welcomes as our guest Carew Papritz, also
known as The Cowboy Philosopher. Carew is the author of The
Legacy Letters and is also a
former actor and at the age of give he appeared on the TV show,
He is a
graduate of UCLA in film making and worked on music videos (Madonna,
REM, U2), really low-budget movies, and he even worked with Marlon
Brando and Johnny Depp (a name-dropping high point in his LA life). He
left his career as a filmmaker in Hollywood, and returned to his
ranching roots, worked as a cowboy on a cattle ranch in the Southwest
where he began writing his book The
the book won acclaim as a life lessons book for all generations,
gaining the distinction of being the only book in publishing history
to win awards in both fiction and non-fiction categories. A
Renaissance Man in an age that lauds the specialist, The Huffington
Post says Papritz "intrigues and enlightens, charms and
catalyzes change for every reader."
Norm: Good Day Carew and Thanks for participating in our interview. Please tell our readers a little about The Legacy Letters.
At its heart, The Legacy Letters is a “love story about life” and how one man, who would never live to see his children, conveys to his family how to live life to its fullest. Here’s the publisher’s description:
“In a race against time and separated from his loved ones through tragic circumstances, a dying father discloses to us his most intimate and hopeful thoughts about life and love through private letters to his wife and his children.
Ultimately revealed within the letters is the father’s extraordinary emotional and spiritual journey. In his race with death, writing with inspired clarity and passion, the father transforms his words of self-discovery and wisdom, interwoven between deeply moving personal stories and poignantly-told memories, into the practical, moral, and spiritual guidebook for his children he’d never live to see, and for his wife, his redemptive act of love.”
Now what’s unusual—and as far as I know the only time it’s been done in publishing history—is that the book in your hand is the appetizer to the “big” book, which is The Legacy Letters—Complete (over 200 letters). And if the “Big Book” is dinner, dessert is the songs that the father left behind for his children and wife. Thus there will be music along with the big book—either by CD or through a download.
Everyone seems to love the idea, especially after reading the first book—they want more. And that’s the fun of continuing this “Legacy Experience.” It doesn’t just end with the first book.
As written on the front jacket flap from the children to the readers: Out of the more than two hundred letters written by our father, our family eventually chose over forty for the publication of this particular book. Our most difficult task was deciding not only which letters to leave in, but which to take out, for many are wise as others are magical, many enlightening as others are haunting.”
I’ve been extremely fortunate that the book has won 5 national awards, including the Mom’s Choice Awards. And the hard work we put into the cover and interior design of the work garnered it several finalist awards for book design. My feeling was that the beauty and power of the words themselves needed to be both seen and felt. When I see someone literally rubbing their fingers over the cover and commenting on the feel of the paper, I feel like a proud papa.
Norm: What motivated you to write The Legacy Letters and what were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
The inspiration behind The Legacy Letters?—I had an
early mid-life crisis . . . I wasn’t in need of a new wife and a
Cadillac. (Besides, I wasn’t married and I drove an old beat-up
Chevy.) What I needed was the opportunity to take my soul out for a
long, long walk.
While working in Hollywood on feature films in the art department, I realized that the celluloid bright-lights lifestyle I was living was making me materially richer but spiritually depleted. The long journey back to reclaim my soul began with a series of “drive-abouts” throughout the Western United Sates and ended up in a small bar in Southern Arizona. I asked an old cowboy if there was any work nearby and he told me about a fencing job “far from the heck and gone.”
Thirty miles by dirt road and with not a house in sight, I ended up at my job on the open range putting up post holes and barbed wire fence—mostly alone and for days on end. Twenty-five years had gone by since I had last seriously picked up the pen, and like a god-given divining rod, that pen roared back to life. For six months, I worked by day, washing in a horse trough, cooking by campfire, and living in a tent. At night, I wrote by lantern light on the back of my pickup.
In a sense, I had come full circle. When I was growing up, my grandfather had a small ranch in Washington State. And now, here I was, back on a ranch, working as a cowboy in the high mountains of the Great Sonoran Desert. Imagine a place where the stars are so bright at night that they almost hurt your eyes. Imagine not seeing a soul for days on end. Imagine what true quiet is—the noise of wind and rain, coyotes and birds, grass rustling and the chink of the pickaxe against the hard soil.
I had come back “home” to write this book. This is where I reclaimed my soul and began the life I was always supposed to live—but never knew quite how to find. Only by giving up the security of everything I knew could I then begin to discover everything I was meant to know. The Legacy Letters was the genesis of this amazing journey that I am continuing, even to this present day.
My goals and intentions? To write the great American novel, of course! Doesn’t every writer want to write that? Actually my goals were like every other writer—to finish the darn book.
