All America lies at the end of the wilderness road, and our past is not a dead past, but still lives in us. Our forefathers had civilization inside themselves, the wild outside. We live in the civilization they created, but within us the wilderness still lingers, What they dreamed, we live, and what they lived, we dream. ~T.K. Whipple
As an author of western historical romance, this poem struck a chord in me when I first used it in a feature story I wrote. It called to me again when I signed another contract with the Wild Rose Press for my second book in the Victorian Series. Rowena’s Hellion takes place in Kansas where Victorians from England and Scotland built an English colony. They hoped Victoria City would continue their heritage in this new country where land rushed to the horizon on all sides. More land then they had ever beheld standing in one place. Those times are so clear to me, for I have stood on a Kansas prairie and turned a wide circle, seeing land as far as my eyes could behold…and I have dreamed of what they lived.
The final nonfiction historical book of this nature which I wrote is now available on Kindle as
an Ebook or a print. The Boston Mountains: Lost in the Ozarks is filled with stories and photos of how they lived and what they dreamed.
True to my love of history, my contemporary fiction novels have a foundation of history in Arkansas. True, it’s usually more recent history, like the twin tornadoes that ripped through the small town of West Fork in 1989. The town is situated in a small valley on the west fork of the White River. Bluffs and mountains surround the valley and flowing streams wrap the green pastures like gleaming ribbons. I cannot resist traveling into the past of this peaceful locale to place crimes, so I created a fictional county and fictional town, but recreated
historical happenings of the true town.
Over a period of nineteen years I worked for two rural weekly newspapers and interviewed hundreds of residents, scribbling down their stories in notes that later became my weekly column, or a front page or feature story. I can’t resist using some of this in my novels.
The Purloined Skull takes place in a fictional town and the crime happened during the twin tornadoes that struck this small town. Is it West Fork? Yes and no. Are the people those I have known? Yes and no. Most are composites, and reviewers like the way I present them as minor characters. The protagonists are totally made up, the antagonists are more real. The second of the series, The Telltale Stone, is lying here waiting for my final edits. The story takes place in a fictional county and town, but so much of the background is true that it is difficult to tell where the fiction begins and ends.
Once There Were Sad Songs was born as I lay on the beach of Lake Ouachita and watched some fellas on motorcycles set up an old canvas tent in a campsite across the way. As a writer I could not resist placing them in my story. Their voices cried out to be put on paper, and so I did. That novel became one of my early books that has most recently been published by The Wild Rose Press. It takes place in the past, 1985, and tells the story of two Vietnam vets wandering listlessly through the country, accompanied by the younger man who so resents that he was too young to serve that he lives vicariously through these lost souls. And let’s not forget the woman who wanders into their midst and is caught up in their adult games.
So will I ever write something that takes place today, or is not based on something that took place in the past? I don’t know. Those people cry out to me, for some reason. Could be I’m getting old enough to have lived in the distant past and that’s what I remember the best.
Is it people or places or both that inspire you to create your stories? Some actually use photos for inspiration. Do you?