Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Interview with Charles Moore Hackley III

Several years ago I met a man named Chuck Hackley and his wonderful wife, Joan. Over the following months we became good friends. I learned a great deal from this couple, mainly, that passion and hard work bring fulfillment and joy, and that if you want something badly enough, you can make it happen with persistence and resourcefulness and just plain effort. Chuck and Joan are an inspiration and I think you'll enjoy getting to know the author of Buckshot Higgins, Chuck's first book. Oh, and one more thing . . . HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHUCK!

M.B.: Chuck, when did you first know you wanted to be an author?

AUTHOR: In tenth grade at B.Y. High School in Provo, Utah my history teacher assigned us to write a short story about the ‘Knights in Armor’ days. I did so. In class she had several students read their stories. I was picked as one of the ‘lucky ones.’ I was never as frightened in my life as I read my story in front of my classmates. It was really a hokey story and it didn’t have much of a plot, but to my surprise I got a ‘B.’ I think the grade came from the amount of perspiration that I generated. In addition several of my friends actually came up and congratulated me for a ‘good try.’

I was hooked. I wanted that same rush again, but on a higher level.

M.B.: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?

AUTHOR: Very painful, confusing, & frustrating. In my opinion the major deterrent to a new author is not knowing what publishers want. Nor are there any ready sources from which to garner that information. Getting a rejection letter for your work with no comments or suggestions about how the manuscript should be improved can be devastating. And then to have that happen over and over is almost too much.

Finally, after persuading a number of friends and family, I felt would give me a fair assessment of my work, I got some feed back that gave me some direction.

I accepted the critiques and made changes. Then I chose a method of getting my first book published. This was t a mixture of finding a publisher and self publishing. Once the book was available through the major retailers, the sales began and I felt I felt vindicated. This success has spurred me on to continue to write.

M.B.: What is your background? Did you have any formal training?

AUTHOR: I have a degree in General Forestry and an Associate Degree in Forest Recreation from Utah State University. Other than the basic English classes, I attended several classes on technical writing. Not really much of a background for a ‘wanna-a-be’ historical western fiction writer.

I have been fortunate to have many years of life experience living with the Navajos and Apaches. I owned my own mule and long horn cattle ranch in Montana. I have had extensive hunting and fishing adventures throughout the western United States and Alaska.
After managing various aspects of U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, private lands and several other public recreational facilities I have seen many exciting and interesting places throughout the West.

I have always had a keen interest for the things around me. This has interest has opened many doors to significant historical sites. I learned along the way how to ‘milk’ natural water springs and seeps to greatly increase their flow. Not only do I increase land values with this knowledge, but I have been able to go to hidden historical sites very few have seen.

M.B.: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with

AUTHOR: As I mentioned earlier, the rejections without explanation did cause me some heartache. I often wanted to quit. After, each rejection, I would force myself to remember that just maybe it wasn’t me that was being rejected, but only my manuscript. And as we all know a manuscript; just like anything else man made can be changed and improved. I decided to try and learn all I could about being a successful writer, and yet, was too impatient, to take the time to go back to school.
I was so very fortunate to find several new friends who are successful authors. They critiqued my works, made suggestions and even helped me to quit being so sensitive about my attempts and failures. Developing a ‘thick skin,’ I found is part of being an author.

My wife, who is my full partner in my writing and is my hardest critic, says anyone who chooses to raise mules must accept the obvious reputation of not being too flexible.

M.B.: What is your writing schedule like?

AUTHOR: I love mornings! I am up and going in my Death Valley office by 6:00 each day. My view as I turn my computer on is of the historically intriguing Frontsight Mine across the valley. I schedule a fast review of my e-mails as I watch the morning officially arrive with the sun shooting beams through my window from the Nopah Mountain Range. I set a priority agenda for the day with the first priority of so many pages to be written by noon on my current book. Then I let the rest of the day unfold as it will. . .

M.B.: Where did your idea come from for this book?

AUTHOR: Most of the ideas came from my personal experiences while living with the Navajo and Apache Indians in New Mexico and Arizona. I love history. I encouraged everyone who I met to tell me of happenings to them or their community or tribe over the years. I have saved these stories in the cavern of my mind, not knowing, but dreaming that I would eventually depict them at a later time in book form. All of the interloping events that make up the story are true.

M.B: What areas of expertise do you have that helped you write your book? Did it require extensive research?

AUTHOR: I don’t have a degree in history, but I have made a life long study of Western US history. My deep curiosity about the many events and places in the Western US has helped me to garner a unique library on this extensive subject. Most of my research has been ‘hands on.’ My wife and I have traveled extensively throughout the West gathering information of all the many venues for our library. With access to computer files, the work of an author doing research is now so much easier. However there are still many gems of knowledge that cannot be found, except by personal investigation.

M.B.: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?

AUTHOR: Don’t let your failure to get a publisher to publish you book stop you. Look for the many variations of self publishing there are. If you believe in yourself and your creation bad enough, you will find a way to make it available to the public. After all, it’s the purchases made by the public that are really the deciding votes as to how good your creation is. Get it out there and let the market determine your success. Also try and find successful authors with similar styles and/or interests and ask them for advice. Don’t be afraid to learn and improve as you are exposed to ways to improve your talents.

M.B.: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline

AUTHOR: I am familiar with both concepts and I have tried both. Personally, I find it more challenging and therefore much more fun to just start with a very general idea of a story and then let it evolve. The fun is to look at where your characters are this morning and then to envision what they might want or must do today – but always remembering to put some adversarial events or people in their path to keep it interesting.

