I understand that you came to writing as something of a second career after retiring from nearly four decades of work as a machinist. As a reader, however, I have to believe that you’ve practiced the art of storytelling for many years. Did you always imagine a book in your future?
It never crossed my mind to become a writer until shortly before my retirement. I never imagined a book in my future, and it only came about when a short story I was writing became too long to be a “short” story. It was based on a real event, in which I had only a peripheral part. I only learned the full story from my grandfather years later. It was a very serious story about a revival meeting, but I don't do "serious" well. My characters kept making me laugh, so I told them, "Go ahead. You write the damn story," and they did. This story turned into my first novel, The Revival. It may be the closest I've written to what my real life was like, growing up in small-town Colony, KS.
I believe you would be classified as an indie author, or independent publisher, depending on the terminology of the day. Did you ever consider going the traditional route of publishing; finding an agent and publishing through a big publishing house? Any lessons you could share with others starting out on independent roads into publishing?
Actually, my first novel, The Revival, was picked up by a commercial publisher. It wasn't a deal where I paid them. It was a deal where they would pay me. I had a friend who had been previously published by this company and all had gone well. I had a galley proof of my book and an image planned to become my book’s cover, but the book’s rollout kept being postponed. Apparently the publisher had decided that embezzlement from the company was more profitable than publishing books. I eventually learned, from a federal court, that the business had been shut down and all assets seized. I was completely discouraged. I tossed the returned manuscript behind the furnace in my basement and forgot about it. It was not until Susan Marchant of the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library and novelist Don Coldsmith insisted the book be published that I considered going the route of self-publishing. My wife, Carol, was an asset in that regard because she is a graphic artist, well-versed in the technology of preparing computer files that may be used by printers. The Revival was published in 2001 and was well received. We’ve never looked back and have gone on to publish five more titles. Modern publish-on-demand printers have interjected their own benefits and challenges to the process, but it all works fine for us.
You published your first book, The Revival, in 2001 and won the Donald Coffin Memorial Book Award for that book the following year. How did becoming an award winning author so early in your writing career affect your work on subsequent books?
The main affect the Coffin Award had was to make me realize that readers truly enjoy my writing. That was a great encouragement. Each award I've received has strengthened that encouragement.
As a reader, it’s hard to have met you and not imagine that Edwin and Wally and Jeffie are modeled, at least a little bit, after a real-life, young Max Yoho. Are there any scenes from your stories that you’d be willing to admit are drawn from your own life stories? Any smoldering privies in your background that you may or may not have been responsible for?
I don't believe that any writer can ignore the experiences of his own life or the experiences of other life tales he has heard. However I have never, to my knowledge, burned down a privy. I have used a privy, and do remember when indoor plumbing upgrades became the rage. I have fond memories of stories told by friends, family and neighbors. Generally, however, my characters have taken over from reality and they entertain me in unexpected ways as I write.
As a writer, I’m always interested in the process that other writers undergo to write and complete their stories. Do you have a formula you are willing to share? Are you a write it all and then revise fellow, or a write/revise/write/revise as you go kind of guy? Any rituals for keeping the muse at your ear?
I revise as I go because I build on what I have just written. Of course, I do a final revision at the end, and depend on good editors for suggested improvements. My muse (if such exists) is the words I have just written. I have always been an avid reader, and I find printed words fascinating and inspiring. Part of my writing process is to lie on my bed and stare at the ceiling. Carol had once been concerned about my inertia, but I assured her I was busy writing. My pattern is to, eventually, return to my computer and type in all the words I have been writing in my head.
More about Max:
Born in 1934, Max Yoho grew to the age of ten in small town Colony, Kansas. Observant even at that tender age, Max pedaled his bicycle around Colony carefully observing small town Midwestern life. Yoho’s favorite memories of Colony include summer evenings playing folk guitar to his grandfather’s fiddle, with neighbors dropping by for lemonade, music, and conversation.
Max’s father worked for the Santa Fe Railroad and moved his family to Atchison, Kansas, when Max was 10. Max spent his Huck Finn years exploring along the banks of the Missouri River, searching local fields for arrowheads with his buddies, and collecting an arsenal of Civil War era weapons.
Moving to Topeka in 1949, Yoho graduated from Topeka High School and attended classes at Washburn University. With the support of his freshman comp teacher, he wrote features for The Washburn Review. Besides reading, his other passion was learning to speak German and, eventually, traveling to Germany.
Max married, had three sons, and spent thirty-eight years as a machinist in the Topeka area. He retired in 1992 to begin a new career as a writer.
Many of Yoho’s poems, essays and short stories were published in Inscape, the literary magazine of Washburn University. His work is included in Vol. 14 (Spring, 1989); Vol. 15 (Fall, 1990); Vol. 15, No. 2 (Spring 1990); Vol. 16 (Winter, 1990-91); Vol. 17 (Fall, 1991; Vol. 17, No. 2 (Spring 1992); Vol. 18 (Fall, 1993); Vol. 18, No. 2 (Summer 1993); Vol. 19 (Spring, 1994).
Yoho’s short story “The Passing of the Old Snookertorium” was published in the Little Balkans Review, Vol. 5, No. 4, Fall, 2009, and nominated by the publisher for The Pushcart Prize that year. Also, his poem “1942” was posted in a collection called “Begin Again,” a celebration of the 150th birthday of the state of Kansas. It was included in the book collection by the same name, and was posted on the web site of Kansas Poet Laureate Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg on 11-11-’11.
Yoho’s books include:
· The Revival, 2001, ISBN 978-0970816009, 2002 winner of the J. Donald Coffin Memorial Book Award of the Kansas Authors Club
· Tales from Comanche County, 2002, ISBN 978-0970816016
· Felicia, These Fish Are Delicious, 2004, ISBN 978-0970816030
· The Moon Butter Route, 2006, ISBN 978-0970816047, a 2006 “Kansas Notable Book,” recognized by the Kansas Center for the Book, and 2007 winner of the J. Donald Coffin Memorial Book Award of the Kansas Authors Club
· With the Wisdom of Owls, 2010, ISBN 978-0970816054
· Me and Aunt Izzy, 2011, ISBN 978-0970816061
All of Yoho’s books are still in print and are available at various online book sites, and are orderable by ISBN #s from commercial book sellers. One good place to order books online is from Kansas Originals Market shopping cart. Search by book title or author’s name.
Online links to information about Yoho and his writing:
Max Yoho on Wikipedia
Dancing Goat Press: www.dancinggoatpress.com
Max Yoho, Author on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MaxYohoAuthor
Max Yoho on the Map of Kansas Literature: http://www.washburn.edu/reference/cks/mapping/yoho/
“Sunday Book Review” of Me and Aunt Izzy — Review by Tracy Million Simmons: http://tracymillionsimmons.blogspot.com/2013/03/sunday-book-review-me-and-aunt-izzy.html
Black Lilac Kitty book promotion for Me and Aunt Izzy: http://blacklilackitty.wordpress.com/2013/04/09/
Iola Register, 1-16 -2012: "Colony native, author: Iola like heaven"
Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems, Woodley Press, 11/11/2011: "1942"
ArtsConnect regional arts group: "Arty" Award: Distinguished Literary Artist , in May, 2011
The Moon Butter Route was awarded "2007 J. Donald Coffin Memorial Book Award"
Eye on Kansas featured Yoho in October, 2006: "The Joy of Writing in Kansas: Colony native spins the grit of Kansas to tales"
The Moon Butter Route was awarded "2006 Kansas Notable Book"
Emporia Gazette, 3-1-2005: "The Storyteller"
The Revival was awarded "2002 J. Donald Coffin Memorial Book Award"