Meg Mims is an author, artist, and amateur photographer. She writes historical mysteries and romantic suspense, and is a staff writer for RE/MAX Platinum in Michigan – writing articles about the real estate market, community events and Realtors – and for Lake Effect Living, a West Coast of Michigan tourist on-line magazine. Meg's article about the one-legged Civil War veteran and lighthouse keeper of South Haven, James S. Donahue, appeared in Vol. 34, No. 2 Summer 2011 issue of The Chronicle, the Historical Society of Michigan magazine. (Read Meg's bio)
RTW: Welcome to Romancing The West, Meg! Please give us an overview of your debut novel, Double Crossing.
MM: A murder arranged as a suicide...a missing deed...and a bereft daughter whose sheltered world is shattered.
August, 1869: Lily Granville is stunned by her father's murder. Only one other person knows about a valuable California gold mine deed--both are now missing. Lily heads west on the newly opened transcontinental railroad, determined to track the killer. She soon realizes she is no longer the hunter but the prey.
As things progress from bad to worse, Lily is uncertain who to trust--the China-bound missionary who wants to marry her, or the wandering Texan who offers to protect her...for a price. Will Lily survive the journey and unexpected betrayal?
See details below.
RTW: Why did you set Double Crossing on the transcontinental railroad? What intrigues you about trains? And did you learn anything about them that surprised you while writing this book?
|Transcontinental Railroad Workers|
MM: I loved True Grit (the original book, the movie in 1969 and the recent version also) and was inspired to use the premise of a young woman whose father is murdered, setting her on a quest for justice. Because I had to twist it (in many ways, since I couldn't use Rooster Cogburn either!), I chose the transcontinental railroad because I'd always been fascinated by trains. Since the UP and CP first came together at Promontory Point in May of 1869, I decided that setting Double Crossing several months after that historic event seemed a natural fit. And the research all seemed to fall into place, with a book written in 1872 about an English nobleman taking a train trip from New York to San Francisco, plus other interesting sources.
The most surprising thing I learned while writing this book – most people assume trains had normal washroom facilities like modern trains. Think again! Basically they were outhouse holes with waste falling to the track, and caused major hygienic problems over the years. If your great-grandparents or grandparents were told to stay away from playing on the tracks until the 1930s, when plumbing was introduced to passenger cars, there was a good reason for that. Imagine how cold that would be in winter, too.
RTW: If you lived in 1869, what modern convenience would you miss the most? The least?
MM: Antibiotics, for sure. Probably more than a dishwasher, washing machine, indoor plumbing and even my laptop, cell phone and Kindle. I learned to type, I could wait a year until they came out. Easily. Getting my hands on one, however, without being filthy rich, might be a problem. And I used to write long letters, front and back, a dozen pages at times. What would I miss the least? Hmmm. That's a tougher question! All the accumulated junk in my house. Weed it all out except for the books. I could have a huge library without one ounce of guilt. Perfect.
RTW: Since you mentioned Rooster Cogburn, did you create a character with the same role?
MM: That was also tough. I rolled Rooster and the Texas Ranger LaBoef into Ace Diamond, an ex-Confederate cavalry soldier, poker-player and wanderer...how did he end up in Omaha, Nebraska, without his horse? I'm considering writing a brief prequel short story to explain that soon! He may not be one-eyed or a drunk, but he has an interesting history nonetheless.
RTW: Tell us about Lily Granville. How did she introduce herself to you?
MM: Lily went through many transitions. First she was as young as Mattie Ross, 14 years old and so whiny and spoiled, I disliked her. So I stuffed 'Linnet,' kicking and screaming, back into the centrifuge. Out popped Julia, who was 17, religious and quite bent on revenge for her father's murder. Enough to shoot the killer, in fact, which wouldn't work--she needed to be vulnerable. Needy. Yet spunky enough to undertake a 2,000-mile adventure and seek justice, not revenge. 'Julia' morphed into Lily, who loved her father yet quarreled with him--and then overcame her heartbreak to track the man she believed responsible for his death. Lily, at 19, has many choices ahead of her and discovers her own resilience is much stronger than she ever knew in Double Crossing. She'll need that for the next adventure in Double or Nothing!
RTW: Please share an excerpt with us. What leads up to this scene?
MM: Lily is in Omaha, aware she will need protection from impending danger, and talking to her domineering aunt--who wishes her to return to Chicago and forget this foolish trip.
Double Crossing by Meg Mims
Copyright © 2011 Meg Mims
My face burned. I gritted my teeth, aware of the curious diners' hushed whispers around the room, and lowered my voice. "I overheard your plans about Bellevue. Did you think I'd allow you to shut me away in such a place?"
She gave a dismissive wave. "We only have your health in mind."
"I'm in perfect health. You'd better take the train back to Chicago, Aunt Sylvia, because I already bought my Pullman ticket."
"You cannot travel alone with Mr. Mason. You're not engaged."
"Uncle Harrison is expecting me."
I ignored a twinge of guilt while the fib hovered between us. Her mouth pinched tight, she drummed her fingers on the tablecloth. Charles stood quiet, his face beet red, one hand smoothing back his fair hair, the other adjusting his collar and tie. Angry yells and shouts drifted through the window panes from the street, drowning out the resumed conversation around us, the clatter of plates and flatware. Outside, I caught sight of several men who fought with bare fists. They kicked, bit, scratched and pummeled each other. Sir Vaughn glanced out the window and then sat across from my aunt. He waved a hand.
"Common ruffians. These rustic surroundings breed a lack of manners."
"Lily, you have no idea of the dangers. My husband traveled to Nevada earlier this year," Aunt Sylvia said. "Neither you or Mr. Mason have considered the impropriety of this."
"He's a gentleman for escorting me."
"I can see for myself what you both are--"
A blood‑curdling yell, similar to what I'd read about an Indian war cry, stopped her cold. The moment I glanced up, the window exploded. Shards of glass rained on us and a man rolled over the table. Scattering plates, flatware, cups and teapot, before he crashed onto the floor--unconscious, and half‑draped in the tablecloth among the broken china and glass.
Mere inches from my feet.
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RTW: Great excerpt, Meg! What's your next offering?
MM: I'm hoping to get Double or Nothing written before 2012. But I'm not a fast writer, given the amount of research I do. I'm hoping to sell Fire Point, my award-winning mystery, so we'll have to see.
RTW: Release Date?
MM: I'll let you know!
RTW: Anything else you'd like to add?
MM: Thanks, Jacquie, for hosting me on Romancing the West! It's a fabulous blog.
RTW: And thank you, Meg, for joining us this week. Stay tuned for Meg's article on Thursday!
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