I’ve always wanted to write a series, even before I started writing inspirational fiction, but now with Love Inspired Historicals I finally had the chance. But I wanted the concept to be something out of the ordinary. There are so many staples in western fiction—roguish outlaws, stagecoach robberies, handsome cowboys, saloon girls with hearts of gold, Indian attacks, mail-order brides. Mail-order brides. I loved mail-order bride stories. But how to make mine different?
Eureka! I would have mail-order grooms. The South lost hundreds of thousands of young men in the Civil War—it wasn’t hard for me to imagine a small Texas town where fate would have it that all its bachelors had perished in the war, and only the married men returned. Which, of course, left all the town’s young single ladies facing spinsterdom, or the necessity to move elsewhere to look for husbands. The first book of my proposed series would feature Milly Matthews, the enterprising young miss who first concocted the concept of the Society for the Promotion of Marriage, or the Spinster’s Club, as it came to be called.
But first I must select a location. I would use the Texas Hill Country, my favorite place on earth. Though I would make the town fictional, I had to have at least an approximate location, so I studied the histories of various Texas Hill Country counties and decided to use San Saba County, as much for the romantic western sound of it as any other reason. Using a topographical map, I picked a tributary of the San Saba River, Simpson Creek, and named my town for the creek.
But I couldn’t find any pictures of the creek. Aha—the perfect excuse to go on a RESEARCH TRIP! As a Texan-in-exile living in Ohio, I grabbed any reason I could find to visit the beloved soil of Texas, and what better than a trip I could write off on my taxes? (Of course, I also had an aunt and cousins to visit there, but we won’t tell the IRS. :) I informed my own hero we were going to Texas to visit my locale—and to see what bluebonnets might be left in early May.
We arrived in San Saba, the county seat and the nearest town to my fictional one one early afternoon, in time to get settled at the Hill Country Inn, and then went out to find Simpson Creek. I was a little nervous, because back in the day when I was writing medieval historicals as Laurie Grant, I had picked out a town in southern England—Winslade—yet when I finally was able to make a research trip, I found it was a postoffice location and a sign—and apparently nothing more in the present day.
But Simpson Creek did not disappoint. It was it a lovely little creek lined with greening trees, and I could perfectly picture the little church I would set on its western edge—and the Comanches splashing across it before launching a murderous raid. We took pictures right and left. But the best part of it was finding the roadside plaque that indicated there had once been a community right here at Simpson Creek. Chills ran up my spine when I read this. I wonder if it resembled my imagined community in any way…
Did it have a girl called “Marrying Milly” by the rest of the town, because she was determined not to end up an old maid? Did a handsome but secretly disgraced British Cavalry officer, one Nick Brookfield, bronzed by the sun in India, come to see the plucky miss who had advertised for bachelors and fall in love with her, as in MAIL ORDER COWBOY? Did she have a sister, Sarah, who would fall in love with a doctor from Maine in the next book, THE DOCTOR TAKES A WIFE (out in January 2011), even though she hates Yankees? Perhaps the town’s mayor was rich, and had a pretty daughter, Prissy, who would fall in love with a down-on-his luck gambler-turned-sheriff and marry him under the spreading boughs of the Wedding Oak, as in THE SHERIFF’S SWEETHEART (out in April 2011), too. Or a broken-hearted schoolmarm, determined never to love again, the story I’m working on now.
I don’t know if the real Simpson Creek was like that, but all these stories could have happened…
I hope you will enjoy MAIL ORDER COWBOY, which was released on November 10 by Love Inspired Historicals, and all the Brides of Simpson Creek stories to come.
For more information, or to contact me, please visit my website at www.lauriekingery.com.
Blessings, Laurie Kingery