Sunday, June 22, 2014



Lifelong Texans, James Reasoner and L.J. Washburn have been husband and wife, and professional writers for more than thirty years. In that time, they have authored several hundred novels and short stories in numerous genres.

James is best known for his Westerns, historical novels, and war novels, he is also the author of two mystery novels that have achieved cult classic status, TEXAS WIND and DUST DEVILS. Writing under his own name and various pseudonyms, his novels have garnered praise from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and the Los Angeles Times, as well as appearing on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. He recently won the Peacemaker award for his novel Redemption, Kansas. His website is

Livia J. (L.J.) Washburn has been writing professionally for over 30 years. Washburn received the Private Eye Writers of America award and the American Mystery award for the first Lucas Hallam mystery, WILD NIGHT. Her story “Panhandle Freight” a Hallam story, in The Traditional West anthology, was nominated for a Peacemaker award. Her story “Charlie’s Pie” in the Wishing For a Cowboy anthology won the Peacemaker. Her website is They live in the small Texas town they grew up in.


What is the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done? 
Walking across the border from El Paso into Juarez with my husband James and our two young daughters to go to the market.
What adventure would you like to have that you haven’t done yet if money and skill were no problem?
I would love to travel. I had health issues that prevented it when I was younger, and now I take care of my elderly dad so I can’t travel very far away.
Who are some of your favorite authors?  What commonality do you see in them? 
My favorite author is my husband. James Reasoner has been on the New York Times bestselling list many times, but sadly since he is a ghost writer, most people will never know who he is. Some other favorites are Rex Stout, Kim Harrison, and Leonard F. Meares, an Australian author who wrote hundreds of Westerns under various pseudonyms. There's almost nothing in common among those authors as far as genres go (although James has written mysteries, like Rex Stout, and Westerns, like Len Meares), but they all created colorful, interesting characters and told fast-moving stories, and those are things I strive to do as well.
I believe color says something about a person’s personality.  What’s your favorite color?
Green.  I love spring when everything turns green.
If you could have a do-over life, what one thing would you do differently?  What would you do again?
I would back up all my husband's and my manuscripts and family photos and left copies elsewhere. When our home burned up in a wildfire, we lost everything.
What is your writing process from conception to finished MS?
I start by talking over the basic idea with James to make sure there's really enough plot there for a book. From there I write an outline, which in my case is a summary of the plot with enough detail to keep me on track but enough leeway so that I can add things I come up with during the actual writing. The actual manuscript for a novel generally takes me six to eight months, with maybe another month after that for James and I to both go over it.
Are you a planner, panster or both?
Both. I like to have the structure of the book figured out and in place before I start, but I want the freedom to veer off onto any interesting paths I come to. Just not too far off.
How did you research for your book?
I use the internet a lot, but we started writing before it existed so we have a pretty good research library of our own that we've assembled over the years.
What is your all-time favorite movie?  TV show?
I'm not sure I can name one favorite movie, but some of my top ones would be TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF, CASABLANCA, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, and ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST. As for TV shows, I tend to like sit-coms. My current favorite is THE BIG BANG THEORY, but I was a fan of THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, THE BOB NEWHART SHOW, and FRIENDS. And I loved  the humor in BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER.
How important do feel writing workshops are to any writer?
I couldn’t say since I’ve never been to a workshop.  I do think it’s important to know other writers, and that’s one way. There is so much you can learn from other writers of what not to do.
If you could learn one new skill, fear and money no deterrent, what would it be?
I don't have time to do everything I try to do now. I can't imagine adding anything else!
If you had a million dollars to donate to any one charity, what would it be?
Scottish Rite Hospital in Dallas. Our youngest daughter was born with Klippel-Feil Syndrome and we were both broke writers.  They basically saved our little girl’s life with a new surgery that had never been done on a child as young as she was. And they took care of her until she was 18 with braces and yearly checkups without charging a penny. Then they gave her a scholarship to help with college.
What advice would you like to give to an aspiring writer?
Don’t give up your day job.  Sadly, it’s very, very hard to make a living writing.
Did anyone mentor you or help you along the way?  Please tell us about your mentor and what you feel they contributed to your writing career.
Oh definitely, my mentor is my husband, James Reasoner. He is the only reason I wrote my first story.
What is the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Don’t expect to make a living writing for at least 10 years.
If you could live anywhere in the world you wanted to, where would it be? (Language is no barrier)
Somewhere with a beautiful beach.
Where do you write? 
Most of what I write is in our country home living room sitting in a recliner with two little MinPin/Chuhuahuas in my lap alongside my computer. It makes for a crowded lap.  Also made it interesting when I broke my arm and couldn’t grab my computer when the UPS truck came up and the dogs had a fit and jumped up to bark.  Laptop now sports duct tape.
How much time do you devote to writing each week?  Do you have a day every week that you take off?
I am either writing or making covers or formatting 12-16 hours a day, seven days a week.  A day off is when I only work 8 hours. I even had James bring my laptop to the hospital so I could publish a couple of things after I snapped my humerus in half. When I wasn’t working on the laptop, I had a book I was editing on my Kindle, so I put in full days both before and after surgery.
What is a genre that you have not attempted that you would like to try?
James and I work together on many projects, and I can’t think of a genre that we haven’t tried.
Is there anything you would like readers to know about you?
After being just on the writing end of the business for so many years, since starting Prairie Rose Publications with Cheryl Pierson I've discovered how much I really enjoy the publishing end, too. I'm a bit of a frustrated artist, and I really love designing covers for our books. It's a lot of fun putting the various elements together and seeing how the finished product looks!


