DONNA ALWARD Writing The Canadian West

donna_alward.jpgI fell into writing westerns quite by accident.

In fact, in all my pre-published manuscripts, not a single one starred a cowboy or rancher. Which, when I look back now, is a little surprising. I mean I grew up on a farm – though not livestock. I grew up on an apple farm in New Brunswick, Canada, and even though we didn’t keep cows or horses, there was still that farm-life background.

flag1.gifIn 1996 my husband and I moved to Alberta as newlyweds, and it’s very different here from where I grew up. Whereas I had known trees and lakes, I now had wide open prairie and the Rockies as a backdrop. I loved it. The first July we were here, we had a blast going to the rodeo at the Calgary Stampede, I bought my first pair of cowboy boots, and discovered the wonder that is beef on a bun.

And still…no books set here at all.

I wrote a story called The Reluctant Husband and submitted it to the Mills and Boon/Harlequin Romance line, and it was rejected. I couldn’t seem to get it out of my mind though. I thought it was a fine premise, and it came to me that my hero and setting were wrong.

hired_by_the_cowboy.jpgSo, I started from scratch, and set it on a ranch about an hour and a half northwest of Calgary, with a cattle rancher. And lo and behold…it was my first sale to Harlequin, and called Hired By The Cowboy.

In fact they liked it so much they gave me the go ahead to write a follow up – called Marriage at Circle M, this time starring an ex-rodeo rider Mike and the town sweetheart, Grace.

I deviated for a book – my current one (The Soldier’s Homecoming) set in New Brunswick, but my next, in August, is set in the same general area as Hired By The Cowboy and Marriage at Circle M, and is loosely linked to them – this time as Mike’s cousin-turned-foster parent, Maggie and a US Marshal. It’s called Falling for Mr. Dark and Dangerous, a title that continually makes me smile.

marriage_on_circle_m.jpgAnd then I was asked to write yet another…so in January I have The Rancher’s Runaway Princess.

I have to admit this has surprised me a bit, though I suppose the popularity of westerns along with my farm roots might have something to do with it. I can relate to the lure of the land and the open space, the connection to the earth and the sense of place and family. The other thing that strikes me is that the Canadian west is a little different from anywhere else. Trying to define it is a little like trying to define voice…you can’t always break it up into elements but it just IS. Maybe my voice and the voice of the Canadian West just work well together!

morning1b.jpgRight now my family is getting ready to relocate again, and I know I’m going to miss the Prairie and the sight of the mountains capped with snow, pink in the morning light. But will I stop writing westerns? No way! It’s going to be a great way to stay connected to a place I’ve lived over a decade!

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16 thoughts on “DONNA ALWARD Writing The Canadian West”

  1. Speaking of relocating, another accident – we’re house hunting this weekend! So….I’ll try to pop in from the laptop, and please keep commenting…I’ll respond to everyone as soon as we’re back! Oh and…to make up for it, I’ll throw in a copy of Hired By The Cowboy to one lucky commenter!

    Wish me luck,


  2. Good luck on the house hunting, Donna! And it’s good to have you here at P and P. I enjoyed reading about how you got started with Harlequin. I love your covers and titles. A cowboy is a cowboy, a rancher is a rancher, no matter the time period and I do enjoy the contemporary westerns as much as I do the historicals.

  3. Hi Donna, welcome to P&P! We’re so happy to have you. Your books look so good. I love anything (historical or contemporary) that’s about cowboys. I’d love to attend the Calgary Stampede. I’ve heard so much about it. I’m sure cowboys would be around every corner.

    Good luck with your book sales and also hope you find a house! That’s important. I’m so glad you’re not going to stop writing westerns!

  4. Hi, Donna. The setting sounds great. Something really different. I’ll look forward to getting my hands on your books.
    I love the Dark and Dangerous title, too. Great.

  5. Good luck finding your new house, but don’t you hate moving. I know I would. I have so much junk I don’t think I could ever get it moved. I am a pack rat I think I try to keep all my books if Ithat tell you anything. Your books sounds so good I would really love to read some of them.

  6. Welcome Donna!
    I must confess that I have not read any of your books. But I am going to correct that very soon! Your books sound great! I’m excited to start reading all of the books that you have mentioned!

  7. Good luck on the house search!! I’ve just placed
    your books on my TBP list for my next trip to the
    bookstore. They sound as though they will suit me

    Pat Cochran

  8. Hi, Donna! Best wishes house hunting! Definitely count me among those happy readers who enjoy westerns! Don’t count me in for the drawing–I’ve already happily got Hired by the Cowboy! 🙂

  9. Hi, Donna

    Great to hear from another cowboy fan. Look forward to reading your books.

    Good luck on the housing searching

  10. Sounds like a beautiful place to be leaving sounds like you have you some wonderful memories you’re takin with you, good luck on your re-location I feel like if anyone doesn’t like a western they just haven’t read one.

  11. Hi Donna! I hope the house hunting went well 🙂

    Lori echoed my thoughts…DITTO on the leaving, the memories and westerns 😉

    Thanks for stopping in to share with us today!!

  12. Cool to have books set in the Canadian west. I read some historical romance and fell in love with the area and mounties (I even went to Canada to find one still looking) Its like Australia its a different feel. I to love westerns and I fell in love with the area of Canada i visited. Pemberton in BC. but just the beauty. I can see some good places for the bad guys to hide out.

  13. Hi Everyone! I’m just checking in from the wireless connection at our host’s house. We saw what feels like a zillion houses yesterday and we are seeing a few more today.

    I was standing outside one of the houses yesterday with the smell of the evergreens and sound of the birds yesterday and said to everyone…it’s really not going to matter, this is a gorgeous area and it’s going to ultimately be great for us.

    And when I get homesick for a little prairie life, I’ll just work on another western romance. 🙂

    I’ll be back later and I’ll pick a winner….and then I’ll mail the prize out after we’re back to Calgary!


  14. I did a random draw and Kathleen is the lucky winner!

    Kathleen, if you can e-mail me at with your address, I’ll mail out a copy of HIRED BY THE COWBOY!

    By the way, we bought a house. 🙂 And I came back to Calgary to a FedEx envelope with AA’s for my next book…so never a dull moment!

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