Stacey Kayne ~ Cultivating My Westerns

I’m often asked where I get my story ideas and was recently asked if I got them from watching soap operas—which drew immediate laughter from me, because frankly (aside from the fact that I write westerns), I couldn’t watch a soap to save my life. Nothing against those who enjoy them, I simply don’t possess enough patience to enjoy a never-ending story. I need closure. In fact, I’m rather obsessed with the guarantee I’ll get closure even with my own stories and tend to write my last chapter early on…often times long before I finish the first chapter. I actually wrote the last chapter first for THE GUNSLINGER’S UNTAMED BRIDE. I knew the story would take place in a logging camp, and though I knew next to nothing about the characters as individuals, I knew exactly how their story would end in reference to the setting.

For me, setting tends to dictate my stories. I always start with a location first. BRIDE OF SHADOW CANYON was my first completed manuscript, a story that I built around a journey. My mind already envisioned all the locations I wanted to share with readers, I just had to come up with reasons to get my characters there and incorporate them into the scenes. So, as one might guess, most my stories start with me staring at maps, deciding where I want to go, where I want to take my readers, and how I can work a love story into the trip. I still have the maps for BRIDE and MUSTANG WILD, pinpointing each leg of their journey, as well as collages I made with a clockwise placement of snippets showing the changing landscapes as their story progressed.

I’m currently at work on a new series, but for months after finishing my last WILD book a new storyline refused to surface in my mind. I bought a ton of reference books on characters, pioneers, orphan train children, school teachers, doctors, miners, hoping to plant a seed and characters would take root and blossom into a story. I should have known better—it took stumbling across a book of Civil War maps to make the first strike in fertile ground. While pouring over the maps and reading about cartographers, I unearthed the era of the first book…whoever my heroes were, they were going to emerge into the chaos of Post Civil War. The maps reminded me that location was key in growing my books (It had been a while since starting a new series, I had forgotten!), and since I already had a vague notion that I wanted to explore Montana I found the textbook used to teach Montana history at the UC, dove into all the social and political turmoil happening in my chosen era, of which there was an abundance, and BAM! My heroes started taking shape and talking to me 😀

My heroes are always the first to stomp an impression into my mind, their temperaments defining the type of heroine they’ll require to get them under control 😉 Once I have a course set and a solid hero, everything else tends to spiral from there and fall into place. The first hero to arrive ended up being the hero of the second book for this series. I’m working on four books at present—they always come in a lot, and I tend to fall for the whole cast, and there’s always that secondary character that tries to steal the spotlight, ensuring he’ll get his own book. The loudest in this bunch has become my favorite, though he doesn’t get his own story until book three. He’s the rowdiest and most rotten, so of course his name is Gabriel. Here’s a little snippet from book two, the first time he wrangled me into his head, ensuring he’d get his own story. He’s tormenting Lake, the hero in book two, which is one of his favorite pastimes:

Gabriel Quaid crouched beside the entwined couple sleeping soundly beneath the low shelter. He hated to wake them, and wished to hell he had one of them picture cameras. He’d sell his right boot for a still frame of Lake holding the fair-haired woman, wrapped in each others arms, her pretty pink lips pressed against his neck, Lake’s fingers tangled in her hair. Hell, he’d ride barefoot and bare-assed to possess such torment. Laughter escaped his throat at the mere thought.

Eyes dark as demon coal sprang open, Lake pinning him without moving another muscle. Quaid grinned so wide it hurt.

“Easy, pardner,” he whispered. “I wouldn’t make any sudden moves if I were you. Then again, if I’s holding that bit of softness, I’d be doing my damnedest to slide my hands across those smooth curves and warm valleys while I had the chance.”

Lake stiffened, the slight move stirring Miss Fairchild. She shifted against him, her sleepy moan sounding like a contented purr. Watching sweat bead on Lake’s brow was the most fun Quaid had had since the brawl back at Fort Smith. In the five years he’d ridden with Lake, the stiff-necked half-breed didn’t cotton to white women, not one bit. The unfamiliar trace of fear etched across his friend’s expression told him this little woman had put a chink in that particular prejudice.

“Perty, ain’t she?” he taunted, his voice no more than a low rumble.

Oh hell, look at the murder in those eyes.

*Sigh* I do love the bad boys. I think mostly because they require the strongest breed of feisty heroines, and Quaid’s Lady Love is about as headstrong as they come.

Sadly, my new crop of westerns is still a ways off from being harvested and packaged up for the masses—but after an unintended detour from writing over the past year I’m downright giddy to be back in the fields!

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24 thoughts on “Stacey Kayne ~ Cultivating My Westerns”

  1. I never would have thought to get the story from a map. I always have the story, just need to find just the place that my mind sees it in. The series sounds wonerful.

