I can’t believe it. I’m part of the Petticoats and Pistols Spring Author Round-Up. How cool is that? I’m thrilled to be here and, best of all, I get to give stuff away. Stuff that celebrates the Wild West. A slice of American History near and dear to my heart. But before I can give stuff away, I need to blog about something of interest. Something that will entertain, educate or inspire. If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll touch a bit on all three.
In publishing-land there’s a saying: Write what you know. This is advantageous for several reasons, but most importantly, in my opinion, because it infuses your story with a certain honesty that’s compelling to readers. I wasn’t familiar with this saying when I attempted my first manuscript. Good thing. Otherwise, I probably would’ve second-guessed my desire to write a historical western romance instead of diving right in. I would have grappled with my lack of qualifications. I didn’t (and still don’t) have a degree in American history. I didn’t experience that era first hand. I didn’t know anything about the American West other than what I’d learned from movies, novels, and the 1960s TV series like Bonanza, Gunsmoke, and The Wild Wild West (starring Secret Service agent James T. West. Be still my heart!) Yet I was passionate and driven and, as it turned out, intuitive.
The heroine of my first western (Lasso the Moon) is a bit of an odd duck. A young woman who burns to write music and to share her compositions with the world. She’s also driven to make her papa—the man she idolized—proud. I understood this creative soul well, because my background is in entertainment. I performed live on stage as a singer and actress for thirty years. (Yes, I started young!) And I, too, was driven to impress my dad. Write what you know.
The heroine of my second western (Romancing the West) learned early on that the greatest form of escapism is though reading novels. As an adult, she works in a library and, in her private time, writes her own adventures. Like Emily, I spent most of my childhood with my nose in a book, head in the clouds. After retiring from the stage, I hired on at my local library and, in my private time, I write books. I understand how Emily ticks. Her interests, her insecurities, her dreams. Write what you know.
My upcoming release—The Fall of Rome—features a heroine who made her fame and fortune as a gambler. No, I don’t gamble. But I worked in Atlantic City for several years where I was surrounded by cardsharps and games of chance. In addition, although she’s a sensitive soul, Kat developed a thick skin to survive in her chosen profession. I can relate to that. Write what you know.
Although my experiences are rooted in present day, while my heroines’ are firmly planted in the 1870s, we share common ground. Emotional aspects transcend time. The professional angle required major research and made me appreciate the advantages to be a ‘career’ woman now as opposed to then. It also provided a wealth of inspiration.
So…. I wrote what I knew and researched what I didn’t. What a fantastic ride!
As you see, there were women who bucked convention and enjoyed careers in the 19th century, although their path was rarely easy. I admire their courage and determination and strive to achieve my own dreams with equal gusto.
Now for some related trivia and websites of interest.
- “Only a few of the many women composers in America had their music published and heard during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Fewer still, enjoyed the popularity that most male composers enjoyed, even though much of their music was superior to much of what some of the more celebrated men wrote.” ~ Quoted from ‘Parlor Songs’
- “May Agnes Fleming enjoyed a successful and lucrative career as a writer of dime novels. She developed a solid reputation and solid readership writing for Saturday Night, a weekly story paper which ran from 1867 to 1901. The publishers paid her $50 per segment for a total of $850 for each story. ~ Quoted from ‘American Women’s Dime Novel Project’
- A Deadwood legend, ‘Poker Alice’ made her living as a gambler, bootlegger, and madam. Nicknamed for her game of choice, she is estimated to have won over $225,000 during her 60- year career as a professional poker player in the latter half of the 1800s. ~ Information noted at ‘Outlaw Women’ and ‘Poker Player’.
What about you? What do you ‘know’ about the Wild West? Do any of your interests date back to the 19th century? What profession, if any, would you dare to pursue? Chime in and become eligible to win one of three prizes. #1 – A signed copy of Lasso the Moon. #2 – A signed copy of Romancing the West. #3 – A Wild West messenger bag. Winners to be chosen late this evening. Talk to me!