I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Author Jim Andersen to Layered Pages today. Shortly after the walk Jim quit his job at the paper mill and moved to Austin, Nevada where he lived for 32 years. While in Austin–chronicled in his first book ‘Lost in Austin’ (University of Nevada Press, 2009)–he worked various jobs, finally settling into positions of deputy sheriff for eleven years and Justice of the Peace for twelve. Jim is currently retired and living in Pahrump, Nevada, with his wife of 30 years, Val. He has one daughter, two stepsons and a cat.
Thank you for talking with me today, Jim. How did you discover indieBRAG?
Purely by chance. I was looking into ways I might promote the book and just came across indieBrag on one of the searches. It looked and sounded professional, and their function was clearly stated, short and to the point, all of which appealed to me.
How has your self-publishing journey been thus far?
Swift. My other book was published by a University Press and took three years from the time it was accepted to the day it was printed. I mean we’re burnin’ daylight here, and none of us know how much daylight we’ve got left to burn so that’s certainly a consideration. The other thing I liked was the latitude I was given. I really did have the final say on everything from the cover design to the punctuation. The only thing I would have changed would be the photos accompanying the text. For some reason, I thought the publisher would edit them a little as to focus and lighting. However, I had total control over that too even though I wasn’t aware of it, so it wasn’t their fault. The pictures are acceptable, they just aren’t as grabbing as they could have been.
Please tell me about your book, Sometimes a Great Notion…Isn’t, so much.
The ‘Great Notion’ was to get listed in the Guinness Book of World Records, a fad that swept the nation in the manner of the ‘pet rock’ craze or the Macarena dance. In the late sixties, everybody was talking about the record book and trying to find some way to get listed. I came up with the idea of walking from 14,496′ Mt. Whitney to Death Valley’s Badwater, at 282 feet below sea level; until Alaska joined the Union in 1959 those were the highest and lowest points in the entire United States. My book documents the seven-day 143-mile trek I and three of my friends made, with the help of a support party and a lot of moleskin.
Would you undertake a challenge like that again?
What is one of the high points of this journey?
Mt. Whitney. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.) I suppose the high point would be early in the walk, on the second day from Whitney. We’d hiked a bit off course to get to a phone booth located in the old town of Keeler, where I called home and my stepdaughter told me the Oakland Tribune newspaper had run a Sunday article on our trip. It was from an interview done a couple weeks earlier and contained our picture and these final words which I still know by heart because they made such an impression on us; “If all goes well, four figures dressed in ghostly white will emerge from the shimmering desert near Badwater in eight to ten days.” Any thoughts of quitting that might have been skittering around the corners of our thoughts were expunged by that beckoning vision, at least for the time being.
Describe Death Valley.
It’s well-named. The summer heat out there itself holds a world record in the Guinness book–134° logged on July 10, 1913. A person can’t function very long, if at all, in that kind of heat. We didn’t measure the air temperature on our walk, but we did take a reading of the ground temperature with a meat thermometer in Panamint Valley and it was 165° just before noon. I would say the heat we encountered was just short of debilitating in Death Valley, even at night. And the walking surface out there was the worst on the trip–jagged rocks and salt pinnacles. If you’re already beat half to death, it’s a bad place to put yourself.
Did you and your friends meet others along the way and what was that like?
We met very few people once we hit the Mojave Desert. And outside of a ranger on Mt. Whitney, I don’t recall talking to anybody except a few drivers while we were walking the roads. They kept offering us a lift. You have no idea how hard that was to turn down. Our campsites we just set up whenever we got too tired to walk. We’d scouted the route and had several wide spots scoped out and we even used one or two of them. Nobody ever came around our camps.
What was your learning experience while writing this story?
Well I intended to keep a daily journal the entire trip so I wouldn’t have to trust to memory, but that sort of went by the wayside after a couple days, when the focus somehow shifted from keeping a record to just keeping upright, period. So, I did have to trust to memory which can be a little scary if you’re really concerned with getting the right happenings in the right order. I am sure of the book’s overall accuracy but I wouldn’t want to swear to the details. You just have to recall things the best you can and get on to the next page. So, I learned you should keep good notes if you intend to write about some event in particular.
Do you have any new writing projects in the works?
Not at the moment. My wife and I are in the process of moving to a new house in Nevada so I’m just too busy. There. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.
Where can readers buy your book?
Amazon is about the only place at this time, but we hope to place them in both Mt. Whitney’s lodge and the visitor’s center at Furnace Creek. Hopefully, this interview may even help with that stuff.
Thank you, Jim!
To purchase this book, click HERE to the Amazon links.
A message from indieBRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Jim Andersen who is the author of, Sometimes a Great Notion…Isn’t, so much, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Sometimes a Great Notion…Isn’t, so much, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.