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Creative Pagosa: Steven W. Kohlhagen

The Pagosa Arts & Culture Project is building a web-based directory of all the creative people and businesses in the community. By creating this website, it will make these MAKERS easier to find in online search engines and help share the wealth of innovative and talented individuals that call our small town home.

This sort of database is called “cultural mapping” and is being done by communities around the country in order to realize and recognize the value of their creative assets.

The Pagosa Arts & Culture Project is establishing the groundwork for continued collaboration and cooperation and promotional efforts of the combined community. The goal of the project is to establish a solid foundation of cultural and creative individuals and businesses, to create a viable plan for promoting these assets and to promote the Pagosa area as a worthy place of residence for creative people, a productive place for creative business ventures and a desirable destination for arts tourism.

At present, the PACP is also planning an event for fall 2013. The event, the MAKERS Expo &Tour, is set for this weekend, Saturday and Sunday Oct. 12-13.

To register and be listed in the database, go to http://pagosaacp.org/Register.html.

In order to highlight the MAKERS in Pagosa, the PACP will profile its members, giving readers of The PREVIEW a sense of the depth and breadth of the creative community.

Photo courtesy Steve Kohlhagen Pagosa author Steven Kohlhagen, a member of the Pagosa Arts and Culture Project, writes historical fiction murder mysteries. His latest work, “Where They Bury You,” is an 1860s historical fiction murder mystery based on an actual murder southwest of Pagosa.

Photo courtesy Steve Kohlhagen
Pagosa author Steven Kohlhagen, a member of the Pagosa Arts and Culture Project, writes historical fiction murder mysteries. His latest work, “Where They Bury You,” is an 1860s historical fiction murder mystery based on an actual murder southwest of Pagosa.

This week’s MAKER is Steven W. Kohlhagen.

Tell us a little about who you are, where you were born, educated, your family, growing up and how you came to be doing your creative work?

“I was born in Vienna, Austria, a natural born U.S. citizen (my father was in the U.S. Army occupation forces), then spent my childhood in the high desert (Texas, Colorado, and Washington on the Idaho border). My undergraduate education was in economics at the College of William and Mary and graduate school was Stanford (Ph.D. economics). Professionally, I was a professor of international economics and finance at U.C. Berkeley for 10 years, then spent 20 years on Wall Street in investment banking (in derivatives — yes, those derivatives!).

“Gale Gibson Kohlhagen and I have been married for 44 years. We have lived in Chromo since I retired in 2002 (and spend our winters in Charleston, S.C.). Our two sons, Tron and Kristoff, live in Washington, D.C. Tron is a commercial real estate lawyer and the father of our 1-year-old grandson, Jack. Kristoff is working on African peacekeeping efforts and with children affected by sub-Saharan violence.

“More than 30 years ago, Gale and a colleague of mine at Berkeley convinced me that fiction based on interesting characterizations was worth reading. After decades of reading, I decided to retire and write novels myself. Before Gale decided in 2008 that she didn’t want to write fiction anymore, she and I jointly wrote “Tiger Found,” a missing persons murder mystery. “Where They Bury You,” published by Sunstone Press this month, is an 1860s historical fiction murder mystery based on an actual murder southwest of Pagosa. In fact, the novel ends with the survivors explicitly headed to the hot springs here (spoiler: and the sequel opens with them in the hot springs 150 years ago nearly to this day).

“My passions are my family, baseball, chocolate, movies, hiking in the high desert, writing and the history of the West.”

Describe the objects you make or the creative work you do.

“I create interesting fictional characters in historical fiction murder mysteries. The characters actually write the stories and the book. It’s a dirty little secret that the characters actually write the novel. The author only … well, see the answer to the next question.”

What is your favorite tool or material used in making your work?  Why?

“My characters (see above). If you create interesting characters and place them in scenes where they can write successfully, interesting stories will surely follow. Elmore Leonard (sadly just deceased) once was asked how he decided which characters would die. He said, essentially, ‘If a character becomes boring, I kill him.’ That’s the flip side.”

Do you have a regular routine or schedule?

“No. In addition to writing, I’m on several corporate boards, I go hiking, and I spend time with family and friends. I feel it’s important to write when I can and then give the characters a much-needed break whenever they deserve it.”

What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?

“Do good work and lots of it (from a friend and business partner).”

When you’re not making art, what is your favorite thing to do in Pagosa Country?

“Hike.”

What are your goals for the coming year?

“To attend Kristoff and Becca’s wedding. To finish the sequel. To have all four of my fantasy baseball teams win their championship. To travel less!”

What is your dream project?

“To someday write a book where I am 100 percent satisfied with the process and the product, and know that my characters would enjoy reading it … oops, that’s the second one: my real dream project is to be the best grandfather I can be!”

This story was posted on October 10, 2013.
  • cheryl wilk

    hmmm. all was going well until I got to “to travel less” goal.