In the Shadow of Horse

In the Shadow of Horse
In the Shadow of Horse

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Dr Gustafson's writing interview

Sid's interview with Brine Publishing.
Dr Gustafson is the only know novelist in America who also practices veterinary medicine.

Today we have our interview with Sid Gustafson from the United States. He had contributed Whistle to Stanzas and Clauses for the Causes. Let us tell you a bit about this talented writer before proceeding to the interview questions.

Sid Gustafson is a novelist and veterinarian living in Big Sky, MT. Sid writes novels in Bozeman, practices veterinary medicine in Big Sky, and teaches equine behavior for the University of Guelph. He had the good fortune to be raised by horses under the Rocky Mountain Front with the Blackfeet Indians, to whom he returns time and again to find another story.
His second novel Horses They Rode was the 2007 High Plains Novel of the Year.
Horses They Rode is a contemporary novel about a Montana native son who hops a freight and returns to the mountain foothill ranch where he was raised. His journey connects the Blackfeet Indian Reservation near Glacier National Park with Playfair Racecourse in Spokane, Washington. The book tells the story of Wendel Ingraham’s younglife passage through the last vestiges of the American frontier. The novel is colored and contrasted by present day Blackfeet Indian life. White folk and Indians mix and merge along the last wilderness reaches of the Rocky Mountain Front amidst cattle ranches and grizzly bear habitat. The protagonist recapitulates his Montana past when he returns for asylum on the reservation hoping to discover resolution in his life after his wife of four years boots him out of their Spokane home where he is a thoroughbred racehorse trainer. Wendel is forced to leave the little daughter he truly loves behind. The novel poetically weaves his journey through women, children, horse races, and Indian spirituality on the wild rim of a distant American culture.
In Prisoners of Flight, Sid Gustafson’s veterinarian protagonist refers often to angels: “We haven’t heard from our angels in a long time. But they’re out there . . . waiting somewhere in the sky.”
Two ex-military pilots, Gustafson’s protagonist and his comrade, Henson, crash their plane into wilderness alongside Montana’s Flathead River. Former Vietnam POWs, they have wrestled with life’s trials ever since, holding to a single constant: a fierce longing for an idealized sky. Says Gustafson’s protagonist: “The flying rule is: When in doubt, do nothing. But I’m not flying anymore.” For indeed, Gustafson’s characters are themselves fallen forms of the angels they seek.
Gustafson manages both an economy of words and a compelling lyricism. There’s a rhythm here that makes for a read difficult to interrupt. And he’s not afraid to toss the rules. Single-word sentences. Pop phraseology. Recurring metaphors. The result is a harrowing adventure part magical realism (with a hint of psychedelia), part paean to the deep forest, part redemption chronicle, and part cryptogram.
Gustafson strands his characters with only a river shack for shelter. Soon, twin sisters—”two breathless earth cookies”—searching for their dog (named Hope—”lost Hope”) emerge from the forest cold and bewildered.
The protagonist recalls how he and Henson communicated cell-to-cell as POWs—through tapping out a simple alphabetic code. They repeatedly refer to this “old dance,” often lapsing into it. Acutely aware of their frailties and failures, they call often on God. And while longing to be back in the sky, they fool themselves like lost boys whistling in the dark that happiness can be found on the ground: “Our earthbound angels can’t stop smiling. And we thought they only lived in the constellations of our skyblown minds.”
The narrative dealing with Henson’s fate is both mythic and sad. (I’m not giving away much here, since the first two words of Gustafson’s novel are, “Henson’s dead.”) Finally, the protagonist’s escape and redemption are pulse-pounding.
There is much that is satisfying about Prisoners of Flight. Best is that it ends, as all good prayers do, with a single word, tapped out in code:

First of all, can you tell us about your background as a writer?
My mother had me reading books of all sorts at a young age. She adored novelists, so I became one.
Has being a writer been your dream job?
Writing is my dream job, but I can only dream about money as income from my writing, so I practice veterinary medicine to pay the bills. As far as can be determined, I am the only veterinarian who is novelist in America.
What human rights or social activism issue(s) are you most passionate about and why?
I represent the health and welfare of animals all across America. In particular, I represent the health and welfare of racehorses in America and the wolves of Yellowstone Park, who are both unnecessarily subjected to untoward medication practices. I write for the New York Times regarding horse-racing.
Why do you write? What is your inspiration?
I write to relax, I write to know myself and my world.
Do you have any advice for any other writers or poets wanting to get into the industry?
Keep writing, and write some more. Read. Successful writers were first successful readers. To learn to write, read.
Which short story that you have written is it that you are most passionate about? Can you explain why?
Whistle, the story you are publishing. I found a unique voice, and a special language for the story, a state of mind that worked to tell the story.
Who would be your favorite writer?
Faulkner is my favorite for portraying the human condition in literary fashion.
Do human rights or social activism issues influence your writing? If so, how so?
Oh yes, I write to change the world, to make the world a better place for humans and animals.
Do you have a career outside of your writing?
Yes, I am veterinarian and equine behavior educator, and I work every day, and then write after all the work is done.
Do you have any other hobbies or interests that help to influence your stories?
Horsemanship, backcountry travel with horses and dogs.
What kind of genre do you primarily work in?
Literary fiction.
What is your most memorable moment as a writer?
When I received the phone call from the editor that she would like to publish my debut novel, Prisoners of Flight.
Are there any particular challenges that you face in your writing?
It is sometimes difficult to get the worlds in the right order.
Do you have any future projects that you wish to talk about?
I write poetry and prose, fiction and non-fiction. Much of my writing is activist poetry and prose. It is best to change the world with creativity rather than criticism or force, you know.

Thank you for sitting down with us today, Sid! It was a pleasure learning more about you. If anyone reader wishes to connect with this writer or learn more about him, then you can do so through here:

Dr Gustafson is an equine veterinarian, veterinary behaviorist, and novelist. He helps refine horse and dog training methods to accommodate the inherent nature and behavior of horses and dogs. Applied veterinary behavior enhances optimum health, performance, soundness, contentment, and longevity in animal athletes. Natural approaches to development, training, nutrition, and conditioning sustain equine health and enhance performance. Behavioral and nutritional enrichment strategies enhance the lives of stabled horses. Training and husbandry from the horse's perspective result in content, cooperative horses. DrSid provides equine behavior consultations to help recreate the needs and preferences of horses in training and competition.

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