Ask An Author: Interview with Rick Antonson

Ask An Author: Interview with Rick Antonson

Posted on July 18 by admin
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This week we’re talking about road trips. It’s the perfect time and the perfect weather to just get in the car and go somewhere. Today on our Ask an Author series Rick Antonson was able to stop by and answer some questions about his new book Route 66 Still Kicks – the ultimate road trip.

Caitlyn: How did you come up with the title?

Rick: Finding the right title for this book was frustrating, and it remained elusive until just before the final manuscript went to Dundurn Publishing. Always though, in the background of my mind, was my wish to avoid direct use of the famous song “(Get Your Kicks) on Route 66,” though that held such immediate recognition for readers it was tempting. At one point the working title reflected a signature experience during our two week road trip, and the manuscript was called Stuck in the Mud on Route 66 (though that event was better portrayed by the resulting cover image). Later it was working-titled Driving America’s Main Street, a designation which slipped, rightly, to the subtitle conveying both the original 1926 promotional designation for Highway 66 and underpinning the book’s eventual title. Then, one day sitting over lunch in an American diner and listening to 1950s music, my wife said to me, “Everything you’ve said since you returned from the trip tells me that Route 66 still kicks, so why not call it that; and I did: Route 66 Still Kicks; Driving America’s Main Street.

Caitlyn: How did you research your book?

Rick: At the heart of this book is a two week road trip with with a buddy who self-set our goal of finding all the old parts left of what was once called “The most famous highway in the world.” That uncovered surprising history and showed us a remote, remarkable land. Now cut and bypassed by five super highways from Chicago to LA, the abandoned parts of Route 66 are fascinating when you find them. Often they are dirt road alignments - never paved, and other once-paved segments are overgrown with weeds and trees and not driveable today. Yet they provide the firsthand research that anchors a book. Many stretches are still lovely (nice and lonely) drives through the heart of an unknown America. Other times, old Route 66 remains an active road with alluring deadend detours to ghost towns like Bridgeport, Oklahoma or through thoughtful cities like Sante Fe, New Mexico. Our patient journey delivered the insights which then prompted my scowering books to find obscure twists of history, say about the writing of Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land, or profiling the documentation of migrant workers by 1930s photo journalist Dorothea Lange. Most endearing though were the individual stories told by people who live along the remnants of Route 66.

Caitlyn: Describe your ideal writing environment.

Rick: A rainy day, home alone, fireplace adding warmth – coffee at hand for the morning, and a little stack of relevant books with tagged pages for reference; all this and knowing that I’ve until noon to tell a story that I want to share with someone other than the cat crawling across the keyboard or the one plunked on my left foot.

Caitlyn What inspired your to write your first book?

Rick: Sitting around a late night campfire as an eight year old listening to an old fisherman’s wife telling the story of an 1880s murder, a lost gold mine in the nearby mountains of BC’s Fraser Valley, and a hanged man’s curse that protected the mine, all led to an adult search through the mix of myth and truth resulting in co-authoring (with my brother Brian and our friend Mary Trainer) Slumach’s Gold; In Search of a Legend (updated and published by Heritage House in 2007 and having since sold over 9,000 copies adding to our 1973 original book’s selling over 10,000 copies in various editions).

Caitlyn: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

Rick: My editor, John Eerkes-Medrano, has a wonderful way of drawing out stories I don’t initially see myself in a vignette or a few lines written in my original drafts. And then, once when I got far too involved and overwrote a lengthy piece about a historic personality that fascinated me (but would lose the readers), John advised, “Rick, we still have room for fewer words,” and he helped me make it so.

Rick Antonson is the president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver, and a former Ambassador for the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. He is the co-author of Slulmach’s Gold and author of To Timbuktu for a Haircut. Rick lives in Vancouver.