Texas Writers Month Author Interview Series: Joe Nick Patoski

author interview

Celebrating Texas Writers Month with us today is Joe Nick Patoski (Wimberley).

Comment by May 26 to win a copy of Patoski’s 2011 release, Generations on the Land: A Conservation Legacy, courtesy of Texas A&M Press. Increase your chances of winning by subscribing to this blog through Feedburner. Giveaway for U.S. residents only.

author interview

Joe Nick’s most recent biography is Willie Nelson: An Epic Life, released after his earlier biographies of Selena and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

In 2003-4, Joe Nick recorded the oral histories of B.B. King, Clarence Fountain of the Blind Boys of Alabama, Memphis musician and producer Jim Dickinson, Tejano superstar Little Joe Hernandez, and 15 other subjects for the Voice of Civil Rights oral history project, some of which appeared in the book My Soul Looks Back in Wonder by Juan Williams, and rode on the The Voices of Civil Rights bus tour, a 70 day journey across the nation where personal oral histories on civil rights were collected for the Library of Congress.

UT Press has published his coffee table books–Texas Mountains, Texas Coast, and Big Bend National Park. He spent 18 years as a staff writer for Texas Monthly and more recently has written for the Texas Observer, National Geographic, No Depression, People magazine, Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine, Field & Stream, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Big Bend Sentinel, Southwest Spirit, American Way, the Austin Chronicle, Harp, and TimeOut New York, among others. He also contributed an essay to the photo book Conjunto by John Dyer.

Joe Nick serves as a Grammy Crafts Committee Judge for the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences.


An avid swimmer and kayaker, the author is currently collaborating with Eddie Wilson, founder of the Armadillo World Headquarters, on his memoirs.

Q. Are you a native Texan or did you get here as soon as you could?

A. I was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania. My family moved to Fort Worth when I was two. I’ve been trying to figure out Texas and Texans ever since.

Q. How did you end up writing nonfiction?

A. I always did well in English composition in junior high and high school. With encouragement of my teachers and the appearance of publications such as Rolling Stone, Creem, and Crawdaddy, I got it in my head to pursue music journalism as a career path, such as it was, two years out of high school, while knocking around several colleges and also pursuing a career path as a radio disc jockey. So it started with music and has expanded over the years to a larger canvas. Music is one of the paths to getting into a culture. So are food and sports.

Q. What book marketing activities made you a bestselling author?

A. I’m not sure if my website, blog, and Facebook activity have much to do with whatever reading audience I’ve cultivated. I attribute it more to working as a staff writer at Texas Monthly for 18 years, Rolling Stone for six years in the 1970s, and writing for other publications, most with Texas somewhere in the title.

Q. Tell us about your latest release. Is it set in Texas?

A.Two of the nine families profiled in my most recent book, Generations on the Land: A Conservation Legacy (Texas A&M Press) are in Texas. My next book, an unauthorized cultural history of the Dallas Cowboys, is all about Texas. My writing is pretty much informed by Texas.

Q. Where can we pay you a virtual visit?

A. www.joenickp.com or friend me on Facebook.

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  1. Mr. Patoski’s work overall appeals to me because I am a native Texan and love all things Texas! The celebration not only of agriculture but also the conservation of our land will merit my read.

  2. I’m interested in your next book on the Dallas Cowboys. Even though you say it is unauthorized, many of your previous books are oral histories. Do you have any current or former Cowboys who agreed to be interviewed for the book? If not, were you worried those connected with the team might not be forthcoming enough?

  3. I am not from Texas, but Joe Nick Patoski’s writing journey already appeals to me. And, because anything to do with preserving the land is high on my list, I want to be included in this drawing.

  4. thanks for the opportunity to read this book. i’m a follower 🙂

  5. Thanks to Stephanie for running this Q and A.
    Louis, I’ve talked to more old Cowboys than recent ones, but it’s all relative, in that I’m using the existing record (newspapers, books, television, radio) to tell the story.
    There are a few oral histories. But given the status and celebrity of current and former players, it’s sort of like interviewing rock stars. They’re not going to tell you a whole lot beyond what they want to tell you. In that respect, I’d rather assess what’s already been said.

  6. We are absolutely thrilled that Joe has written this newest book. As a state-wide land trust, we work with these landowners every day to help them protect their land in perpetuity. We just had an interview with decedents of the Davis family (Gillespie County), who are protecting their 150-year-old, 1400 acre ranch in partnership with TLC. Many of these landowners, including the Davis’ often bristle at being called “environmentalists”, but they are deeply ingrained with an outlook towards conservation and have been for generations. Thanks for telling more of these important stories, Joe. Looking forward to reading.

  7. Joe Nick, you astound me how you can keep writing so many books and ALL of them are intriguing, well written, and deeply researched. Love it – and my particular interest in environmental issues means I will most definitely read this one – looking forward to it.

  8. Joe Nick’s FB is highly recommended, always something interesting from Texas music to barbeque. I wasn’t even aware of this book until I followed the link from the Texas Land Conservancy.

  9. I’m a fan of the Cowboys and Cowboys history; I grew up in Dallas in the 60s, and I’m also a book-lover. So I am REALLY looking forward to Joe Nick’s book about the Cowboys.

  10. Absolutely love his biography of Willie Nelson. Loved, Loved it. Plan to read more.

  11. Joe Nick Patoski’s writing is such a treasure for us to enjoy; how lucky we are that he landed in Fort Worth when he did! He helps to keep us connected, to remind us of (or make us aware of) the good stuff.

    ~cbg, austin vicinity

  12. Stephanie,

    Hill Country Conservancy would love to win a copy of this book. Joe Nick has been a long time supporter of our mission to conserve precious land and water in the Texas Hill Country, and an opportunity to learn from a great Texas hero and hear their stories will help us continue our mission and connect with the generations on the land!

    THANK YOU for all you do!
    Cheyenne Johnson
    HCC Director of Outreach

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