Q&A With Author Jim Ainsworth

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How does geographic location affect your writing?

I’m a native Texan and Texas is where most of the scenes I write take place. My characters do leave the state, but they only go to places I have been often enough to establish deep familiarity with the landscape and the people. If I try to write about a place I have never been, I feel like a trespasser.

Where do you find inspiration for your characters?

I write what I know. With the exception of my historical fiction novel, my characters are almost all based on people I know or have known. And my historical fiction characters are based on characters I knew a lot about before I included them in the book. All of our lives are interesting if examined closely. And most are filled with fascinating people. I began keeping a list of all the characters I have encountered, with special emphasis on the ones who were the most memorable in a good or bad way. After seven novels, I still have a long list.

Do you write in more than one genre? Which do you find to be the most challenging?

I have written historical fiction that could be classified as western, though atypical. I have also written family sagas, contemporary fiction, a non-fiction short story collection, business books, and a memoir. I find writing technical non-fiction to be the most challenging because every statement must be researched thoroughly. My first novel started as a memoir, but I soon realized that I wanted my protagonist to experience very significant events that had a huge impact on my family. One of those events happened before I was born. I changed to fiction in order to place the events in a timeline that seemed more meaningful. Also, our memories are fallible and memoirs should be completely truthful.

Did you always want to be a writer or did you fall into the profession?

I fell into it. After preparing approximately 10,000 tax returns, I was convinced that the country needed to abolish our unfair and unwieldy tax code and go with a national sales tax. If I truly believed that, I knew I needed a new profession. Through no particular brilliance or foresight on my part, I found myself on the leading edge of the fledgling new profession of financial planning. That led to a new business venture and a training manual that was published as two books (a peculiar twist of fate brought that about). Those books led to two more business books. Then I chronicled a horseback trip I took across Texas with a covered wagon. That memoir inspired the other books.

When you begin to write a story, do you know how it’s going to end? 

Almost always. However, the ending often changes as the story develops. I like to have an ending in mind so I can foreshadow it, hopefully without the reader noticing. To paraphrase Chekhov, if there is a rifle on the wall in the first chapter, it had better be fired at some point. Knowing the ending is like having a road map. I am inspired to keep a steady course toward the end.

Author Bio

Jim H. Ainsworth is an award-winning author of seven novels, one story collection, one memoir, and many newspaper, magazine and blog articles. A former CPA, CFP, CLU and stockbroker, he authored four business books, qualified for the Registry of Financial Planning Practitioners, and was twice named one of the most influential accountants in America.  A former team roper and owner of a western wear and tack store, Jim led a covered wagon and horseback trip across Texas.

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Where do you find inspiration for your characters?