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Robert Flynn Interview

Tell us a bit about your book Tie-Fast Country.
Tie-Fast Country is about a woman, Clarista, who was raised by her father to be the son he never had. She inherits his ranch and a loyal cowboy who has tied as hard and fast to the land as she has but who may be an undocumented worker. She hires a younger cowboy who has loved her since grade school. Rista, the name she requires others to call her, loves a newspaper man who is tied to nothing but glamor and sensation and dreams of a life somewhere else. A third man gives up his chance to be sheriff to marry her but he also dallies in romance off the ranch and away from its hard and demanding life. Her daughter also dallies where she shouldn't and flees the ranch with her son. Years later, Chance, who manages a small TV station receives a call that his grandmother is dying and he needs to return to the ranch and take care of her. He imagines that he can slide her from the ranch into a nursing home, sell the ranch and return to his career. But he knows that she has killed two men, one of whom may have been his father.

Have you always had such a strong interest in ranching?
I've been interested in the changes that occur in one's lifetime and whether one rides one wave after another or ties fast to something and refuses to let go regardless of the consequences to themselves or others. Ranching, like farming, has changed dramatically in my lifetime but a few men and women are tied fast to their roots and continue to live in a world that for most no longer exists.

The book covers the years 1910 to 1990, what makes this particular period so special?
To understand Rista, it's necessary to understand her father. The book begins when he has a roping accident because the rope was tied-fast to the saddlehorn and he couldn't let go of a wild bull on the other end. His horse is killed. He realizes he needs an heir. He looks for a wife the same way Rista will later look for a husband and chooses Rista's mother to provide him with young cowboys.

What made you write this book?
I met a woman many years ago who had killed two men. I didn't want to know anything else about her because I wanted to invent a woman character who would kill two men and to discover who they were, why she did it, and what happened to her because of it. Anything I knew about the woman I met would limit that. I didn't even want to know her name. I knew when someone told me about her that I would write that story.

How did you research for this book?
Television and the media in general required interviews and libraries. Much of the ranching part came from my experience and memories of my father and his friends. Like many young men in rural Texas I worked as a cowboy but I've never been a cowboy. That's a lifestyle and a skill. Cowboys are skilled at roping, fencing, plumbing, machine and windmill repair. They have to recognize the quality and quantity of grass, weakness or illness in livestock and what to do about it. I worked a few days or a few weeks at a time doing non-skilled jobs. I have a friend who is a cowboy and rancher. I've helped him with roundup, branding, marking, pregnancy-testing, shearing, marketing. He was the encyclopedia I used and I dedicated the book to him.

Anything else you'd like to add?
I wanted to contrast not just the lifestyles but the language, the imagery, of those who live a ranch life with those invested in the media and those who don't work in the media but whose lives are formed and informed by the media. Shelley wrote that you become what you behold. Studying grass, cows, horses every day is different from seeing the world through words and images.

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