I recently had the chance to have a series of conversations with members of the Mexico Writers Facebook group. Robert Joe Stout, a prolific author, acknowledged baseball aficionado and the father of five children, currently lives in Oaxaca, Mexico. His essays, commentaries, short fiction and poetry regularly appear in literary and commercial magazines and journals.
Robert Joe Stout on real life
Tell us a bit about your family. I grew up with two families—the post Great Depression one of a sugar factory worker father and housewife mother and the pre-Great Depression family of a booking agent for actors and musicians and a musician/actress mother. They were the same people but in the small Wyoming town in which we lived I physically shared a daily existence of fishing for carp and chubs in the summer and sledding in the winter but emotionally shared my parents pre-Great Depression adventures through their scrapbooks and photo albums and the wonderful stories they told about Australian aborigines and applauding audiences in Great Falls and being smuggled across the Rhine beneath gunny sacks in a leaky boat.
How do you work through self-doubts and fear? Basically journalisticly: What’s causing this, what prompts the feeling, what are the choices, the consequences of each choice, what’s the worst that can happen, what resources do I have to emerge from this. The answers sometimes are unpleasant but getting them out in the open enables me to deal with the doubts or the apprehensions.
What scares you the most? I have no lingering fears. Circumstances occur: a guy waving a gun, shrieking brakes, a snarling dog.
What makes you happiest? Americans seem to thrive on “most this, best that…” Actors, sports teams, candy. I don’t categorize in that way. A lot of things make me happy: being alive, fresh strawberries, visits from my kids, writing, piano sonatas.
What are you most proud of in your personal life? Being a father—I think a pretty good one, if somewhat unconventional. All five of my kids are healthy, positive, creative persons and I get very positive playback from them.
What’s your greatest character strength? Again, something I’ve never categorized. I’m not much of a selfie and don’t think much about what I’m like. I’m very independent, not much influenced by what others think or say, that’s a primary part of who I am.
On writing and reading
What motivates you to write? It’s my profession. I’ve been a professional journalist since I was in college. I like the exploration, the process, the stimulation. The more I write the more I’m motivated to write. It’s a life work, it’s who I am.
What writing are you most proud of? No single thing. My first novel, Miss Sally. Quite a few of the short stories, including several published in the ‘70s. Quite a few individual poems. The creative nonfiction book The Blood of the Serpent.
What books did you love growing up? Oh, Richard Halliburton’s descriptions of his adventures. Osa Johnson’s adventures in Africa. I remember really liking Ivanhoe, and Ernie Pyle’s firsthand accounts as a war correspondent during World War II. James Fenimore Cooper’s Last of the Mohigans.
Who is your favorite author? Don’t have one but among those I prize having read are Wallace Stegner, Dostoevskii, Erich Maria Remarque, Simone de Beauvoir, Richard Wright, Hemingway, D. H. Lawrence, Hannah Arendt.
What book should everybody read at least once? None. Different strokes for different folks. But at least some poetry.
Thank you! Check out Robert Joe Stout’s books on Amazon.
As a mystery author of books set in Mexico, I have been lucky enough to build a great network of friends with books. Mystery readers love the headline-inspired plots of the Detective Emilia Cruz series and the steamy relationship between Acapulco cop Emilia Cruz and American hotel manager Kurt Rucker.
Other readers are drawn by Mexico’s mystique. I’m in good company when it comes to writing about Mexico. We hang out at the Mexico Writers Facebook group which includes novelists, non-fiction writers, and bloggers. Mexico is our common theme. Thanks to these great friends with books and conversations about Mexico, writing, and real life.