My guest today is Shanna Hatfield, author of historical western romances.
Shanna, welcome to my blog. I know my readers will enjoy your post about historical fiction and the western romance series you tell us about.
Thank you, Velda, for hosting me today. I’m so grateful for this wonderful opportunity to connect with your readers.
Writing historical fiction is such fun for me because I learn so much about the places, people, and experiences of the past. More often than not, I’m astounded by how innovative and creative people were “way back when.”
When the idea for a new historical western romance series began bubbling in my head, I decided it should take place in the town of Pendleton, Oregon, at the beginning of the 20th century.
My parents lived in or around Pendleton during the early years of their marriage. I grew up listening to stories my dad shared about the amazing wheat harvests and adventures he had among the rolling hills in Umatilla County. After visiting the area, I knew it had a rich and intriguing past that would be exciting to capture in a western romance series.
Many people know Pendleton as the home of the world-famous Pendleton Round-Up and the Pendleton Woolen Mills. It billed itself as the “queen of a golden empire – golden wheat.” Around this time, Umatilla County produced one-percent of the nation’s wheat crop.
As I began digging into the town’s past, I discovered, much to my surprise, Pendleton was a happening place to be in the early 1900s.
Modern and progressive for its time, Pendleton was a unique blend of Wild West and culture. They had plenty of crime and wild rowdies, as one would expect in a western town. Pendleton also boasted an opera house and theater, a teashop, a French restaurant, and a wide variety of businesses in the early years of the new century.
On any given day during that time, someone walking down the street could see well dressed ladies and gentlemen, as well as Chinese immigrants, Indians from the nearby reservation, miners, businessmen, ranchers, and farmers.
Pendleton had an enviable railway facility with trains running east and west daily. Telephones as well as running water and sewer lines were available for those who could afford the services. It was one of the first cities in the state to have paved streets and according to historic records; residents of Umatilla County had a rare passion for the newly introduced automobile.
In the year 1900, it was the fourth largest city in Oregon. By 1902, the population grew to 6,000 and there were 32 saloons and 18 bordellos in the area.
If you’re wondering why the town needed quite so much “entertainment,” it was in part because of the sheer number of cowboys, wheat harvesters, sheepherders, railroad workers, and crews of men who descended on the town to work. In 1900 alone, an estimated 440,000 sheep produced more than two million pounds of wool.
Mystery and intrigue surrounded the tunnels of the city’s Underground. What began as a way for respectable businesses to easily deliver their goods from the depot, soon turned into a booming mini-city of saloons, card rooms, working girls, Chinese laundries and more. According to local tales, the working girls used the tunnels to enter respectable businesses and do their shopping without being seen around town. Reportedly, a tunnel even ran to the doctor’s office for them to pay their visits undetected.
Today, visitors can stop by the Pendleton Woolen Mills and purchase one of their signature Indian blankets, attend the Pendleton Round-Up in September, and see a portion of the Underground through Pendleton Underground Tours. The tour provides a glimpse at everything from the card rooms to the life of the Chinese below the city.
Although I made several trips to town gathering research, one local historian was extremely helpful in answering my many questions. For more details about Pendleton’s past, I recommend Keith F. May’s book Pendleton: A Short History of a Real Western Town.
While the town didn’t lack for colorful characters, those portrayed in my Pendleton Petticoats series are purely fictional.
The women in Pendleton Petticoats come from all walks of life but find commonality in drawing strength from their courage and persevering in chasing their dreams. One woman longs to better her future, one to escape her past, and one just wants to find a place to call home. Aundy, Caterina and Ilsa challenge the roles typically assigned to women of this era.
If you enjoy historical fiction, clean romances, or a good western, I hope you’ll consider reading Aundy and its sequels, Caterina and the newly released Ilsa. I love to hear from readers, so feel free to drop me a note via any of my social media links.
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Author Bio: Shanna Hatfield is a hopeless romantic with a bit of sarcasm thrown in for good measure. In addition to blogging, eating too much chocolate, and being smitten with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller, she is a best-selling author of clean romantic fiction written with a healthy dose of humor. She is a member of Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, and Romance Writers of America. Her historical westerns have been described as “reminiscent of the era captured by Bonanza and The Virginian” while her contemporary works have been called “laugh-out-loud funny, and a little heart-pumping sexy without being explicit in any way.”
Excerpt from Aundy:
“You are one of the most stubborn, hard-headed women I’ve ever met, Aundy Erickson,” Garrett said, running a hand through his hair, sending the dark locks into a state of complete disarray. His movements made Aundy want to run her fingers through it as well. “Your ability to be self-sufficient would never come into question. If you need help, ask for it. We’re more than happy to give it. You’ve been through so much since you’ve arrived here and handled it all in stride. Growing up in the city, without any rural background, you’re going to need some help. Never hesitate to ask.”
“I know, but I’ve imposed on all of you too much as it is.” Aundy felt tears prick the backs of her eyes. She would not cry. Giving in to her emotions, as jumbled as they were, wouldn’t help prove she could care for herself and Erik’s farm. Her farm.
“You’ve never imposed on us. Ever.” Aundy was so obstinate. He couldn’t recall ever meeting such a stubborn, headstrong woman. She made him want to… Thinking about what he really wanted to do, he refocused his attention on why she went to the Underground. “Regardless of all that, what information were you hoping to find?”
“I wanted to buy something and no one would talk to me about it. Dressed as a man, I didn’t have a bit of trouble making the deal.”
“What did you buy?” Garrett tried to think of anything Aundy would have purchased in the Underground that could possibly be beneficial to the farm.
“I don’t think you’re going to like my answer.” Aundy didn’t want to tell Garrett about her sheep. He’d been quite vocal when she and J.B. were discussing the pros and cons of raising sheep the other day, about how much he disliked the “stinky little boogers,” as he referred to them.
“What did you do?” Garrett asked, pinning her with his silver gaze.
“I made arrangements with a man to buy something he wanted, quite desperately, to sell.”
Garrett’s patience was nearly exhausted. “Which was?”
She hesitated, taking a deep breath before answering. “Sheep.”
He let out a whoosh of air and sat back in his chair. Blinking his eyes twice, he was sure Aundy couldn’t have said what he thought she did.
“Did you say sheep?”
“Yes,” Aundy whispered, staring down at the cloth covering the table.
“Smelly, nasty, bleating little sheep?”
“Well, I don’t know about the smelly, nasty, or bleating part, but yes, I did agree to purchase sheep.”
“Woman! What are you thinking? Did you sign papers, make payment? Is the deal final?”
“Not yet. Mr. O’Connell was under the impression I was helping a new widow. I asked him to call Mrs. Erickson Monday morning to make arrangements for the sale.”
“O’Connell? The whiskey drinking Irishman? Why he’ll…” Garrett yelled, his eyes flashing fire.
Aundy reached across the table and clapped a hand across his mouth. “Shh. You’ll have Dent and the boys in here if you don’t quiet down. Not only should you not be here, especially with me dressed like this, but I’m not quite ready to impart the knowledge to them that we’ll soon be raising sheep.”
“Fred will quit.” Garrett stated a fact Aundy already knew. He’d made it perfectly clear that he had no interest in tending sheep, so it was a gamble she had to make.
“I’ve taken that possibility into consideration.”
“Did you also take into consideration that a lot of the neighbors around here hate sheep? Not just dislike them, but hate them. I know many people in the area raise sheep, but our neighbors are all wheat growers and cattlemen. If you think about it, there isn’t one little lamb to be found from here all the way to Pendleton.
Wonderful, Shanna. I know readers will look forward to reading your book. And thanks again for being a guest here on my blog.