The Legacy Letters was much like Michelangelo’s famous quote about his creating the statue of David in which (and I’ll paraphrase), “All I had to do was chip away at the marble. The statue was always inside.” When you create a non-genre book, you initially have no compass. You just have this overwhelming sense of creative responsibility to bring this single idea into the world. Then you begin to write and write and write and soon you start to discover where the words want to go, and you have to follow. It’s the darnedest way to write. But in the end, you write a universe that has never existed before, and that’s the amazing journey of it all.
As an artist, I felt I had given life—fully formed— to this genesis of an idea within me. But ultimately, how well this “life” I had created was to be received by the world—well, as a writer you never know. You just write your heart out and then send your baby out into the world. That’s the fate of all writers.
Norm: Can you share some stories about people you met while writing and researching this book?
Carew: I really loved and lived the cowboy life—and still do. You really do become part of the earth and sky. You really do fall in love with the animals you care for. You really do become part of the rhythm of the seasons. And you really do become intimate with life and death. It is a hard life because so much depends on the alliance one has with nature. Rain, or lack of it. Too much snow. Mountains lions. Disease. Fences coming down. Wildfires. Let alone the normal manmade problems of just trying to exist.
One day I was working on another ranch, gathering cattle (or a roundup, as it’s also known). This old cowboy and I rode along a series of ridges looking for cattle to flush out of the brush. He was old in the sense that it was difficult for him to even get into his saddle but, once there, he rode like was born atop that horse. It was towards the end of the day when we got to chatting a bit. I found out, as with most cowboys, he didn’t “have a pot to piss in” (which translates as little to no retirement). But the older ranching world looks after its own and he was given a small cabin to live out his days in while he watched over someone else’s ranch.
Confessions don’t come easy to anyone, let alone a cowboy. But it was just the prettiest sunset of a moment and we had worked a good day together. I’ll never forgot what he said next and that was now many years ago and it seems like yesterday.
“I really have loved
this life. I love being a cowboy. It’s all I know. I know I
don’t have any money but I have lived a great life being outdoors
doing what I love. That pretty much makes me the richest man on
Norm: Is there much of you in the book?
Norm: What was the most difficult part of writing this book and what did you enjoy most about writing this book?
And when you write a wisdom-giving book that wisdom better be worth reading. It better be told in a way that is fresh, fascinating, and timeless otherwise your wisdom-giving quickly becomes wisdom-garbage. Only after being neck deep in the thickets of my writing The Legacy Letters did I realize what a wisdom-giving problem I created for myself and consequently had to solve.
But now when I hear from
people how many times they’ve re-read the book, I know that all the
re-rewriting and editing was worth it. (At a recent book signing, a
woman told me she had re-read the book 12 times, which made that
20-foot stack of drafts shrink to almost nothing . . .)
Norm: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Carew: Funny enough, I woke up one day several years back and realized I was not only an author but a philosopher. Here I had written this book that essentially was one man’s philosophy on how to live life—practically, morally, and spiritually. And this book was not some walk in the park, la-de-da book on how to make lemonade out of lemons. This book really dug into the intricacies of living all aspects of life—work, travel, marriage, money, love, raising children—you name it, the book probably covers it. But a philosopher? Nobody grows up saying, “I want to be a philosopher.” A cowboy, yes. A filmmaker or an actor—absolutely. A fireman—why not? But a philosopher? The writing of The Legacy Letters had made a philosopher out of me—and that was one of the biggest surprises of all.
Norm: What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
Carew: Deep down I think it’s the nakedness of the writing—the soul-revealing honesty and the open-hearted genuiness that people are responding to. Because the words were forged in a place and time of deep soul searching, they resonate with people who are hungry to find meaning in their lives again. In this day and age, it seems we are hungrier than ever to find some semblance of meaning, purpose, and most importantly, hope in our lives. The Legacy Letters seems to be the comfort food—or the “comfort book” that people are looking for.
Secondly, the reviews are voicing what the readers are saying. As a writer giving voice to a message, I could not ask for more.
The Huffington Post says about the book: "A Must-Read Book of Wisdom for Life...exquisite, intimate, passionate, humorous, and genuine..." And Woman’s World Magazine writes, “This inspirational classic is the perfect comfort book for people hungry to find meaning in their lives.”
Both these wonderful reviews really get to the heart of the book and why it’s doing so well.
Lastly, and as I mentioned earlier in the interview, I’m really proud of the look and feel of the book, which matches the spiritual and visceral emotion of the words themselves. The Legacy Letters—it’s a beautiful home to gaze upon and then so graciously invites you in to look around—and better yet, to stay.
Carew:10 years. That’s a long time in anyone’s book. (And that’s for the completion of all 200 letters!) I believe it took Charles Frazier, the author of the bestselling “Cold Mountain,” eight years to finish his manuscript. I never thought in a billion years that it would take me ten. After I finished, I understood why.
