Jim Ainsworth, who has had a successful career as a CPA and certified financial planner, says many of his friends were surprised when they first learned he had also written a novel.
“They thought it was a ‘cute’ thing to have a book written by a CPA,” he commented during a recent interview. “A lot bought it and probably didn’t even read it.”
A decade later Ainsworth is still writing stories, and he now has an enthusiastic fan following.
A college degree in accounting and years spent preparing tax returns and giving financial counsel might seem like a peculiar preparation for dealing in book plots and character development, but the author says it proved useful.
“Sitting down with people to help them plan their lives and financial futures taught me more about human nature and motivation than anything else,” he explained.
Ainsworth was born in Delta County, attended school in Cooper and then went on to enroll at East Texas College, which became East Texas State University during the time he was a student there.
“My career was chosen for me,” he said. “Dr. Fred Tarpley (of the English department) wanted me to get a degree in English, but I wanted to get out and get a job, and accounting seemed to be the quickest way.”
After working in Dallas as an accountant, he came back to Greenville, opened his own accounting firm, and eventually became a financial planner. At one point he went back to Dallas and worked training stockbrokers. Out of this came a 1996 book, “How To Be A Financial Planner,” which began as a training manual, was later expanded into book form at the suggestion of the publisher, and was then updated last year.
His first non-financial book was a memoir titled “Biscuits Across the Brazos,” recalling a trip during which he and a cousin retraced an earlier journey of family members.
“My father and his three siblings and their parents came to Delta County from Ranger in 1918 in a covered wagon,” he said.
When Ainsworth’s cousin initially called him and said, “Let’s do it,” he agreed.
“I had a horse, and found a friend who had a covered wagon. We borrowed two white mules to pull the wagon.”
The two men traveled by horseback, arranging to have someone else move a truck carrying water from spot to spot for them. This was the only way they cheated on the original trip, he said. Their own journey took 14 days for 325 miles. The biscuits mentioned in the book’s title refer to two biscuits which had made the original 1918 journey. Ainsworth’s father had passed them on to his son, and they became part of the repeat journey. “It was symbolic, for sure,” he writes.
He said that book probably inspired him to write other books in which he used memories as the basis for fictional tales. Probably the best known of this fictional output is the Rivers trilogy, an ongoing tale of the Rivers family. The first, “In the Rivers Flow,” was published in 2003 and brought out in a second edition in 2010 titled simply “Rivers Flow.” The family’s saga continues in “Rivers Crossing” (2005) and “Rivers Ebb” 2007. The latter was a finalist for Writers Digest International Book Award and Writers League of Texas Violet Crown Award.
“The protagonist in those books is Jake Rivers,” he said. “I’m often asked if my books are autobiographical. My standard answer is ‘I’m a little bit Jake, a little bit Rance and a little bit Griffin.’” All are characters from the Rivers novels.
These stories have been followed by “Home Light Burning,” “Go Down Looking,” “First Born Son,” and “Rails To A River.”
A recent memoir, “A River of Stories (It’s Been Quite A Ride),” includes tales of events which he says have shaped his life — encounters with legendary cowboys, unusual authors, songwriters and singers he has met, friendships with people and animals; and team-roping sagas.
“This book started because of my dad, who has been dead for 40 years. His funeral bothered me because nobody said anything personal about him during the service. It was as if no one knew him. I wanted to write a eulogy for him. He was underestimated his entire life.” Ainsworth said he has also tried to write his dad’s story through many of his other books.
The author spent four or five years taking part in team-roping events, and this familiarity is evident, especially in his recent book “Rails To A River.”
“I like to write about what I know,” he said. As a kid, his goal was to be a cowboy, he recalls, and he later learned to team-rope.
“You pay to enter the competition and then there is a jackpot.” He describes himself as an amateur, but he did win exactly the prizes he wanted — saddles (four) and buckles (three) — to pass on to his seven grandchildren. (He and his wife, Jan, also have two sons and a daughter.)
There are hazards involved in team-roping, he said “You can fall off your horse and the horse can fall on you.” Losing part of a thumb when it becomes caught in the rope is also a possibility, although in Ainsworth’s case he lost the end of his forefinger in hooking up his trailer at an event.
Team-roping requires a lot of practice as well as endurance, and he describes the day when he decided he’d had enough.
“It was about 100 degrees, and the ground in the arena was solid dust. Afterward I got in my pickup and looked in the mirror and my face was covered in mud from the dust and sweat. I decided I could either write or rope — not both.”
He still keeps one horse on his nine-acre mini-ranch outside Commerce where he and Jan live.
“I’m a fair-weather rider; it’s too cold to ride right now,” he said on the day of the interview. “I usually ride five to six times a week.”
Often his destination is a silo-like building where he and a number of friends, whom he refers to as the Cow Hill Council, meet for coffee and talk.
“The council meetings are pretty much always offbeat,” he writes. “We don’t keep records so I have to rely on memory, which is fading. I don’t expect to be contradicted by any of the council members because their memories are equally poor or worse. Also we don’t really have any members — just regular guests. Nobody wants the group to be official. We do have lots of rules. In fact, we usually make new ones at least once a week. That’s so we can have something to break.”
Ainsworth composes his books on his computer and says his typing skills are pretty good. “I credit Mrs. Valera Sparks who was the typing and bookkeeping teacher in Cooper.”
His writing mentor was the late Fred Tarpley. “He knew a lot about history, English and writing, but his most profound characteristic was his attitude of ‘all things are possible.’ He encouraged any writer, whether they were good or not. He thought writing was therapeutic and said ‘What harm can it do?’” a smiling Ainsworth remembers. “He was my editor for a time until his health failed.”
The author’s final tribute to Dr. Tarpley, titled ”He Made All Things Seem Possible,” was delivered on March 8, 2014, and is also included in “A River of Stories.”
Of all his novels, Ainsworth says “Home Light Burning” may be his best writing so far. “I think that is because it is so different and less personal than the others. There was none of ‘me’ in it. It was based on extensive research on an event that everyone in our family had wondered about for decades.”
He adds, however, that from the early responses, “A River of Stories” may perhaps take its place as his legacy. “I had to put myself out there with stories and revelations that surprised many members of my own family,” he said.
Looking back over all his writing — novels as well as the memoir — he mused, “I’m leaving a legacy for my children and grandchildren. I have documented who I am and what I am and the lessons I want to pass on to them.”
Autographed copies of Ainsworth’s books are available at www.jimainsworth.com along with free shipping options. Discounted pricing and/or special requests for book clubs or groups are available by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org. They are also available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble and other online stores in print and e-book versions, and may be ordered at most bookstores..