Tuesday, February 19, 2013

With Age Comes Interests

Making History

I never liked studying history when I was in school. Ironically (or fatefully?), the college scholarship I was awarded required that I take one history class every semester and pass it or I would lose the money (and my college tuition). Like a good soldier, I chose a history course every semester, and grumbled about it. Sometimes I passed it by the skin of my teeth because I really didn't like reading the books, writing the essays, and memorizing those dates. The only portion of history I actually found interesting was the Civil War and that was only because I loved "Gone with the Wind."

As the years passed and I became a novelist, I wrote contemporary stories until the fateful day when I read a LaVyrle Spencer novel and was entranced. It was an historical. After reading several more Spencer books and getting encouragement from my agent, I embarked on researching and writing my first historical romance.

Folks, I was hooked!

To this day, I love writing historical romances and -- gulp! -- I love researching them! I have not only become engrossed in history, I have stumbled onto undiscovered countries in myself. I discovered that I knew a lot about farming, ranching, and cowboys, but where did I get this information that came pouring out of me? I'm a city kid!

Finally, I realized that those many, many hours of sitting before a TV watching westerns with my family had served me well. Listening to my mother and father recall their childhood on Missouri cotton farms had seeped into me, too.

I now believe that, for most of us, we must begin making history before we can actually appreciate it. Once I was in my 30s, the past was no longer boring because I actually had one! When I hit my 40s, I started wondering about my ancestors and began researching to fill in my family tree.

Now I have to make myself STOP researching and START writing a novel. The one I'm writing now is set in Guthrie, Indian Territory after the Land Run and it's all I can do to resist the urge to read more and more about that time, those brave people, and that fascinating town!

I'm glad history finally beat me into submission. I am now a devoted student of it and I'm happy to pass on what I learn in my novels.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Hello, Stranger!

How Soon We Forget . . .

I have occasionally began reading a book, get about halfway through it, and then realize I have read it before. I usually go right ahead and finish it. If it took me that long to remember I'd read it, I certainly had forgotten much of the plot!

This week I began listening to one of my previously published historical romances, offered on Amazon's Audible, Inc. Not only could I not recall much about the plot, I found myself wondering about the characters' backgrounds. Why was the heroine frightened to be alone on her ranch? What happened between her and her brother-in-law? Why was the hero so deadset against living on a farm or ranch?

People. I wrote this book! Talk about weird. To listen appreciatively to a novel that I wrote and not recalling very much of it is utterly strange. I discussed this over dinner the other night with a friend and she said, "So why is the brother-in-law so mean and did the heroine really have something to do with killing her husband?"

I shrugged. "I can't imagine that the heroine would kill anyone and I don't know what's going on with the brother-in-law, but he makes my skin crawl."

My friend looked blankly at me across the table. "But you wrote the book."

I laughed, getting her drift. "I know!"

Last night I listened to a love scene -- a tender, character-driven scene -- that ended with not only a moment of bliss but also a moment of revelation for both the hero and heroine. I was amazed when I wiped tears from my eyes.

I know that not all of my audio novels will sound as good to me. This particular title happens to have been one of my favorites -- I had at least recalled that about it! But the experience has bolstered my courage to continue weaving stories, taking chances, listening to critiques, reading reviews, reaching out to readers, and appreciating the fact that I can spin a pretty tale now and again.

Sometimes we writers need that kind of inspiration.