Interviews with Indies: Edd Voss — American storyteller

 

Edd Voss is a true American original. Most of his waking hours, he is a long-haul, cross-country truck driver. But Edd spends his spare time reading voraciously and also writing his own stories—intensely personal tales drawn from the many things that he has seen and experienced during his decades on the road.

Portrait of Ed Voss -- American trucker and storyteller

Whenever Edd isn’t rolling down the nation’s highways in the cab of a truck or collecting ideas for new stories, he lives on twenty acres just outside of Springdale, Washington. He shares this place with his wife, Polly, and their dog, Scout, who makes occasional appearances in his stories.

It takes two dirt roads to get Edd’s home, and that is the way he likes it.

 

The Vigilante Author caught up with Edd Voss during one of his periods of “down time” on the road.

The Vigilante Author: Edd, congratulations on your most recent book, Rambling. Why don’t you tell us a bit about it?

Edd Voss: Thank you for the invitation. My book Rambling is a collection of short stories that cover a range of genres. Some are based on western legends. Two—“Airborne: One Man’s Journey” and “Jo Anna”—are autobiographical. There are even a couple that could be considered science fiction.

The Vigilante Author: How would you describe or characterize your fiction, either by genre, themes, or subject matter?

Edd Voss: I have a hard time trying to define what I write. It covers a wide variety subject matter and genres. The one theme I think that runs through all of my stories is overcoming the obstacles life throws at you. It may be something as seemingly mundane as finding shelter from a storm, or as devastating as dealing with the loss of a loved one. Most of the stories do take place in the western part of the United States. Of course, that is where I have spent most of my life and know the best.

The Vigilante Author: Readers are always interested in what prompted someone to become an author. Where were you born and raised, Edd? Describe your upbringing and early life for us a bit.

Edd Voss: I was born in the small town of Liberal, Kansas, which is in the southwestern corner of the state. My father died of leukemia when I was four, leaving my brother, who was fourteen at the time, to try and fill in. My mother remarried a man who had a problem with alcohol.

We moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado when my grandmother died in 1959. We lived in her house after that, and I claimed Colorado as home from that point on. As soon as my brother was old enough, he joined the Army to escape the poverty we were living in. As I remember it, he always sent money home to help.

After my mother passed away just before my tenth birthday, I was sent to an orphanage in Denver. It was a Catholic home for boys. My mother’s oldest sister, who was a nun, talked the family into letting her make these decisions. While some may wonder why my brother or other family member didn’t take me to raise, it doesn’t bother me. It was this life that made me the man I am; there are no regrets about how it happened.

I was there for four years and then went through a number of foster homes till I was eighteen. School was boring me to death, and I wanted so badly to become an adult in charge of my own life that I took the GED tests during my senior year. My scores were pretty high, so I was allowed to drop out, and I took off for California, chasing a pretty little blonde. Since I couldn’t find a job, I eventually enlisted in the U.S. Army. The blonde and I did marry, but like many marriages among teenagers it didn’t last long. It did produce the little girl who is the focus of the story “Jo Anna,” but her real name was Jean Marie.

The Vigilante Author: I’m curious about any early personal influences you think drew you into becoming a writer, and to do the specific kind of writing you do. Were there any decisive people or events in your life that caused you to take the plunge?

Edd Voss: Even as a child my imagination was very active. Simple sticks became rifles or swords. Trees, large rocks, or other objects became outlaws or monsters to be vanquished. One day I was a pirate on the open seas, another I was fighting dragons in a suit of armor made out of grocery bags. My play time was filled with cowboys, superheroes, knights, and other heroes. My brother would make my armor for me; once, he even made a scuba tank out of a round Quaker Oats box and the dive mask out of the box top. His imagination went more to the technical details than mine. He even made me a robot costume for Halloween once that had working lights on it.

The Vigilante Author: What other writers have been seminal influences upon you? And what have you learned from them? Would you care either to compare or to contrast your work with that of other writers that our readers might know about?

Edd Voss: The reading bug really hit me in junior high school. I was in a bad situation at the foster home I was living in, and reading gave me the escape I needed. I fell in love with Edgar Rice Burroughs, Alistair MacLean, Roger Zelazny, Ray Bradbury, John D. MacDonald, Louis L’Amour, Tony Hillerman, and a dozen others.

The one that had the most affect on me was Gordon Parks. His book A Choice of Weapons literally gave me hope and some direction. The book details his life after the death of his parents in Fort Scott, Kansas. He was sent to live with his sister and brother-in-law in St. Paul. He went on to become an Army photographer and the first black staff photographer for Life Magazine. Identifying with him was easy for me, and it set me on the path to also become a photographer while in the Army. Unfortunately, by the time I got out of the Army, the big photo magazines were being phased out. I think that there are some elements of my life that paralleled his.

