by Velda Brotherton
Romancing The West welcomes back Velda Brotherton, who writes of romance in the old west with an authenticity that makes her many historical characters ring true. A knowledge of the rich history of our country comes through in both her fiction and nonfiction books, as well as in her writing workshops and speaking engagements. She just as easily steps out of the past into contemporary settings to create novels about women with the ability to conquer life’s difficult challenges. Tough heroines, strong and gentle heroes, villains to die for, all live in the pages of her novels and books.
RTW: Happy to have you visit again, Velda! Please tell us about your new book!
VB: Calder Raines and his outlaw gang may be more than Wilda bargained for. All she wanted was to escape a disagreeable marriage, now she finds herself in the arms of a tantalizing man whose warm kisses arouse a storm of forbidden desires. Calder never wanted to rob banks, but it's a family tradition. When he embraces the alluring redhead, passion conquers good sense and he imagines a life he cannot have.
Dec. 5 to 9Also, I'm giving away an Ebook copy of Stone Heart's Woman to the winner whose name is drawn from comments to this blog.
RTW: Why do you write Westerns? What aspect of life in the Old West intrigues you the most? Did you work that into Wilda's Outlaw?
VB: I write Westerns for a variety of reasons. Family influence for one. My grandpa on my mother's side had book shelves loaded with Zane Grey books and when we visited I would read them. My dad loved to tell stories of growing up in Texas and his favorite songs to sing were western ballads. At an early age I devoured Western movies and that just sort of morphed into books and my writing. My first contest win was for three chapters of a Western book. I was encouraged by the judge, Dusty Richards, to submit the book to an editor from Penguin when we attended a Western Writers of America Conference. The editor told me that if I would turn that story--it had a female protagonist--into a romance, it would sell. I did, called him and told him I'd done as he suggested and he took another look. He passed it on to the desk of a Topaz editor and she offered me a two-book contract. So there I was, a Western romance writer, and there I've pretty much remained, though I do occasionally write something else.
All of my books are about "gutsy" women who conquered the West, each in her own way. None of them come to me as whiners, weaklings or women who have to depend solely on a man to survive. Yet each realizes that the love and support of a man is important in such a tough existence.
RTW: If you lived in the Old West, what would you visit first? Is there something you’ve been curious about that you can’t find in your research sources?
VB: A few years ago my husband and I drove through Kansas on a research trip. We went through Marysville where I had hoped to set a book, and then happened to run across Victoria. Nothing much is left to prove Victorians once lived there. There's a huge beautiful church built by the Germans who moved to the area after the Victorians left. I became intrigued by the story of the Grant experiment. I wished then that the lovely stone castles and Victorian homes, the huge hotel Manor House built by Grant to house the emigrants while they built homes and businesses...were still there. I wanted to see them. I had no book in mind at the time, but knew one would grow as I traveled in my mind's eye into Victoria of the 1870s. So, by writing the book I went there every day until it was finished.
In any history, there are gaps, information we can't find. And there comes a time when we have to stop digging and make up something suitable to bridge that gap. That's where fiction veers away from fact and reaches into our vivid imagination. That's what writing fiction is all about. I'd like to know what happened to the stones from those destroyed castles. There were cameras in those days, where are the pictures that must've been taken? I never found any, but maybe if I'd dug a little deeper, spent a little more time on the research I could've come up with some.
What we did find a while later on a trip through Texas was a Victorian town, also known as Victoria, which is intact. Churches and homes depict those Victorians who settled there and I took a lot of pictures.
RTW: If a person who had never read a Western any sub-genre) asked you for a recommendation, what novel or movie would you recommend and why? What did the author do to bring the story alive for you?
VB: No question about it, I'd advise they read Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, then watch the series made for TV. McMurtry at his best gives the reader the flavor of memorable characters we can love, plots that twist and turn, an underlying humor that relieves the reader when things get too tough. The love story tugs at the heart, for McMurtry knows that a story without love is hollow and unfulfilling. For fun and excitement, any of Clint Eastwood's spaghetti Western movies should give readers a taste of the grittier side of the old West.
RTW: Why must your protagonist take this particular story journey? What does she have to prove? How do other characters or the setting affect her journey?
