Monday, December 26, 2011

Dreams of Roy Rogers

Before I wrote my first historical romance I told everyone who would listen that I didn't like to study history (even though I had a minor in it from college) and I wasn't interested in the least in westerns and such. Then my agent asked me to try my hand at an historical. Her timing was good because I had just fallen madly in love with LaVyrle Spencer's books and she wrote both contemporary and historical romances -- but her historicals are fabulous. "Hummingbird," "The Gamble," and "Vows" were wonderful and had me wondering if I might have one of these types of stories inside me.
Taking up the challenge, I launched into my first attempt which I called "Wildcat" and the publisher ended up changing the title to "Blazing Embers," a title I never liked. Reminded me too much of "Blazing Saddles." Nevertheless, I was hooked.
But what was truly astonishing was that I didn't have to conduct as much research as I had thought because -- from somewhere -- facts about the west and living off the land came to me. How did I know these things?
I traced this unearthed knowledge to two sources: my parents' stories of living the farm life in Missouri and my childhood Saturday morning TV fixation with Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and Hopalong Cassidy.
My dad loved westerns and we always watched what Daddy wanted to watch on TV. So we spent our evenings watching Gunsmoke; Paladin; The Big Valley; Bonanza, Have Gun, Will Travel; The High Chaparral; Wanted: Dead or Alive; The Rifleman; Maverick; Bat Masterson; Wagon Train; Cheyenne; Death Valley Days; Laramie; The Lone Ranger; Rawhide; and Sugarfoot. I grew up in a time when westerns were the most popular genre on TV. Is it any wonder my mind sopped it all up and stored it for future use?
I'm reminded of Margaret Mitchell telling of sitting on the porch and listening to her old relatives relate their personal tales of the Civil War. Little did she know at that time that she would use all of their stories in a novel called "Gone with the Wind."
So it was with my parents. I listened to their tales of picking cotton, training mules, fixing plows, digging outhouses and wells, making soap, butchering pigs and chickens, putting up meat and canned vegetables, and sleeping six or seven kids to a bed. It all came back to me when I began writing historical romances.
If you haven't read LaVyrle Spencer's books, then you have a treat ahead of you. Hers are some of the few books that I have shed tears as I read sentimental and touching passages. She retired from writing in 1997 or thereabout and I don't know why. Her books are wonderful and hold up well.
Please feel free to read my historicals, too. My personal favorites are "Primrose"
and "Cheyenne's Shadow" originally published by Avon Books and now available on Amazon.

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