The sweeping story of a family dedicated to the practice of medicine and caught up in the violence and heartbreak of America's bloodiest war.


For more than thirty years, bestselling authors James Reasoner and Livia J. Washburn have chronicled the story of America in their award-winning historical novels. THE HEALER'S ROAD is one of their greatest sagas, the sweeping story of a family dedicated to the practice of medicine and caught up in the violence and heartbreak of America's bloodiest war.

Thomas Black rose from poverty, superstition, and tragedy to become a respected physician. His son John is reluctant to follow in those footsteps but is forced to do so by the madness of war. And Thomas's daughter Sara is the most devoted of all to healing the sick and injured, despite living in a world that opposes her every ambition.

From Boston to Washington D.C. to the battlefields of the Civil War, THE HEALER'S ROAD is a tale of triumph and loss, of courage and despair, of life and death and love and hate vividly portrayed by a pair of master storytellers. Long out of print, THE HEALER'S ROAD is now available again in this newly revised e-book edition.


After a moment the man leaned forward and dipped the pen in the inkwell again, then began to write.
Thomas Jefferson once said that the patient sometimes gets well in spite of the medicine. I might add, in spite of the physician, as well. However, there is no doubt in my mind that many individuals are drawing breath today who would not have been, save for the efforts of a doctor. Therefore, the practice of medicine is now, as it has always been, a noble and necessary one.
The man laid his pen aside and looked down at what he had written. After a moment he grunted and crumpled the paper, tossed it aside. The words sounded like an introductory lecture in the medical school he had attended many years before, not a heartfelt missive to someone he cared about very much. He took a clean sheet from a stack on the desk and began again, leaving off the formal address this time. He simply dated it February 12, 1866, wrote the salutation, and began:
Though I have not often said it, I love you very much and am quite proud of you. But never more proud of you than I am today. I applaud the course you have chosen and wish you all the best of fortune. You will doubtless need it, because the road you have chosen can be a difficult one. I know this because I have followed it myself. Once I was not a physician. In fact, I would have happily shot the first so-called doctor I ever met....


Livia J Washburn said...

I think I should change the answer to the first question, What is the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?

At age 19 I decided to marry James with the plans of building our own home. I had health issues and couldn't hold a steady job, but at times I was healthy. I wanted a home we wouldn't have to worry about having a mortgage. James thought I was crazy, but he was willing. So, having never built anything, my parents took pity on us and helped us build a home. We had enough in savings to cover the cost, so James and I quickly learned how to build a home from scratch. It was quite an adventure.

TracyG said...

Livia, you are an inspiration! And I can't wait to get my hands on The Healer's Road.

TracyG said...

P.S.>Thanks for adding publisher to your list of accomplishments! I'm so glad to be a part of the Prairie Rose Publications family.

Livia J Washburn said...

Tracy, Publisher is one accomplishments I'm proudest of. Prairie Rose and Western Fictioneers have amazing authors, and I'm thrilled I get to be a small part of great books being published with the help of some amazing ladies.

Renaissance Women said...

You are in inspiration and I wish you continued success. Of course, I also appreciate your willingness to mentor and help other authors. That is such a gift you give to the world. Doris

Sarah J. McNeal said...

I can't imagine what it must be like to lose everything in a fire. When my computer fried in the last Fandango, I thought I would lose all my work and my WIPs. I learned a hard lesson in back-ups. Fortunately, the geeks did save my work. Pictures are irreplaceable though.
That is the first time I have seen an author advise an aspiring author to have a day job and that success may take ten years--excellent advice though, because it is so true.
Your accomplishments are so numerous, but I think your best accomplishment is that you are such a warmhearted, generous person.
I have never written with a partner, and I probably never will. It takes compromise and a shared vision. That's quite a feat. I don't think I could ever accomplish that.
In your excerpt, I like how he changed in the second writing of the letter to make it personal and vulnerable.
All the best to you, Livia. Thank you so much for interviewing with me.