VB: When I sit down to write a romance, I only know a few things for sure about my character. She will be tough so she can survive what I'm going to put her through and she will have much to overcome. I have no idea for theme, or her journey or what she has to prove. I'm also not sure who will come along to affect her journey. This is not the easy way to write a book, but it's my way. I get to know her as she gets to know me. Page by page. What happens will happen and she's as surprised as I am when it does. You might say I'm just along for the ride. The only thing I know for sure is the history I've researched in order to develop a situation in which she will live and interact.
I make notes by hand as I go, but only so I won't forget the color of the character's eyes, their names, information about them I'll need to know as I go along. This results in stacks of recycled paper next to my keyboard on which are jotted all manner of items. By the third chapter I'm getting to know her, her faults and strengths, desires and feelings of loss. The hero has appeared and I know something about him. Then I go back to the beginning and I'm off and running. The book flows then with little trouble.
RTW: Please set up the scene of your excerpt.
VB: Wilda awakens on the train taking the new emigrants to Victoria. She sees a roguish outlaw standing in the aisle looking down at her and thinks she's dreaming. She's not.
Here's the excerpt from
Wilda's Outlaw: The Victorians
by Velda Brotherton
Still asleep? Still dreaming?
A startled O escaped her lips. Her heart raced. Frozen in a hunched position, she peered at him. He wasn’t real, he couldn’t be. Of course she was still dreaming, had conjured one of her cousin’s favorite fantasies of an old west outlaw. A beautiful one, at that, or at least what she could see of him. Above the dusty bandana that covered the lower half of his face, green eyes flashed with amusement, as if he shared a secret with her.
No one in the car paid him the least attention. Obviously she hadn’t awakened after all, but still slept, not in her room back in Manchester, but on a train in the middle of nowhere.
How to react to a scruffy outlaw who arrives in a dream? No harm had ever come to her while dreaming, so she might as well play this out. Be calm, speak to him. All she managed was a stiff smile. Odd how her tongue lay numb, her throat dry as a ball of cotton. How silly, for what harm could it do to befriend such a lovely figment of her imagination?
Bronzed skin crinkled around his eyes, and he lifted the gun barrel to push up the brim of a disreputable, sweaty hat. She imagined he returned her smile, for the skin around those incredible eyes crinkled. He placed a gloved finger over lips she couldn’t see. Winked.
The outrageous man! She gasped, sneaked another look around. Attempted to shout and alert the other passengers. Nothing came out. Some slept — no doubt enjoying their own dreams — while others gazed out the window. Surely one would glance up, see him. But they didn’t.
Fine. Dreams being what they were, she'd have some fun. No one appeared to notice the man with a gun. Not even Tyra, who bounced about and gazed out the window. Weird how real everything seemed. The smell of cinder laden smoke, the hot wind on her face, the trickle of perspiration down her back, the heavy intolerable weight of her traveling toilette. So heavy she slipped down into her seat, glanced around once again.
Was he still there? Had he disappeared because she’d taken her eyes off him? Dare she look one more time?
Holding her breath, she peered through nearly closed lids. No, he hadn’t left. He continued to watch her as if he had all day. A shiver raced up her spine and she offered a gloved hand. With graceful ease, he took it, bent over and gently kissed her bare wrist above the cuff.
♥ ♥ ♥
RTW: What’s next? Tell us about the other books planned in this series.
VB: This series, The Victorians, will feature Wilda's sister Rowena and Lord Blair Prescott in the second book, and their young cousin Tyra, who will embrace the West and leave her Victorian ties in the third. Tyra will journey to Victoria, Texas where I plan to set more books if everything works out.
RTW: Anything else you’d like to add?
VB: Only that I'm happy to be writing fiction again, after a hiatus of a few years writing regional nonfiction. The emergence of small publishers taking up the slack left by the midlist crisis in New York and the popularity of ereaders has been a Godsend for many writers who are now embracing indie publishing and ebooks.
Leave a comment and be in a drawing for an ebook copy of Stone Heart's Woman. Be sure to leave your email address or we'll have to choose another winner.
Wilda's Outlaw is free Dec 5 to 9 on Kindle, courtesy of my publisher, The Wild Rose Press.
It will then be available there for $2.99 until the print version is released in Feb. 2013.