Hi Anna. Thanks for the opportunity to share my passion for the Wild West. I have a confession to make. I love Cowboys. I always have. This infatuation could be due to hours of a misspent youth watching Rawhide and Bonanza. Or perhaps it came about later, while researching the basic fantasies that form the backbone of most romance novels. I was ecstatic to discover the ‘Cowboy Fantasy’ is alive and well with more people than just me. As is the ‘Marriage of Convenience’, which I use a lot in my Western Historicals, along with ‘The Wounded Hero on the Run’. But I digress.
The American West calls to me as a back drop for my historical romance novels for a variety of reasons. For one, I’m a west coast girl through and through. My forefathers arrived on the west coast in the 1870’s, and none of us who were born here since ever saw reason to leave. The land may have become more heavily populated in the last century and a half, but its general topography hasn’t changed. Mountains, coastline, plains, rivers and forests are interspersed with huge tracts of raw land that remain untouched to this day. I think about my ancestors who left Europe for the promise of a better life; the unknown of a new, young country. I’m grateful to them for taking that chance.
Similar chances are taken by the strong, independent, and often impulsive heroines I write about.
The American West in the last half of the nineteenth century offers my heroines a chance to assert that independence, like the newly widowed Callie in Callie’s Honor, a woman alone, struggling to hang on to her home. Hers is a Universal Theme that strikes a chord in many women today, following a death or divorce in the family.
Sometimes I invent a place for my stories, sometimes I use an existing city or area. One of the dangers of writing in the past is getting so caught up in the historical research the story never gets told. I try to avoid that trap by keeping my research as simple as possible. Two of my favorite reference books from the dozens I own are: The Writers Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800’s by Marc McCutcheon, and Writer’s Guide to Places by Don Prues and Jack Heffron.
Those early days of my imagination strike me as a time when anything is possible. Fortunes were made and lost on the gold fields or in the gambling halls. Squatters’ Rights made land free for the taking, a terrific opportunity for any hero or heroine prepared to work hard and follow their dreams. The rules and government that dictated and often crippled society in other parts of the world didn’t exist in the west. At least not in my books.
My characters have their own ideas of right and wrong, good versus evil, and deal with it on their terms. Face, it, it wasn’t called the Wild West for nothing. Life was about conquest, survival, persistence, the merging or people and cultures, and the forming of new communities. All ideal situations for my hero and heroine to find each other, work through their conflicts and differences, and eventually live happily ever after.
In Callie’s Honor my hero, Rafe, sets out to avenge his brother’s death. On his terms. Rafe is determined nothing will stop him, not even the feisty widow whose land is conveniently located next door to the men responsible.
In Anora’s Pride, my heroine Anora finds freedom in her tiny deception of being a married woman. Her ruse only becomes inconvenient when a handsome new Marshall moves to town. In Jesse’s eyes, Anora being married means hands off, despite their instant attraction to each other.
Deliver Me is a historical twist on one of my favorite movies, The Fugitive. Maddy, my heroine, in a quest for adventure, joins forces with Jud, an accused murderer, going so far as to marry him in order to help him clear his name.
Until Dawn is set in my hometown of Victoria, British Columbia, not quite the Wild West, but a city with its own colorful history, supplemented with stories told by my grandparents who were born here in the late 19th century.
I love writing Historical Romances. It’s a genre where the reader, by the simple act of picking up the book, instantly suspends disbelief. She easily forgets about her world and her woes in a tale where no one needs to empty the dishwasher or take out the trash, and adventure lies around every corner. As an author, it’s fun to carry her away to a time and place where anything could, and often did, happen. The customs of the day and the manner of dress might be different from today’s world, but people are still people. They laugh, love, hurt and heal. Celebrate and mourn. They live life large. And in the untamed wildness of the settling of the west, they do it all on a broad, colorful canvas of my imagination.
Kathleen Lawless is the award-winning author of over 20 novels and novellas. She is a long-time member of Romance Writers of America and Thriller Writers. Visit her website: www.kathleenlawless.com, or find her on Facebook and say ‘hi’.