In just a few week Wyoming Lawman will be on the shelves. I thought it might be fun to do a blog on the “story behind the story.” Some books have deep historical roots. They’re based on the life of a real person, or maybe the story comes out of a real event and a “what if” question. That’s not the case with Wyoming Lawman. The historical elements that make this book unique are all small, but they still came straight from historical research.
I ran into my first historical roadblock in Chapter Two. I wanted my hero, Deputy Matt Wiley, to give flowers to the heroine. The book is set in 1875 Wyoming in October. The Union Pacific had a huge presence in Cheyenne, and flowers could have been shipped in . . . but this is October. And I wanted her to get a big, beautiful bouquet. That led to research on greenhouses. The earliest greenhouse I could find was later in the decade, and it was in Missouri.
If this book had been set a few years later, flowers would have made perfect sense. But in 1875, I thought it was too much of a stretch. What else could he give her as a token of his appreciation? A fellow writer suggested hair ribbons and I went with it. Those ribbons worked perfectly. Not only were they a fitting gift, they show up throughout the book. If I’d cheated on the history, I’d have missed a great opportunity for a recurring motif.
Another historical tidbit is Pearl’s name. She started off as a secondary character in The Maverick Preacher. When I name secondary characters, I go to the Social Security website where it lists the most common baby names for a year. I enter 1882 or whatever year fits, then mentally pick a number between 1-50. Bingo! That’s the name I use unless it rubs me the wrong way. Pearl’s name was that random. Already I’ve gotten comments from readers about how much they like a name that’s so old fashioned.
And wouldn’t you know it? The imagery is perfect for her character. Just as real pearls are formed from a grain of sand, a wound of sorts, my heroine is recovering from an act of violence in the past.
The last serendipity involves the Texas Rangers. I made the hero a former Ranger before I did a lick of research for this book. He’s an honorable guy, a defender of justice. Being a Ranger fit his personality. When I started researching, I discovered that in the time Matt would have worn the badge, the department had corruption issues. For a while they were the Texas State Police.
My conception and the history didn’t match at all, but this is where history–if respected–gives a fictional character more depth. Not only is Matt a former Texas Ranger, he’s a man who took grave exception to the corruption and fought it. That fight gave him yet another reason to go to Wyoming with his little girl.
So that’s some of the “behind the scenes” stuff for Wyoming Lawman. Here’s the back cover blurb:
Matrimony? Never again for deputy sheriff Matt Wiley. The only good thing from his first marriage is his daughter. His little girl might want a mother, but Matt knows that no woman should have to deal with his guilty secret, or his anger at God. He’ll do his duty, serve the town of Cheyenne and keep his distance. Yet when courageous single mother Pearl Oliver comes to town, watching from the sidelines isn’t an option–especially when Pearl lands herself in danger. His heart, Pearl’s life and the safety of their town are all at risk. Only the love and faith he thought he’d left behind can help him win his way to happily ever after.