1) What did you four like the most about working on Stephen Bly's novel, Stuart Brannon's Final Shot?
Russell: Being part of the exciting process of writing a book.
Michael: I love that Stuart Brannon has stuck to his principles and is still ‘fighting the good fight’ and ‘keeping the faith.’ His methods may be a little out of place in the modern world of the 20th Century, but the same guiding principles apply. And, he golfs!
Aaron: I found it empowering to not only re-introduce myself to the characters of the original Stuart Brannon Series novels but to also be a part of creating additional stories for them.
Janet: Getting my late hubby Stephen Bly into the book through his sons and through using as much of his own writing as we could. As we got a more intimate look into Steve’s favorite character, the journey along the frontier of this man’s soul was like peering into my husband’s.
2) Any frustrations with this project?
Russell: Of course the obvious one, not having Dad there.
Michael: It seemed we had so little time for the process. With jobs and families and responsibilities, it wasn't easy for us, even though we knew this was a very important project.
Aaron: Only frustration was the fear that we wouldn’t be able to match the story writing ability that my dad possessed -- that we’d let him down somehow. But we gave it our best.
Janet: The four months allotted didn’t give us any ‘rest’ time, to take a break and see the manuscript fresh. We met the deadline after a frantic few days of critique and re-write. I was so thankful when we were able to include some crucial changes before the final print stage.
3) What were some of the surprises?
Russell: Finding out just how much of a ‘team’ that my parents were in their writing.
Michael: It was great to see Mom in action. I’ve never seen her take charge of a writing project first hand or had the chance to witness her process. Maybe not a surprise that she could do it, but happy to see her go about it with such skill and determination.
Aaron: Given the circumstances and the time constraints, I think we did a pretty good job. I’m especially proud of some of the plot elements that presented themselves as the story unfolded.
Janet: I’m still astounded we actually got it done. It was a miracle. All three sons stayed engaged with the project though they each had different areas of input. Also, am grateful I didn’t get overwhelmed by the daunting challenge we undertook or panic about the judgments on the quality by fans and professionals. I only knew without a doubt that this was our appointed task.
4) What was the most enjoyable or satisfying part of the process of this project?
Russell: Hearing Mom talk about how Dad would think through, process and write his stories. The most satisfying was seeing her take over and form all the pieces of our inputs into a Stephen Bly novel.
Michael: It was a family project, so it was great to spend time with family. . .especially as we were mourning the loss of Dad.
Aaron: Finishing it and knowing that our dad would have been proud (even if he would have done it differently).
Janet: The privilege and joy of working with my sons. Knowing I was laboring on behalf of someone I dearly loved and missed. Doing the actual prime writing of fiction after so many years of coming alongside my husband as partner, editor, co-author and marketer.
5) If you had to do the whole procedure over again, what would you do different?
Russell: Finishing the book so soon after losing Dad made it a little hard for me to offer as much input as I would have liked. I think if there were a next time, I would like to get more involved in the actual writing.
Michael: I can second-guess a hundred things, but ultimately we wrote the novel we set out to write. If Stuart Brannon fans enjoy the book and feel like it closes out the series well, then it was done the right way.
Aaron: Given the same amount of time, I wouldn’t have changed anything. But if we had unlimited time, we could have ‘tweaked’ some story elements and characters a little further and tightened things up a bit.
Janet: I don’t regret any part of how the book evolved. We developed a plan, step by step, and followed it through to the end.
6) What did you gain the most from being part of crafting this novel?
Russell: An insight into the life of a writer. In this case, the life of a very special writer. Michael: I gained confidence as a writer, but also had the great learning experience of being closely involved in the complete novel writing process. On a deeper level, it helped as we mourned Dad’s death. Coming together as a family, remaining dedicated, and getting the job done. That’s what Stuart Brannon would have done and that’s what Steve Bly would have done.
Aaron: For me, it was very therapeutic in dealing with the loss of my father, who was also my best friend.
Janet: I learned to persevere with the necessary during emotional upheaval. It was a bitter-sweet experience to do the research trip to Gearhart, Oregon, to retrace the steps Steve and I had taken together. This time I had to pay attention to details, rather than take a vacation. Sunsets over the ocean. Fish dinners. Visiting the old golf course Steve had played. Driving along the beach. These weren’t moments to relax and refresh. In the crush to create, to write in a flurry, I had to play catch-up to my prolific husband who knew the geography and history so well.
7) Any final thoughts about working together to finish Stephen Bly's last novel?
Russell: I am continually amazed at the hard work and dedication to this project that Mom has shown throughout this project. The tough circumstances and potential roadblocks have shown me and my brothers not only how important she was to Dad’s books, but that she will have no problem with her career going forward.
Michael: Stuart Brannon was Dad writ large in a cowboy western landscape; at least, Brannon was whom Dad would have wanted to be if he had lived in those times. As we witnessed Dad’s final chapter on earth, it was fitting to then write Stuart Brannon’s final chapter. It was gratifying to be given a chance to play a part in a family tradition. In addition, I wish I was more like Stuart Brannon. I hope to someday be the kind of man who ‘will do to ride the river with.’
Aaron: I was able to come together with my mom and my brothers and discuss something that was intrinsically my dad’s and then make it our own, both in a figurative and literal sense. All our lives we will benefit from this experience.
Janet: I will always be so grateful knowing that we completed this unfinished task, Stephen's 106th book. Also, appreciated some welcome healing that took place in the midst of all the creating, the laughter and the occasional stab of tears, after a long siege of care-giving and saying goodbye to the love of my life.
Christy Award finalist and winner Stephen Bly (1944-2011) authored 120 fiction and nonfiction books, 19 of them co-authored with wife Janet.
Janet Chester Bly has authored and co-authored with Stephen Bly thirty nonfiction and fiction books, including Awakening Your Sense of Wonder, Hope Lives Here, The Heart of a Runaway, The Hidden West Series and The Carson City Chronicles. She lives at 4,000 ft. elev. in Winchester, Idaho. Find out more at Bly Books or Bly Books Blogspot.
Russell Bly is married to Lois, father of Zachary and Miranda (married to Chris Ross), and grandfather of 1-year-old Alayah. He is manager of Deranleau’s department store in Moscow, Idaho.
Michael Bly is married to Michelle and is Director of Business Operations for Inland Cellular in Lewiston, Idaho.
Aaron Bly is married to Rina, father of Keaton and Deckard. He’s Manufacturing Supervisor for Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories in Lewiston, Idaho.
Stuart Brannon's Final Shot by Stephen Bly with Janet Chester Bly, Russell Bly, Michael Bly & Aaron Bly, is available in hardback/large print, paperback and e-book editions and can be ordered through your favorite local or online bookstore or through the Bly Books bookstore.