M.B.: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's block? If so, how do you deal with it?

AUTHOR: Yes, I do get ‘locked up,’ as I like to call it. This can be very frustrating. I usually find that one of two things has happened.
1. Usually, I have written myself ‘into a corner.’ That is, there is no easy way to move on without destroying some concept or person or object.
2. I have allowed the main character to move into an easy situation with no challenges. This is a ‘let-down’ scenario that stops the whole story.

In my simple way of handling things I just back up a page or two after determining which category I am in and make an adjustment to the flow.

In rare situations where the story has become quite complex, I simply take a long walk. Out my back door is a portion of the ‘The Old Spanish Trail.’ Walking up the old wagon trail, I think of those great souls who traversed this sacred road. Many times it is as though they speak to me and give me my answer.

M.B.: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?

AUTHOR: I prefer some activity going on around me. As I look out my window I can usually see quail, mourning doves, an occasional road runner, several varieties of song birds, cotton tail rabbits, jack rabbits, and maybe a badger or even a coyote from time to time. Their company and antics keep me feeling like I am part of life.

I also have a computer program with over six hours of my favorite songs. When it is cloudy or rainy or dark, I sometimes turn on the music very low and ‘go with the flow.’ Most of the music is from ‘way back’ in my youth and so helps conjure up memories that sometimes become part of the story.

M.B.: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?

AUTHOR: My extensive library and picture collection usually has something that meshes with the story. I read journals and diaries to get a ‘real feel’ of what folks thought and did. As most of my stories take place in the 1800s in the west, even a ‘good old western’ movie will give me ideas. I am fortunate to have many friends. Although the list of those who really lived the life I like to write about is at zero, I do know a few who heard the stories first hand. I love to visit with them and reminisce.

M.B.: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?

AUTHOR: Both my mother and father were great story tellers. My grandfather Penrod of Provo, Utah shared with me many happenings of the early pioneer days in Utah Valley. The way they told the stories piqued my sense of good story telling and set the foundation for period information.

After I began to write, Norma Baldwin Ricketts, (The Mormon Battalion, U. S. Army of the West 1846-1847 – Utah State University Press 1996) a detail writer focusing on early Mormon history in California encouraged, prodded and critiqued my early efforts. She helped edit our story of finding the six Mormon Battle graves in San Diego and raising $30,000 for monuments. From there she has been a true friend helping in every way to get my books out to the public.

In addition the friendship we developed with you and your interest in our many inquiries into Montezuma’s Treasure has inspired me. You further helped me to understand aspects of dialog and story flow. You have been a great inspiration as you continue to write and have books published. It’s a real blessing that we have become friends. I hope one day to do the same for some other struggling and hopeful author.

M.B.: Anything about yourself, or your books, that you would like readers to know about?

AUTHOR: Joan and I live on a ranch in Death Valley on the Old Spanish Trail. We live at the Resting Springs Ranch, the most famous camping spot for pioneer wagon trains along that historic trail. We invite readers who might be interested in seeing a very preserved piece of history to come and visit.

I try to encourage all my readers through use of hidden treasure, intrigue, mystery, factual history, and curiosity to always be searching for the truth. In addition, there is so much history that has been passed over because it was not preserved. I encourage all my readers to keep records and interview those who have stories to tell.

M.B.: Any final words you would like to share

AUTHOR: I am currently working on rewriting an earlier book, as well as a brand new story. Of course they all have treasure secrets! I look forward after having learned so much, to finding a ‘traditional’ agent, editor, and publisher for my future work.

M.B.: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?

AUTHOR: The Book Buckshot Higgins, His Life and Treasures, is available at Barnes &, as well as

Please add any other information, like a brief bio or book description that you would like.

Below is the press release about Buckshot…

Buckshot Higgins, Life, Treasures, and a lot of Adventures
A book about Buckshot’s Treasures

Death Valley, CA – (Release Date TBD) – The world of treasure hunting is unveiled in Charles Moore Hackley III’s book, Buckshot’s Treasures. Jump into the fascinating world of Buckshot Higgins as this must-read volume tells the story of his life, from mules to Model T’s. Feel each page come alive, get into this great new western adventure and enjoy an extraordinary read that will surely take you to the edge of your seat.

This intriguing, unique, powerful story of Buckshot Higgins, taken from his own detailed manuscript, provides a fresh insight into the ‘old west’ and Aztec Treasure. The manuscript has been kept from the public since his death in 1961. This personally written story of Mr. Higgins life and his participation in finding some of Montezuma’s remarkable treasure is filled with mystery, adventure, and murder. He tells of hidden signs identifying treasure sites and of gold map plates that pinpoint exact locations. Petroglyph markers are described in detail. Live with Buckshot on the Navajo Reservation. Go with him into treasure rooms that open with water-balancing stone doorways. View the vast amounts of gold, silver, and precious stones stacked on shelves along walls of Aztec honed treasure rooms. Learn about the dangerous sites along with false ones that discourage treasure hunters who are not seeking to use the treasure for good. What of the ancient curse on the treasure? Many have perished or met with untimely accidents and death, including unexplained plane crashes, mysterious explosions, and painful run-ins with those still protecting the sites today.
Available at Barnes & Noble
Borders and


Janette Rallison said...

Sounds like a book to put on my must-read list!

Stacy G. Anderson said...

Great interview, Michele! He sounds like and interesting character with depth that would be loads of fun to explore!


JoAnn Arnold said...

I found myself nodding my head in agreement several times as I read your interview with charles Moore Hackley. It was fun to get acquainted with this author through your excellent interview. Now I'm going to have to read the book.