Q: When did the idea come together to collect some of your stories into a book?
As I explain in the introduction, the idea was suggested to me by “Dobro Dick” Dillof, whom I wrote a story about in the spring of 2010. He had done some looking in the archives of The Billings Gazette and suggested that I had done enough profiles of Montana people and places to gather a bunch of them together.
Q: You’re originally from Minnesota. How did you come to call the Big Sky State home?
Almost entirely by accident. I came out here to go to school in 1973 because my brother had been out to Montana and I had this vague notion in my mind that it sounded like an interesting place. Once I got here, it didn’t take me long to fall in love with the place. I spent five years back in Minnesota in the mid-1980s, but otherwise I’ve been in Montana since 1973.
Q: How do you find these fascinating characters?
It usually happens that they find me, or are suggested to me by other people. It’s amazing how many times really interesting people I’m interviewing suddenly start telling me about somebody else I really need to talk to. And I keep my ears and eyes open. It sounds simple, but it really pays off.
Q: Fifty-two weeks a year, your City Lights column runs in The Billings Gazette. Do you ever run out of ideas?
Close readers of the column will notice that I have on occasion run out of ideas. But there is no inspiration that quite compares with the ticking of a clock. That’s one thing I love about working for a newspaper. You are not allowed the luxury of waiting for the muse to strike. Sometimes you have to chase her down and order her to get to work. Failing that, you plow ahead without her.
Q: In the spirit of these Twitter-pated times, can you describe Montana in 140 characters or fewer?
Hell, Kittredge and Smith did it in four words: The Last Best Place. So let’s see: It’s like the Smithsonian; you’re awestruck as soon as you walk in the door, but you could go on exploring it for the rest of your life and it just gets better
Q: How do I keep up with you online?
Q: What advice would you give to a writer just starting out?
Read a lot of good books, for inspiration. And occasionally read a bad one, for the same reason. And then write, whether it’s a story, an essay, a letter, a journal or a bird-watching notebook, whatever. Just keep writing until writing seems like the most natural thing in the world. But don’t fret; it will never be that easy.
Q: I’ve written something and need some feedback. Will you take a look at it?
At the moment, I’m 55 years old and about 20 years behind on my reading list. So I’m going to have to say no.
Q: What’s a perfect day for Ed Kemmick?
I won’t describe the whole day, just the essential elements: Good food, good coffee, good beer, Lisa, my three daughters, both dogs, lots of music, some reading and two hours of outdoor hockey. Oh, and a Scrabble game in which I used all my letters twice and beat Lisa by three points.
Q: Which do you find more stimulating to your creativity, writing or playing music?
Hard to say. What’s best is writing until I need a break, and the break is playing music.
Q: The Big Sky, By and By includes a short story, Charlie and Noodle. Any plans to make more forays into fiction?
Yes, and more than that I will not say. I hear it’s bad luck.
Q: What’s the best beer brewed in Montana?
At Carter’s Brewing on Montana Avenue in downtown Billings, Mike, the owner, used to make something he called Mother’s Milk. I think it was an Extra Special Bitter, or something like that, and it lived up to the name. Mike makes lots of good beer, but that was the best I’ve ever had.