Cheryl Pierson said...

Livia, I keep learning new things about you! LOL I'm so glad you had this great idea for PRP and we can share it together. Not only are you a fantastic business partner, but even though I've never met you in person, I consider you one of my very very dearest friends.

Great interview--I loved the thought of you and James being young and just so determined to build your own house and your family helping you realize your dream.

You are one of the best people I know, and I'm honored to call you friend, and so very lucky to share this vision with you for PRP!

Hugs, and much love always,

Livia J Washburn said...

Doris, you are sweet. Thank you.

Livia J Washburn said...

Sarah, I appreciate you interviewing me. You had some questions I've never been asked.

I'm glad the geeks were able to save your work. It surely is horrible to lose half written novels, chapters and outlines of many novels that hadn't sold, short fiction and novels that hadn't sold, and photos of our kids growing up, but we also lost pets. To know we lost all our cats, a bird, and a dwarf goat because someone was burning brush when he shouldn't have and left it with embers that would get out. It still makes me angry.

James and I were both full time writers, and honestly there were times the money just ran out. Even when our careers were going gangbusters, we lost 3 series in one day. We learned that day to never put all our eggs in one basket. Now we have many baskets, but in this business you still have to worry.

It is different working with a partner, but we work well together.

Livia J Washburn said...

Cheryl, you are the best friend a person could have, and I'm very lucky to have you as a partner. It's been a great year because of you. I look at all the books we've published just in one year, and all I can say is, Wow!

Unknown said...

Livia--You might be one of the most interesting people I know. Your million dollar recipient is inspiring and heart-warming. Some neighbors down the road lost their home and everything in it about three years ago. He is Pawnee and an artist in making furniture from mesquite--and he buys pieces of real turquoise to imbed someplace on the piece--he sells it, but had several finished pieces in the house. He also wrote many Native American children's stories based on Animal folklore--all gone inside the burned up computer. So, knowing how they suffered, I can only imagine how you coped. That's when we began backing up everything from our three computers on flash drives, and we keep current ones in our bank safe deposit box--change about every month.
Thanks for the peek into your life.

Livia J Washburn said...

Celia, the really sad thing is I went out the door that morning to take care of my parents, and as I was going out I told James we really HAD to do something about all the clutter. Now I know to be more careful for what I wish for. Luckily I had a flash drive in my pocket, that had a few random things, but James left both of his in the computer and grabbed the dog. That dog passed away last week at age 20. I find myself trying to help others more since the fire. We had so many friends, family, and complete strangers help us it helped our souls more than they will ever know.

Unknown said...

Livia, not only are you one of the most caring and most talented people I know, but you're also one of the busiest. I think you have the "toughest" crown down without much competition. That whole formatting books before and after surgery thing still just floors me.

I'm privileged to know you, Cheryl and the rest of the Prairie Roses, and I'm tickled to death PRP is doing so well.


Kristy McCaffrey said...

What a great interview. You're a lady who has made her own path in the world. I admire that immensely. Thanks for sharing!!

Rain Trueax said...

This was an interesting interview. I always like hearing how writers work

Sara Harris said...

What a wonderful interview Livia! To myself, I read a line of yours out loud as I walked through the house, the one where it said "my favorite author is my husband". My husband, walkino from a different room, kissed my forehead as he passed and said "thank you, how did you know I started writing that memoir". Hehe! Thought you would enjoy that! :-) ♡♡♡

Livia J Washburn said...

Kathleen, you are the strongest lady I know and I'm fortunate to have you as a friend.

Livia J Washburn said...

Thank you Kristy, at one time I felt like I was following my husband's footsteps, but then I realized we were walking together.

Livia J Washburn said...

Rain, I always enjoy reading how other writers work, too. I'm amazed at the writers that write scenes and fit it together, perhaps writing the ending first, and then the beginning, and then the scene before the ending, etc. I'm more of an ABC person and it fascinates me that it's possible to work any other way. Thank you for stopping by.

Livia J Washburn said...

Sara, I love it! LOL!

Kaye Spencer said...

All I can say is, until you walk that mile in someone else's shoes, you don't know what private battles they're dealing with. As others have already said, you are an inspiration to all.

I'm humbled and honored to be in the sisterhood of the Prairie Roses. Thank you for sharing about your life.