Weird West Author Spotlight: Tammy Salyer

Welcome, Tammy!

Tammy Salyer is the author of the Military SF Spectras Arise series, the Epic Fantasy Shackled Verities series, the Weird West Otherworld Outlaws series, and numerous pieces of short fiction. Former paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division, Tammy traded in her M-16 for a MacBook in 1999 and definitely prefers the peace and quiet. Her works have been described as “grittier than a grunt’s pile of three-week-old field gear” and been praised for their “compelling plots, intriguing characters and a pretty spectacular worlds.” When not hunched like a Morlock over her writing desk, Tammy is usually outdoors getting cycle-therapy, going paddleboarding, and hiking with her husband in Southern California and Oregon.

Learn more about Tammy at her website: www.tammysalyer.com.

About the Otherworld Outlaw Series

The Otherworld Outlaws series includes: Gnome on the Range, Deadwood or Alive, and Hex ’Em High (Dec. 10, 2022).

A sawbones fae with a supernatural-sized grudge, a necromancer gnome obsessed with pixie dust, and a hoodoo cowgirl with a Sharps buffalo rifle and damn good aim—the Tuatha Dé Danann will never know what hit ’em.

Interview with Tammy Salyer

Tell us about yourself – what is something readers would be surprised to find out? 

I’ve been writing novels for almost fifteen years now. My first (Contract of Defiance: Spectras Arise 1) took seven to complete and another two to revise to a point where I felt confident self-publishing it. I was lucky that the self-publishing revolution had begun by that point, and I became completely swept away by it. I may never have entertained the thought of being prolific (if you can call an average of two novels a year prolific) if I hadn’t joined the revolution. I love the DIY mentality, and there’s nothing as punk and DIY as writing the book you’ve always wanted to read (to paraphrase the great Toni Morrison).

Something readers may find surprising about me is that I, despite being a peace, pot, microdot hippie, spent three years in the US Army as a paratrooper for the 82nd Airborne Division. My reasons for joining were almost a stereotype: I wanted to jump out of planes and abhorred the idea of taking out student loans for college, so I used the Army as a college fund that only cost me my time (and possibly sanity, but that’s a chicken-egg question if there ever was one). Despite the many differences extant between my belief and value structures and the Army’s, I came away from it with something I never expected: the seeds for my first novel. Even though I’m writing mainly fantasy now, my first series was military sci-fi, and based on the reviews readers have left me, the story has really struck a chord with others who either are or were military or have an affinity for the military genre. I think, as much as anything, the positive feedback that first series brought me has been a huge affirmation and given me massive motivation to keep writing.

What is it about the Weird West genre that draws you to it? What are your favorite aspects or examples of this Under-appreciated genre? 

Ooh, this is such a fabulous question. It’s going to be hard to answer without writing a novel about it, in fact, but I’ll do my best. (We writers are never at a loss for words, are we, unless we’re up against a deadline, that is.) First of all, it’s kind of a no-brainer that, as a Gen Xer, I saw the movies Young Guns and Young Guns II at a pretty impressionable age. I don’t know what it’s called when you develop antihero worship for a dead 19th century serial killer, but suffice it to say that I became a kind of William Bonney, aka Billy the Kid, aficionado after seeing those films.

Going back even further, rumor has it that my great-great-uncle was Bill Cody, otherwise known as Buffalo Bill of Wild West Show fame. I don’t know if it’s true, but that’s what my mom says, so why not? That, along with my being born in Kansas, means it’s not a hard stretch of the imagination to see where my fascination with the Old West came from. When I was a little girl, we’d drive a few miles from my hometown and visit the wagon-wheel ruts that still ran across Kansas from the Great Western Migration in the 1800s. How many tens of thousands of people, horses, and oxen had to travel across the plains of Kansas for the ground to still hold their memory over a hundred years later? Pretty wild stuff.

Through the years, my fascination has never waned. I’ve read a bookshelf full of Louis L’Amour, (but no Zane Grey, oddly), seen all the great newer Westerns (but not many of the old Spaghetti Westerns, to be frank. I prefer movies with women as main characters, so those rarely have much to hold my attention—and have you been watching Killing Eve???). I love the hardened lone-wolf archetype who’s quick with a gun and short on conversation, and my readers can probably easily see that I modeled certain of my Otherworld Outlaws characters on that old standby. In some ways, my main character, Lula, grew out of the tough, unconquerable stock of the pioneers of the time, people who had to be harder and stronger than the world that was, in a lot of cases, actively trying to kill them. 

Finally, and this is going to come as no surprise, the most contemporary and one of the most entertaining Western-themed influences I’ve been inspired by was the Deadwood TV series, which, as a friend once described it to me, was what it would sound like if Shakespeare had written a Western. Such a good series! And I have to give a special shout out to the Coen Brothers’ Ballad of Buster Scruggs, especially the vignette starring Tom Waits, whom I love with every cell in my body. And that’s just the Western side of the Weird West. Hoo-boy, I do prattle on, don’t I?

So in the spirit of brevity, the thing that draws me to the Weird part of the genre is simple: It’s the difference between eating your hominy grits plain or flavored. Why have boring old grits when you can add some seriously good seasoning? And why stop at butter when you might add something really zingy, like say, a dash of cayenne or a slice or two of dragonfruit?

What inspired you to write this story?

The Otherworld Outlaws series was born out of a desire to move into a lighter genre. I had just completed the four-book dark fantasy Shackled Verities series that was heavy with themes about loss, grief, fear, betrayal, redemption and so on, and my psyche was begging me to “Chill out a little, why don’t you?” I’d started and left incomplete numerous short Western Fantasy stories over the years, and being the weathered old high plains drifter that I’ve become, I thought I’d finally reached a point where I could finally tackle and finish a decent, and hopefully fun and entertaining, story in the genre. Feedback has been positive so far, and I’ve been really enjoying writing them, so I don’t see an end to this series coming anytime soon. 

If you were living in the Weird West, what kind of character would you be?

No question at all that I’d be a necromancer witch. The Old West was a dangerous place, and being able to summon an undead ally or ten when needed would always be a handy trick to have. And honestly, who doesn’t want to be a witch?

Are there any other writing projects you’re working on?

I’m a one-story-at-a-time kinda girl.

What are you reading right now? 

I try not to read too many books in whatever genre I’m currently writing while I’m writing it to ensure I don’t let the stories I’m reading subconsciously influence my creations too much. That being said, I just finished Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher and ab-so-lute-ly LOVED it! The magic and imagination Kingfisher brings to the page is unparalleled. She can make even the most horrific and harrowing events light and fun, but still retain the depth and intensity those moments need. She’s a true word wizard, and I consume nearly everything she writes. In fact, I’ve read The Twisted Ones twice in the last year because it was such a great story.

Favorite weird west movie/book/comic/etc. and why?

Definitely have to go with the Gunslinger: Dark Tower 1 by Stephen King. I’ve been a voracious King-o-phile since childhood, and his vision is always compelling and wrenching. 

Anything else you’d like to add about writing or the Weird West?

The third book in the Otherworld Outlaws series will be coming out December 10, 2022. Lovers of the genre can visit my website to find retailer links to the series, as well as all my other books. https://www.tammysalyer.com/otherworld-outlaws

Learn more about Author Tammy Salyer and Her Weird West Tales:

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