When I first started writing, I kept hearing people say “write what you know.” So, having been born and raised in Oklahoma, it was natural to write stories set in my home state. The only problem with that is I’m mainly a historical writer, and Oklahoma doesn’t have the long history that other states have, which made things difficult. Oklahoma just celebrated its centennial last year. In fact, just 101 years ago, the land that I live on was in the heart of Indian Territory and part of the Creek Nation.
My newest release is out this month called Oklahoma Brides. It features three impulsive women who have only themselves to rely on when trials wreck their dreams for tranquil futures. Rebekah finds herself racing westward, away from the stepfather who is willing to barter away her virtue. Katie is widowed and pregnant and about to wed a man who is hiding a criminal lifestyle. Sasha leaves the theater world in New York City to find her only remaining relative in Indian Territory. Will these women slow down long enough to find faith and love waiting for them on the Oklahoma prairie? I had a wonderful time writing this book. I love settings that embody the spirit of the Sooner state.
A large part of Oklahoma was settled by land runs, which have become one of the most dramatized events in western history. Who can forget the exciting scene in Far and Away where Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise raced for the land they’d traveled half way around the world to obtain?
If you need a reminder, view the race on You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nqrxX_ebl7Q
The initial opening of Indian lands, over two million acres, was of great interest to people across the United States in the late 1800s, because it was some of the last free land in America. The first land rush took place at high noon on April 22nd, 1889. The Unassigned Lands (this term refers to Indian land that wasn’t assigned to a particular tribe) were laid out in 160-acres homesteads, also called quarter sections. A number of individuals entered these lands early and hid out until the legal time of entry to lay quick claim to some of the best homesteads. These people came to be identified as “sooners.”
The Unassigned Lands were finally opened to white settlement in the “Run” for farms and town lots. Places like the Guthrie Station, which was nothing more than a Santa Fe train depot and watering tank on the morning of April 22nd, swelled to towns of 10,000 people by night fall. Streets had been laid out, town lots staked off, and steps had been taken toward the formation of a municipal government. Many settlers immediately started improving their new land. Children sold creek water for five cents a cup to homesteaders waiting in line to file their claim, while other children gathered buffalo chips to provide fuel for cooking. By the second week, schools had opened and were being taught by volunteers paid by pupils’ parents until regular school districts could be established.
Life was often rough for these early land seekers, but many Oklahomans today still live on land their ancestors won in one of the land rushes, and their stories make exciting books and movies.
I have a trilogy set in the pre-statehood days of Oklahoma. In Sooner or Later, my first Heartsong novel, my hero rides in the land rush of 1889. It was a fun story to write, and I hope an enjoyable tale for readers to experience.
I’m giving away a three-book set of my Oklahoma series: Sooner or Later, The Bounty Hunter and the Bride, and A Wealth Beyond Riches to one lucky person today.