  2. Stacey, love to hear how authors get their ideas and the journey they go on developing their storyline. Your post is a great example of the fantastic journey you’re taking with your WIP. How much fun! I love research, so had to smile when I read how many books you have purchased. I don’t buy as many as I once did because so much can now be found on the Internet, but one thing that can’t be replaced are the books written by locals found in museums and small regional gift shops! They have stories only being who “know” could write. Enjoy your journey and thanks for sharing it with us today. Hugs, P

  3. Great post, Stacey. I’m in the process of plotting out my next books, always the hardest part of the journey for me, so your topic couldn’t have been timed better.

    And I loved your excerpt! You made an awkward moment so rich in characterization for both of the males in the scene. Too fun! I hope Lake gets a chance for revenge when Quaid finds his own lady love.

  4. Ohhhhhh! I can hardly wait. I have to know more!!! Thanks for excerpt!

    I love maps, They tell me so much about so many things, whether they are old or new, I love looking at them.

  5. Hi Stacey! Isn’t it amazing how ideas get spun from straw into story-gold? I find old maps intriguing, mostly for the names of towns, but I’ve never launched a book off of one. Your new series sounds wonderful. Long live bad boys!

  6. Stacy, I’m so happy your dry spell is over. I know what it’s like to have nothing inside my head, no story, no characters, just emptiness. I felt like jumping up and down and doing backflips when I felt the old stirrings beginning. I know your new series will be great. I can’t wait until they come out and I can read them! What joy.

    And I love unique professions for either the hero or heroine or both. I can’t recall ever reading a story about a cartographer. Sounds wonderful.

  7. Hi Jeannene! I’ve always been sorta backward 😉 Strange thing is, with contemporary stories I get characters first, and plot, but with westerns, they have to come from the land.

    Thanks for sharing 😀

  8. Thanks, Phyliss! I do have a weakness for reference books *lol* I agree, they can’t beat local museums and those first account tales from private journals. Historical Society’s are great too. When working on BRIDE I spent a lot of time in dusty rooms looking at dated hand drawn maps of the local terrain–it was like touching the past, you know? The maps included every pig pen and chicken coup on local farms, as well old dirt trails and roads. They were great 😀

  9. Hi Karen! Glad I’m not alone in my pain *ggg* I really hated that between books limbo. Hope you soon have a fast-growing story 🙂

    I’m glad you liked the excerpt! Quaid definitely gets his due, in both books…almost felt bad for the guy, but Lake wouldn’t let me 😉

  10. Hi Vicki! You know, the names of towns and lay of county lines were the reasons I started visiting Historic Societies–I was stunned by all the unfamiliar names and the foreign landscape in the area where I grew up. Definitely a whole different world than the one we live in now 🙂

    Thanks for the cheers 😀

  11. Linda wrote: “Stacy, I’m so happy your dry spell is over.”

    Thank you, Linda! Me too—my mind is a very scary place when I can’t hear all the voices 😉 I was seriously starting to wonder if my mind had forgotten how to weave the words. Thank goodness I have the best editors on the planet—really helped to ease the panic-induced hyperventilating 😀 And I’m always thrilled to see your new books hitting the shelves!! ox!

  12. ah stacey–i’m THRILLED to hear the new series is in the works….it’s like looking forward to far a far off Christmas as a child…knowing such joy and fun is just waiting for me out there 🙂

    love to hear how your mind works
    thanks for sharing an excerpt–builds the suspense….you keep on workin’ girl…i’m waiting as patiently as i can for your next book 🙂

  13. Stacey, write faster! 😉 I can’t wait for these books.

    I, too, love maps. When I’m writing, I have the atlas open on my desk so I can refer to the area in and around my story setting. It’s nice to know I’m not alone.

  14. Glad there is a new series in the works. Bad boys, post Civil War, all good buzz words for me.

    Ideas from soap operas. At least they didn’t say HORSE operas! 🙂

    Peace and happy writing, Julie

  15. I LOVE the excerpt. Gabriel is the kind of friend you like to have and want to kill half the time. He is definitely going to add some spice to the series. Gabriel (or Gabriella) was the name we had chosen is we had had another child. Never got to use it.

    I like the way you storyboard your books. I am also a visual person and having pictures of the places and most definitely a map would make it a lot easier to work. We are map people in this house. I am always more comfortable when I have the lay of the land and how things relate to each other established. I found a couple of neat maps of England that I hope to use someday soon. One is what England was like (towns roads,etc.) during Roman times and I think the other one is Regency or Victorian England. Both maps relate the features to present day roads and landmarks.

    I find it interesting how early you write the last chapter, but I can understand it. I can see having several scenes that are important to the story and wanting to get them worked out and on paper (or computer). That way you don’t loose them and can write around them. Best of luck with the series. I can’t wait to meet Lake, Gabriel, and the rest of the crew.

  16. Julie wrote: “Ideas from soap operas. At least they didn’t say HORSE operas!”

    LOL!! Hey now, that’s entirely a horse of another color 😉 Thanks, Julie!

  17. Wandered here via your website, looking for your next release. 🙂

    Your post reminds me of Louis L’Amour stories, so rooted in place.

    I’m map-challenged–can’t say my stories grow that way. 😉

    Glad new books are in the works! pamb

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