.

What story does your book "Keeping Private Idaho" tell? Are there any new ideas or themes that you incorporated into this book? Why do think readers will enjoy this book?

Keeping Private Idaho is about xenophobia. A disdain for out-of-staters ebbs and flows in Idaho. There is a particular resentment among some of Californians, particularly those who move to the state to escape crowding and other issues, then proceed to tell the natives “how it should be done.” The book uses magical realism in the form of the Indian character Coyote. He loves to cause mischief and modern day Idaho with its competing viewpoints is a perfect place for him to play. Readers enjoy the book because of the xenophobia they may recognize in their own state, and—if they are Idahoans—because they recognize the characters as their neighbors and friends.

Of all your hobbies, besides reading and writing, which one are we most likely to find you doing most often?

You would find me sculpting metal, or wood, or some material. I sometimes dabble in watercolors.

Have you ever included any of your real life experiences as a Marine into any of your stories? If not, do you plan on ever doing so?

I’ve used some experiences in short stories, mostly in getting the general attitude of a character right.

What is one of the most important lessons you've ever learned in life? It doesn't have to be related to writing.

Pay attention. I took that advice when I was drafted into the Marine Corps. I was told to be alert for a moment when they would call out “occupational specialties.” At 19, I already had a couple of years’ experience in radio. When they called out Radio/Television specialist I raised my hand. I spent my two years in the Corps during the height of the Vietnam War in North Carolina writing press releases.

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