When I was growing up, my family didn’t have a lot of money to use for traveling–so I did the next best thing. I read about all the places I wanted to go. I sailed down the Nile and saw the pyramids. I ventured to the Tower of London and saw Queen Anne Boleyn beheaded. I peered out across Paris from atop the Eiffel Tower. I went on safari in Kenya and spotted everything from hyenas to lions. I went backward and forward in time and traveled from the Seven Seas to outer space with interesting companions. Reading helped me escape to different continents and eras.
Fast-forward to my adult years, and I still love to read. More importantly, I’ve become a writer. It’s my mission to take others on adventures now, along with my characters. And one of my favorite places to travel is the American West in the years after the Civil War. So many Americans—many of the Civil War veterans—ventured from the safety of the cities they’d grown up in to make a new life for themselves on the Great Plains and beyond.
If I had Marty McFly’s Delorean to help me travel back in time, I’d enjoy visiting the Old West. Notice I said visit. Not stay. I love my modern creature comforts. I consider things such as flush toilets, running water for my ultra-hot showers, and my blow dryer as necessities in life, while luxuries include the Internet, cable television, and air travel.
So when I daydream that I’ve run away to the West, I think about the people I’d encounter. The transportation I’d take. The food I’d eat and how difficult even a simple meal might be to prepare. I think about the clothes and customs and a dozen other things—and then I follow it up with research. That’s when my little luxury of the Internet and my laptop come in handy. Pulling all of these ideas together help me build plots and characters that I put into all kinds of situations. Coming up with conflicts never seems to be a problem in this era.
I’ve had three western historical romances published so far. My heroes and heroines have been writers, gamblers, teachers, and even a whorehouse owner! I’ve gotten to research gambling, cattle drives, dime novels, and the layout of cow towns and 1870s San Francisco. I try to slip in just enough research to give my books the flavor of being in the West without banging a reader over the head and screaming, “Hey, Reader—like my research?”
I’ve published one medieval romance and have another one come out in a few months. That’s been a wild era to run away to in my mind—all the fighting and weapons and castles and different, complicated clothing. Still, both medievals were a fun place to travel to as I wrote these novels, and I hope my readers will enjoy the setting of the Hundred Years’ War as a backdrop to my upcoming story, A Bit of Heaven on Earth.
I’m off now to run away again. Another place and time far away are calling my name—and I can’t resist that siren’s call!