The Making of a Book: the Author Questionaire

categories: Cocktail Hour


Making books is not a speedy process, or at least has not been in my experience. I am now about a year out from the publication of Properly Wild: Wallace Stegner, Edward Abbey, and the American West.  I thought that over the next year I would chronicle some of the steps along the way to publication. Due today, for instance, is my author questionnaire, which, among a couple dozen questions, includes the two below (complete with my answers):




About Your Book


1. Describe your book in no more than 250 words. We will refer to this description as the basis for your catalog and jacket copy, so please write accordingly.


Wallace Stegner and Edward Abbey are literary giants of the American West, and both men left their large footprints all over the western landscape. After steeping himself in their work and lives, David Gessner spent the summer of 2012 exploring the land that made Abbey and Stegner who they were. As Gessner explores oil boomtowns, camps in the desert, walks the charred ridgelines after historic fires, rides rivers, and talks to people who knew the two men, a braided biography emerges. We learn the story of Stegner’s vagabond childhood throughout the West, and of Abbey first seeing the region he would call home after an epic teenage hitchhiking trip. A fascinating portrait develops of two men who, while polar opposites in some ways—Abbey the wildman anarchist, Stegner the mature realist—share much common ground.

But this is not merely a biography. 2012 was a summer of fires and fracking, of oppressive drought, and the West that Gessner found was a West in crisis.Wallace Stegner and Edward Abbey, as well known for their environmental activism as for their writing, had warned of much of what has come to pass and they remain remarkably relevant, providing a lens through which readers can see the past, present and the future of the West. Gessner finds that while the two writers still have much to offer him as a writer, father, teacher and environmentalist, they have even more to offer, on a larger scale, the region, the country, and the world.  

(248 words)


2. Describe your book in 15–20 words or fewer.

                On the road through an imperiled American West with the ghosts of Edward Abbey and Wallace Stegner.  (17 words)


  1. An Alewife writes:

    Wither goest the west?

    Love these guys, love the premise, hate the political backdrop.

    Can’t wait for the book, but not so happy about what the future is bringing.

  2. Mary Jane Curry writes:

    your author’s questionnaire responses are a whole lot more intriguing than mine have been for 3 academic books related to academic writing … no camping required! or cowboy coffee

    Speaking of which, have you heard the expression “rode hard and put away wet”? One of my Chilean colleagues mentioned it in a department meeting today–one of her students had heard it on “How I met your mother”–apparently has some cowboy origin… learn something new every day and not necessarily Spanish!