All that changed while I was researching Kansas Courtship, my March 2010 release from Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historicals. The book is a continuity, which means I didn’t pick the characters. An editor wrote a basic story line for three related books. My book, the third in the series, features a lady doctor and a mill owner in a town devastated by a tornado.
No problem with the lady doctor. There’s plenty of reading material on frontier medicine (waving at Kate Bridges here; her P&P blogs were gold). I could visualize my heroine’s life right off the bat.
The hero was a different story. From Day One, this guy was a problem child. He’s a mill owner. At the time, I knew nothing about mills. The story is set in Kansas in 1860. I’m thinking, “Kansas? Where are the trees? Don’t they grow wheat in Kansas?” A little research cleared up my misconception. Eastern Kansas is quite different from western Kansas. In 1860 there were plenty of trees. I was in the clear with my assigned characters, but I still needed to see a mill.
I looked online. There’s a youtube video of an historic mill, but it didn’t help. I looked at dozens of pictures, but I couldn’t visualize how the pieces worked. Nor could I hear or smell any of the details. Milling is completely out of my range. Wood comes from Home Depot and bread comes from grocery stores. That’s about it.
The answer came out of the blue on a gorgeous Sunday morning. My husband and I were leaving church when I started muttering, “I really need to visit an historic mill.”
The next thing I knew, we were doing a U-turn on Route 7. This wasn’t your garden variety U-turn. He gunned the engine of our oh-so-sporty Camry and I was half out the window. My voice went up two octaves. “What in the world!”
“A mill,” he said. “We’re going to a mill.” He sounded like James Bond.
“Where?” I asked.
“Up the road.” Imagine clipped speech. Picture the intensity of Daniel Craig or Sean Connery, and you’ve got the idea.
The next thing I knew, we’d turned up the road to the Colvin Run Historic Mill, an official landmark. We’ve lived in northern Virginia for several years now, but I don’t know the area very well. My husband, it turns out, had driven by the mill on his way to have lunch with a friend a few weeks earlier.
For the next two hours, we took in every detail of the mill and asked the miller dozens of questions. I’ll never forget the sound of water spilling as the wheel turned and the millworks went into motion. The gears made a huge racket and dust filled the air. We saw the miller adjust the millstones and learned about the perils of the trade. I used all those details in Kansas Courtship.
I had the best day! Best of all, I got to share it with my husband. My characters may be imaginary, but my husband is very real. He’s also my real life hero.
This isn’t quite related to milling, but I’m hung up on the James Bond comparison. I’m also shopping for a hero for my next manuscript. Of all the actors who’ve played “Bond, James Bond,” which one do you think would look best in a cowboy hat? Choices are Sean Connery, Robert Moore, Timoty Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig. I know there’s one other actor who played James Bond once, but I can’t remember who. Anyhow, I am leaning toward Timothy Dalton, but Daniel Craig is moving up on the list.
And last, I want to say how thrilled I am to be a Filly. It’s a joy to join this group of talented authors who all love western romance. To celebrate, let’s have a drawing. I’ll toss the names of everyone who comments into the cowboy hat and pick out three winners. Winners get the book of their choice from my Love Inspired Historicals. Good luck!
Click on The Maverick Preacher cover to order from amazon .com!