The Vigilante Author: What motivates you to write these days? Do you have some kind of aim, goal, or even mission in your work?

Edd Voss: Like many authors, I hope to be able to support myself with my writing. I would love nothing more than to park my semi and spend my full time writing and doing the research to make sure the stories are accurate. I don’t think I will ever stop traveling, but being a writer would allow me the freedom to travel at a more relaxed pace.

The Vigilante Author: For most of us, the writing life often is tough and lonely. What kind of obstacles have you faced along the way, Edd, and what have you done about them?

Edd Voss: The biggest obstacle I have to deal with is finding the time to write and do research. My time is pretty well taken up with driving a truck, so it takes some creativity to make time to develop the ideas into a coherent tale. Driving for a living has taught me how to deal with the loneliness; it also has been the catalyst behind many of the stories.

The Vigilante Author: Tell us a bit about your writing methods. For example: Are you a meticulous outliner, or do you do just jump in and write by the “seat of the pants”? What would an eavesdropper see if he watched you while you are writing? Do you write in a special place?

Edd Voss: Louis L’Amour used to say he could write in the middle of Sunset Boulevard. Well, I may not write there, but many of my storylines are thought out in similar places. I can write just about anywhere.

My storylines usually start out as a single scene, and then expand from there. “Their First Hunt” was written to explain the final scene. It was that scene I spent the most time plotting out. “Jo Anna” was written around one of the later scenes in the story. Other stories just seem to flow with very little thought or planning; “Christmas on the Mesa” would fit into that category. My plan was to write one story, but there were some questions I had about possible copyright complications with the one I wanted to write. It was originally going to be based on a song called “Corn, Water, and Wood,” but I couldn’t get any response from the composer. Instead, I took the calf-lost-on-Christmas-Day theme and let it find its own voice. “Blind” was another one that almost wrote itself.

The Vigilante Author: What are the hardest and easiest things for you about writing? And what gives you the greatest pleasure or reward? Is there anything you are particularly proud of, Edd?

Edd Voss: Sometimes just getting started is the hardest part. Figuring out how to get started is always a challenge. Once started, it’s easy to just keep going. The problem arises when you have to stop and start again.

I think the greatest pleasure for me is when I find out that something I have written has had a positive influence on a reader. The one thing that sticks out as a moment of pride for me was when I received an email from the daughter of the man who ran the [Airborne] jump school I attended [in the Army]. She wrote to thank me for letting her see her father the way that we did. He had died when she was twenty-one and they were very close.

The Vigilante Author: You recently decided to self-publish. Why was that? How has the “indie” experience been for you?

Edd Voss: Both of my books have been issued through publishers. The first experience was not bad; it just wasn’t the best, either. They lived up to the letter of the contract, but as the publishing landscape changed, they didn’t keep up. Now that that contract has expired and I have the rights back, it just made sense to give the indie path a try.

All of my short stories have been available as stand-alone indie products since they were first published. Rambling is all of them rolled into a single volume, along with four new stories that are only in the book.

The Vigilante Author: What qualities do you think are most important for any would-be writer?

Edd Voss: The most important tool any writer has to have is an active imagination. The ability to ask the question “What if?” and then answer it is vital. Tenacity is the next most important quality. Some ideas take years to figure out and get written in a form that is publishable.

The Vigilante Author: Edd, where can people buy your books? And how can readers contact you or learn more about you and your books?

Edd Voss: They can reach me through my website and my blog, and buy Rambling at Amazon.com, along with my first book, A Tree for America:

My website: Edd Voss, Tales From a Modern Day Drifter

My blog: Tales from a Modern Day Drifter

Amazon: Rambling

 

The Vigilante Author: Any parting words for our readers or for writers?

Edd Voss: I think the most important lesson anyone can learn is to keep trying. If something you try fails, then try to find a different way to get to your goal.

The Vigilante Author: Well, thanks so much for your time, Edd. Keep on trucking—and writing!

(Note: My review of Edd Voss’s short story collection, Rambling, appears here.)

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  • Shawn Reynolds

    Great interview as usual, Robert. Edd, I am heartened and inspired by your ability to write in spite of the hardships, tragedies and just plain practicalities of life you have experienced. I envy your persistence. Good luck with your future work as well.

    • http://eddvoss.com Edd Voss

      Shawn, I realized that I had the choice to make something of myself or rely on excuses. Fortunately when I needed it someone would make a comment that would sink in and turn my path in the right direction. I can’t take all the credit, call it luck, call in Divine intervention or just call it luck. What ever you call it, I was able to discern the wisdom of the comment.