Q&A with Watt Key on Fourmile
Q: What sparked your imagination for Fourmile?
A: I’ve always admired the simple tightness and structure of classic western novels. I wanted to create a story structured the same way, yet in a contemporary setting.
Q: As a kid, did you grow up with a dog in the family?
A: I had two dogs as a kid, both of them strays that I adopted. The one closest to me I named Joe. He was very similar to Foster’s dog in Fourmile. I found him in a giant swamp across the highway from our house and he became my friend for several years. He kept me company while I made tree forts and traps in the woods. I fed Joe at the house, but he lived outside and roamed freely. He usually appeared next to me somewhere between my back door and the swamp. One day I crossed the highway alone and a few minutes later he came after me. I heard tires squealing and ran back to find a car pulled into the ditch and Joe lying dead on the roadside. At first I was very emotional and didn’t want to touch him. I ran back home to tell my father. My younger siblings were also very attached to Joe so Dad told me to bury him before they saw him lying there. This made me feel very much a man of the family and helped me through the ordeal. I grew up a lot through that episode. Joe is buried in the swamp where I found him.
Q: Gary serves as a sort of father figure for Foster, but in the end, he isn’t the person that Foster thinks he is. Despite that, do you think Gary was a positive influence on him?
A: We see in the story that Gary had a lot of potential to be a good man and father. But he made some decisions in life that were either bad or unfortunate and he’s on a path of self-destruction. During his time at Fourmile Gary mentors Foster as he would have done his own son. In the end Foster learns that his hero is flawed, but their time together has had an overwhelmingly positive impact on his life. And these flaws help Foster understand why this man can’t ultimately be the person he needs.
Q: What was the most difficult scene to write?
A: Certainly the shoot-out at the end of the novel. With so much violence in entertainment these days it’s tricky to impress people without an overload of it. I find myself thinking of ways to do these scenes so that the violence is not gratuitous, yet still done in an original way that is interesting to the reader and adds to the story.
Q: Did westerns have any effect on your writing style for Fourmile?
A: Fourmile was modeled after Shane, my favorite western.
Q: Foster and Gary part ways at the end of Fourmile . Do you think that they should ever cross paths again?
A: I don’t think so. I see Gary as an emotional and mental time bomb. He was able to hide that from Foster and do some good while he was at Fourmile farm. At the end of the story Gary has “fixed” Foster, but he hasn’t fixed himself. My instincts tell me that it’s too late for Gary to ever become the man he wanted to be and that Foster and Linda need.