Major events? In ten years, a lot can happen. Much life. Some death. The best was wrangling my wife-to-be while I was a cowboy. The other best was the birth of our son. Oh, and finishing The Legacy Letters . . .
Norm: How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?
Carew: That’s like asking a polar bear why he has fur. I am my book and my book is me.
Norm: It is said that writers should write what they know. Were there any elements of the book that forced you to step out of your comfort zone, and if so, how did you approach this part of the writing?
Carew: Norm, the whole darn book was out of my comfort zone. In The Legacy Letters, I dealt with wisdom-giving that is practical, moral, and spiritual, combined with a storyline wrapped in a tragedy, writing in the solitude of a mountain cabin, dealing with death while writing about the hope of life, all in a voice that is simultaneously part cowboy and rancher, part Lincoln and Shakespeare, part small-town newspaper editor and poet, part husband and father-to-be. And it was all written in first person, and had to read as if it was being written in the moment!
My editor and I approached each letter so that it was its own story which could be read and enjoyed entirely on its own. And it really works. I have great fun at book signings actually guaranteeing the reader that they if they read any page in the book, they will turn to the next page—or their money back. You can’t believe the look on their faces! That is how confident I am of how well each sentence, paragraph, and letter works in the book. And the big surprise? Almost everyone reads more than one page. And they keep reading and reading, and I keep smiling and smiling.
Norm: Do you feel that writers, regardless of genre owe something to readers, if not, why not, if so, why and what would that be?
Readers always know when they are reading passion. That’s why writers owe it to their readers to be selfish with their passions.
Heart first, hammer second. If you write what you love, then you have to translate this love into words—and that is the craft of writing. You can have all the heart in the world but if you don’t have the craft—the ability to translate emotions and ideas into words—then forget being a writer. And the craft is tough—the rewriting, rewriting, and more rewriting to discover the perfect balance of words, clarity, and emotion.
And craft takes time. More time than you would ever imagine to really become a good writer. What do you ultimately owe your audience? Your mastery of the craft of wielding words that excite, move, and inspire your readers.
Norm: Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they
In our modern-day fast-paced lives, we readily hide away that which is the deep and slow and pure within us—our empathy, compassion, and communion with others. I’m told time and time again by readers that The Legacy Letters reminds them again of what is important in life. Whether it be the importance of saying please and thank you, or the beauty and tragedies that befall us in marriage, or the everything and nothing of money.
And what really moves and humbles me is when I read a passage from the book and inevitably someone will be crying with a smile on their face. At that point I am the author no more. I am just the messenger who has just received another extraordinary message.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and The Legacy Letters?
Carew: Of course, you can find it on MY WEBSITE. Also, I hope this helps your readers—I asked one of my distributors, Pathway Books, to give 40% off the retail price. Click on the following LINK and at checkout put the following code in the discount code box: legacy40
Your local Barnes & Noble should carry it as well as your local independent bookstore. If it’s not in stock, please ask them to order it.
Carew: Be on the lookout for the next “first ever” book signing! (Let me explain . . .)
The main theme of my book is “living life to the fullest.” So I decided to walk my talk and live my book, while at the same time shaking up the book industry a bit. I’ve had a blast creating all of these “first ever” and unique book signing events. (Check them out on the website: www.thelegacyletters.com. The photos and videos are really fun!)
First-ever modern-day whistle-stop book tour along the entire East Coast
First-ever digital book signing by an independently-published author (and on horseback while riding up to Barnes & Noble)
First-ever book signing on top of an active volcano (Mt. St. Helens) and with a live radio show.
Signed books while river rafting and atop the Space Needle
Created the “Pop-Up book signing!
Signed books and sang with the Naked Cowboy in Times Square at outside The Today Show.
In just one year, I did over 100 book signings over 50 radio and numerous TV interviews.
Because I so strongly believe in The Legacy Letters and the powerful message it brings to the world, I have no choice but to live, eat, and breathe the marketing of this book to make sure it is read by everyone possible on this planet. (With that being said, I am now selling the international rights to the book to over 10 different countries!)
I’ve got some really fun “first evers” coming up this next year. If you want to know what’s going on with these book signings or just plain want to stay in touch, then drop by www.thelegacyletters.com and sign up for my newsletter. Trust me, you won’t get a bunch of newsletters. Because I’m such a “writer,” it takes me forever to turn them out. I rewrite them until their actually fun to read!
Norm: As this interview comes to an end what question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has?
Hmmm . . . Do you really write with your cowboy hat on?
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors
Thank you, Norm, I really enjoyed your questions. And thanks to your readers! It was great being part of a Bookpleasures.com interview. Take care!