First, I want to thank Anna for having me as a guest today. I’m delighted to be here and love sharing with different audiences.
Escaping Yesterday is a new venture for me…one that doesn’t fit neatly into typical sub-genres, plots, or settings. I typically write western historicals but, though set in the West, this story isn’t about ranchers or cowboys. It’s set in a Denver amusement park in 1905!
A few years ago, my significant other was telling me sparkling tales about his childhood adventures at Elitch Gardens, a Denver amusement park that has existed since 1890. Intrigued, I did some research and was captivated by the park’s history. I knew I had to set a story there. The more I read, the more I gravitated to the turn-of the century, twenty five years after my usual time setting. It was an era of change at Elitch’s, with roller coasters and carousels being added to the vast gardens, a vibrant theater, and a nationally-known zoo. It was also a time of growing personal freedom, automobiles, and new slang. I was hooked! The park and the time period would provide a vast palette of color to make the setting come alive!
Just as I had in prior books, I wanted to include real people in the story. Mary Elitch Long, ahead of her time as a female owner of a zoo and amusement park, would be a perfect mentor for my heroine but it took me a while to develop Lottie. I knew I wanted her to appear a brash risk-taker but also be avoiding turbulent emotional conflict. Creating a past filled with abuse and a hidden daughter she would do anything to protect seemed perfect. I also had friends who talked to me candidly about childhood sexual abuse, helping flesh out Lottie’s character.
Caleb was more difficult. I love Beta heroes and it appeared he would definitely be one. But my critique partners were not so sure about his love for gardening. To make it work, I made him a veteran with PTSD, though it wasn’t known as such at the time. This allowed him to hate the loud amusement rides that Lottie loves and to push to reserve the quiet peace of the gardens. I also took liberties with history and created a close relationship with Mary Elitch Long that would motivate Caleb’s protectiveness of her and the business.
From there, the story just seemed to magically take shape. With Denver’s unique history and the history of Elitch Gardens, the backdrop painted itself. Characters who suffer the effects of sexual abuse and PTSD might not be typical for historicals, but using those backstories allowed me to develop characters with a huge amount of depth and to make the story more appealing to those who don’t normally read historicals. I’m hoping readers will take the leap and be as fascinated as I am with the story!
1905 Elitch Gardens… an amusement park on the verge of expansion… two troubled people escaping traumatic pasts… one very present danger… and a love neither expected. Lottie will risk everything to save her daughter. Caleb believes she is a manipulative huckster intent on conning his friends and ruining the park’s tranquility. But when Lottie’s past catches up to her, they unite, standing together against a treacherous villain and facing the complicated memories haunting them both.
New York City, 1905
Lottie Chase slipped into the house, the moonlight barely bright enough to illuminate her path. Holding her breath, she stepped around the squeaky spot on the floorboard and eased the door closed behind her.
“Did you think I wouldn’t notice?”
Lottie jumped at the bitterness in Aunt Aggie’s voice. Criminy. She should have expected the old biddy to be sitting guard. She swallowed, then turned.
Aggie sat at the kitchen table, her index fingers steepled upward. “Are you letting every Tom, Dick, and Harry dip his wick or are you bedding one in particular?”
Hot stinging tears pooled at the corners of Lottie’s eyes, but she’d be damned before she’d let Aggie see how much power her words had. “I wasn’t—”
“Don’t you dare bring any more shame on this household. If you bring another bastard into this house, I’ll throw you out, like I should have years ago.”
“Hush up both of you.” Uncle Edward shuffled into the room, favoring his bad leg. His summer drawers rode up his tall frame. He drew closer, his gaze lingering on Lottie. “She was a kid . . . didn’t know what a seductress she was.”
His words were soft, caring, but Lottie shivered anyway. He’d said the same thing each time he’d had his way with her. Until she carried Elsa inside her and grew from adolescent to woman. Then, he’d wanted nothing more to do with her.
Wanting to flee, Lottie rooted her feet, shoved the pain away, and drew on her hatred, building a wall. Edward’s sweaty white body and his groping hands, Aggie’s false accusations that she’d been out whoring, the acrid taste in her mouth every time Elsa called Aggie “mother.”
Aggie crossed her arms across her chest and faced her husband. “She ends up pregnant again and I’ll turn her out. No matter what you promised her.”
“You will do as I say,” Edward said.
Aggie muttered under her breath.
“What’s all the noise about? It ain’t even light yet.”
Lottie turned toward Elsa’s sleepy voice.
The ten-year-old padded into the room, her thin white nightgown backlit by the wall candle. Elsa’s gaze sought Lottie. The edges of her lips lifted the tiniest bit as their gazes met and she winked, the brief movement quick enough to escape Aggie’s notice.
Warmth flooded Lottie and she basked in the bond she shared with her daughter, one Aggie had never been able to sever. Lottie tugged at her earlobe, her special signal that she loved Elsa back.
Elsa yawned, stretching her arms wide enough to pull the gown tight. The first hint of budding breasts drew Lottie’s attention and Lottie’s heart skittered. When had that happened?
“Here comes my special little girl.” A broad smile crossed Edward’s face. Fire lit his eyes. “Aren’t you something?”
Cold hard dread cramped Lottie’s gut. She’d heard those words before, too.
Pamela Nowak’s most recent novel, Changes, received the 2014 Colorado Book Award for genre fiction and a HOLT Medallion Finalist Award. Previous honors include the HOLT Medallion and HOLT Medallion Finalist Award, a WILLA Finalist Award, a listing among the “Top Ten Romance Novels of 2008” by Booklist, and being named the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ 2010Writer of the Year. Pam has been in love with history and rich characters for most of her life. She has a B.A. in history, has taught history to prison inmates, served as project manager for the Fort Yuma National Historic Site and ran a homeless shelter. Pam and her partner Ken live in Denver. Please visit her at www.pamelanowak.com or friend her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/pamela.