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Home Reviews Book Reviews Q&A with Jim Ainsworth: Campbell author hosting book launch for 'Go Down Looking'

Q&A with Jim Ainsworth: Campbell author hosting book launch for 'Go Down Looking'

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Delta County native Jim Ainsworth is celebrating the release of “Go Down Looking,” the latest book in the Rivers family saga, a little early.

Although the book isn’t set for official release until June 12, an early book launch party has been scheduled for Wednesday, May 9, at Texas A&M University - Commerce Alumni Center, located at 1706 Stonewall Street, Commerce.

The festivities begin at 5 p.m. Refreshments and door prizes will be offered. Autographed copies of Ainsworth’s books will be available. Sulphur Springs singer/fiddle player Hannah Kirby will provide entertainment.

The public is invited.

The other books in the Rivers family series include “Rivers Flow,” “Rivers Crossing,” “Rivers Ebb,” and a prequel called “Home Light Burning.” Ainsworth used his hard-scrabble childhood as the source of the stories, following young Jake Rivers as he and his family live through the tough times of the Dust Bowl of the 1950s, relocate to West Texas to start over and then finally come back to their home in Delta County.

Readers are introduced to Jake’s brothers, the wild Grey Boy and the gone-too-soon Tuck, along with Jake’s parents, Rance and Mattie and his grandfather, Griffin Rivers, one of fiction’s more enchanting characters.

The new book begins with Jake reluctantly joining his family back in East Texas. Although he’s only been gone a couple of years, Jake feels misplaced and alienated from his former school friends.

He takes up with a seedy character who has ties to bootlegging, thus beginning a treacherous ride down a slippery slope to petty crime. Readers follow Jake’s journey through heartbreaking loss and surprising revelations as he attends college, lands his first job and tries to make his way in a world very different from the one he knew growing up on the farm.

Ainsworth, who enjoyed a successful career as a financial planner, now lives on a small ranch in Campbell.

He took time from pre-release activities to answer a few questions about the Rivers family, the writing process and the importance of Bob Wills’ lovely balled, “Faded Love.”


Sulphur Springs News-Telegram: Is this the end of the Rivers family series?
Jim Ainsworth: I think so, but I sort of thought “Rivers Ebb” was the end, too. A lot of people don’t realize “Home Light Burning” was also about the Rivers family because the story takes place a hundred years earlier than the earlier novels. I even used real first names.

I have a few ideas about a new series of books based on a new character. I am getting some resistance for leaving Jake and his family behind, but I feel the need to spread my wings.  

N-T: You’re calling the book “a novel inspired by real events.” Why?
JA: Those words were chosen by the publisher, of course, but a lot of readers are just resistant to pure fiction. Most of the major events in this novel actually happened; but I compressed some events and changed the characters to match the events on occasion. I admire writers who can write pure fiction, but every one of my novels are based partly on events that actually happened.

I urge readers to concentrate on the story and make figuring out who the fictional characters are based on secondary. That can come later.

N-T: How long did you work on the book?
JA: Two years is my normal time frame for producing a novel. I wrote it in about six months, then spent the rest of the time revising, getting input from early readers, and trying to market it. The launch for “Home Light Burning” was about two and a half years ago, but the extra six months was due to the publisher’s schedule for more editing, revising and production. The book won’t officially be released (available on Amazon etc…, and through major distributors) until June 12.  

N-T: Does the process come easily, once you actually start writing?
JA: I always have doubts when I begin, but once I have a thousand words or so, it usually starts to flow. However, doubts creep back in during the entire process. Should I be writing about this? Does this have interest to readers as well as value? Will it be entertaining? Am I succumbing to certain “rules of writing” and losing credibility or my particular voice?

As you know, it is hard to put my books into a slot. I just try to write a book like I would enjoy reading and hope others will feel the same. Not having a genre, however, makes the books difficult to market to a large audience.

The craft of putting the pieces together is stimulating to me and usually flows pretty well. I don’t do outlines until the book is about half-written, but I have extensive notes before I start. I am usually surprised about how the book differs from those notes and how I sometimes just go in a direction I never anticipated. The prologue and epilogue to this book, for example, were not planned, but sort of evolved.

N-T: You have really perfected the ability to take your readers back in time. What do you do to recall those memories and feelings, and then put them down on paper?
JA: I have been keeping journals for many years. Before the journals, I set up file folders to hold handwritten notes written on scraps of paper, napkins, etc. Pivotal events in my life told me that those memories were going to be lost forever if I did not do something to preserve them.

When readers read about the events in this book and the ones before it, they will know when I started taking notes. Some things should not be forgotten. One of the best things about writing is getting to reflect on the past. When you start describing things, long-forgotten and buried memories just come to the surface. Of course, I have learned we put our own patina on the really old memories. I wanted to be exact about facts with the first novel, but soon realized “faded memories” are OK.  

N-T: Music, especially Bob Wills’ song “Faded Love,” plays a prominent role in the book. Talk about that.
JA: As a boy, I spent many hours on a three-legged stool listening to my grandfather play the fiddle. His fiddle is with him in a majority of the pictures I have of him. Later on in my life, I came to realize how important music is to inspiration and to evoking those memories I spoke about earlier.

In “Rivers Flow,” Griffin uses it to deal with tragedy and grief and the trials and tribulations of daily life. One only has to look at the ear buds so prevalent today to see how music affects us.

I don’t really know why I emphasized “Faded Love” over the many songs Griffin Rivers played, but the words and the tune played itself in my head when I was writing one particular scene. I debated about that scene, but months after it was written, Hannah Kirby played and sang it during the night I was honored by Friends of the Sulphur Springs Public Library. When I saw her rendition bring tears to grown men’s eyes, I knew the song would stay in.

*****************

To order any of Ainsworth’s book, please visit his website, www.jimainsworth.com
To follow Ainsworth’s blog, please log on to wwwriversauthor.blogspot.com

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