An Interview with Author Craig Johnson

United States: Longmire

"I always wanted to write something that takes place in a rural landscape, something more to do with character and place" - Craig Johnson

An Interview with Author Craig Johnson

By Stefan Roesch

On the eve of 2020, we had the privilege of chatting with Craig Johnson, author of the hugely popular Longmire book series.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

"I’m the New York Times bestselling author of the Walt Longmire series, the basis for the Netflix drama, Longmire. There are fifteen novels, two novellas and a collection of short stories in the series of books with a new one out every year. My character is the Sheriff of the least populated county in the least populated state in America. I live on a ranch I built myself in Ucross, Wyoming, population 25."

Craig's ranch sits at the foothills of the majestic Big Horn Mountains.

Craig's ranch sits at the foothills of the majestic Big Horn Mountains.

What inspired you to write the Longmire books?

"When I first started writing most of the books and television shows were kind of heavily into noire and technology and I wondered if you could write something that took place in a more rural landscape, hopefully something more to do with character and place — which for me, is where the better writing comes from. Walt is a different kind of character from what you normally see in crime fiction in that he’s more like us, faulted but attempting to do the right thing."

Sheriff Walt Longmire (Netflix).

Sheriff Walt Longmire (Netflix).

Who is your favourite character, and why?

"There are a lot of characters I really enjoy writing, Victoria Moretti the transplant from back east in Philadelphia or Henry Standing Bear, Walt’s close friend from up on the Rez or even Walt’s dog, Dog. Oh, probably Walt. When you write novels in first-person you’re in that character’s head for three or four hundred pages and I think there’s a closeness that you develop more than with other characters."

Walt and his Deputy Sheriff Victoria 'Vic' Moretti (Netflix).

Walt and his Deputy Sheriff Victoria 'Vic' Moretti (Netflix).

Walt and his friend Henry Standing Bear (Netflix).

Walt and his friend Henry Standing Bear (Netflix).

"I like to think readers enjoy the books for the same reasons I like writing them — Walt’s good company, he's funny, well-read, he cares about people. I get asked a lot of the time if I’m Walt, but I think my wife has the best answer to that question. 'Walt is who Craig would like to be in ten years, he’s just off to an incredibly slow start.' "

Do you ever experience writer's block, and if so, how do you overcome it?

"Nope, for me writing is like breathing or eating—an essential part of my day. What’s bad is when I don’t get to write, to escape into the world of those characters. I’m not one of those tortured writers who slaves over the keyboard, it’s more of a magic door I open and escape into."

How do you fuel your creativity?

"I have a ranch and that provides a physical balance to the intellectual life of writing, and living in a place like Wyoming I never have to go far to find stories. I’ve discovered that I do my best writing when I’m responding to something, a social problem or injustice and in modern society there’s plenty of that to go around. I think I was fortunate enough to stumble onto an ensemble of characters that I enjoy and who challenge me which makes the creative process easily accessible. Personally, I’m not much of a believer in writer’s block — generally it’s just lazy writer that’s the culprit."

Do you have a favourite location - both in the books and in the TV show?

"I like Walt’s cabin in the TV show, but he hardly ever gets there in the books… I like the Red Pony Bar & Grill in both the TV show and the books. Henry Standing Bear is a really enjoyable character for me to write, giving voice to the Native American community who are such a large part of where I live."

The Red Pony Bar & Grill is run by Walt's friend Henry Standing Bear (Netflix).

The Red Pony Bar & Grill is run by Walt's friend Henry Standing Bear (Netflix).

In the TV show, the bar exterior is actually the Adelo's Town and Country Store in Pecos, which is along I-25 between Santa Fe and Las Vegas, New Mexico. The store appears to be permanently closed, but sits on the main intersection in the village of Pecos. It is easily recognizable if you ignore the sign.

In the TV show, the bar exterior is actually the Adelo's Town and Country Store in Pecos, which is along I-25 between Santa Fe and Las Vegas, New Mexico. The store appears to be permanently closed, but sits on the main intersection in the village of Pecos. It is easily recognizable if you ignore the sign.

What are your top travel tips for visitors to Buffalo and the region?

"There are so many places that are worth a visit, the Occidental Hotel on Main Street in Buffalo along with the Busy Bee Café or the Jim Gatchell Museum behind the courthouse, which is the old Carnegie Library and Walt’s office."

The Busy Bee Café is Walt’s regular hangout spot in the books.

The Busy Bee Café is Walt’s regular hangout spot in the books.

"But the true star of the area is the Big Horn National Forest and Cloud Peak Wilderness Area, a place that’s still kind of undiscovered mountain range in the American West. 189 thousand acres of pristine wilderness with no roads, no campsites, no electricity, no cell phone reception… Certainly something to experience."

The Bighorn Mountains are the perfect retreat if you want to get away from it all.

The Bighorn Mountains are the perfect retreat if you want to get away from it all.

"The biggest event would have to be Longmire Days, a festival in July that celebrates the books and the TV show with the actors and over ten thousand people in attendance."

Street parade at the Longmire Days 2018.

Street parade at the Longmire Days 2018.

Besides writing, what other passions do you pursue?

"Reading, horseback riding, alpine mountaineering, fixing up old trucks and tractors and more than anything, doing research for the books I intend to write. I think that’s one of the most wonderful aspects of being a writer, becoming curious about something and then having the wonderful excuse of research to give you license to go find things out."

How can fans get in touch with you?

"I’ve got a website with an email contact."

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