Journalist and newspaper columnist Mike Cox is the author of 13 non-fiction books ranging from a study of Texas disasters, three books on the Texas Rangers, to historical stories, true crime, biography, memoirs, magazine articles, and essays. His latest work, The Texas Rangers: Wearing the Cinco Peso, 1821-1900, the first of a two-volume comprehensive history of the Rangers, was just released by Forge Books.
Thanks for this interview, Mike. When did you decide you wanted to become an author?
My late grandfather was a freelance writer, my late father and my late mother also were writers. Naturally, I grew up thinking that every kid aspired to be a writer. And now, I’m proud to say my youngest daughter has shown an interest — and talent — at writing.
Do you have another job besides writing?
I’ve been a writer for more than 40 years, but during most of that time, like most freelancers, I had to have a day job. For nearly 20 years, I wrote for Texas newspapers. Then I was spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, which includes the modern Texas Rangers. I retired from the Texas Department of Transportation, where I was communication manager, in the fall of 2007.
Were you an avid reader as a child?
Absolutely. I still am as an adult. My only complaint is that I don’t seem to have enough time to read everything I’d like.
What type of books did you enjoy reading?
History, biography, science fiction, historical fiction, murder mysteries.
Tell us a bit about your latest book and what inspired you to write such a story.
In a way, I’ve been working toward The Texas Rangers: Wearing the Cinco Peso, 1821-1900 all my life. I grew up hearing stories about some of the old-time Rangers from my granddad, L.A. Wilke. Then, as a newspaper reporter, I met a fair number of Rangers. Finally, as spokesman for the DPS, I dealt with many Rangers over a 15-year period. Most of the Rangers would sooner be in a gunfight than do a media interview, so I had good job security.
I had written a children’s history of the Rangers in 1990, following up in the late '90s with two collections of nonfiction stories about the Rangers. In 1999, I signed the contract to do this book, which I hope will stand for a long time as the definitive history.
From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?
Much longer than I anticipated. Fortunately, in Bob Gleason with Forge Books, I had a very patient editor.
Describe your working environment.
I work at home in a book-and-memorabilia-filled office. Probably could use a little Feng Shui work!
Are you a disciplined writer?
Yep, pretty much. I love to fish, hunt and camp, but I try to write at least something every day. I don’t miss many days out of the week.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
Rarely. Don’t have the time. And as a newspaperman, I quickly learned to write no matter how I felt because I had to if I wanted to stay employed.
How was your experience in looking for a publisher?
I was already an established author, so it wasn’t too hard. Interestingly enough, I’ve never sold anything through an agent, though I have had several.
What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?
Join a good writer’s group like the Writers’ League of Texas, read books on writing and attend workshops. Oh, and just start writing.
What type of book promotion seems to work best for you?
I’m still trying to figure that out. I have a publicist who has done some good things to get my book noticed and would certainly recommend her.
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
My dad constantly told me “show, don’t tell” and my mother finally taught me to write in active voice.
Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?
Do you have another book in the works?
I’m putting the finishing touches on the second volume of the Texas Rangers book.
Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?
I haven’t decided yet… well, I am at work on a book about Texas UFO stories. Let me hasten to stress that I don’t believe in little green men — or women, for that matter — but I do believe in good folklore.
Anything else you’d like to say about yourself or your work?
If you read my book on the Rangers and like it, spread the word. If you’re interested in a writing career, I highly recommend it and wish you the best of luck.
Thanks for stopping by! It was a pleasure to have you here!