More on WYOMING LAWMAN…How History Changed The Story

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.

Available for pre-order at Amazon…

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Victoria Bylin is under contract with Bethany House Publishers for two inspirational contemporary romances.Prior to jumping to the present day, she wrote westerns for Harlequin Historical and Love Inspired Historical. Her books have finaled in the ACFW Carol Awards, the Rita Awards and RT Magazine’s Reviewers’ Choice Awards. She and her husband live in Lexington, Kentucky and have two grown sons. You can learn more about Vicki at www.victoriabylin.com

31 thoughts on “More on WYOMING LAWMAN…How History Changed The Story”

  1. ooh, thank you for the behind the scenes! i love that 🙂
    his guilty secret?? how i would like to discover that–i guess i’m going to have to read it to find out, eh?
    thanks for sharing!

  2. Oh, got this one in the mail yesterday! Love eharlequin and ordering early! Now if I just didn’t have to celebrate my husband’s and his father’s birthdays and go to a baby shower for my daughter in law this weekend! 🙂

    Seriously, can’t wait to read it.

    Peace, Julie

  3. Hi Tanya, Kindles are getting more popular by the day. I’m doing with the idea, but I really like the feel of paper. I like the title of “Wyoming Lawman,” too. It’s iconic!

    Howdy, Tabitha! The guilty secret explains a lot about Matt Wiley. You’ve got to admire a man who’s determined to make things right.

  4. Hi Julie! You’ve got a busy weekend ahead of you. Happy birthday to the birthday boys! And major hugs / congrats on the coming grandbaby! It won’t be long before you’re singing lullabys and reading story books!

  5. Hi Stephanie, Im pretty sure the same little girl was a book by Dorothy Clark a few years ago. She’s got a very expressive face! In “Wyoming Lawman,” her character’s name is Sarah-with-an-h. I hope you enjoy the story!

  6. Research is so key to producing great stories, and I loved hearing how your novel grew and changed with your research. Great stuff! I’ll definitely be looking for Matt and Pearl on the shelves!

  7. Hi Vickie! The little girl steals the show, doesn’t she? Would you believe I had a blue-checked dress almost just like that when I was five?

    Howdy Jennie! The hair ribbons were a happy surprise and a great example of why it pays to respect history. Those ribbons show up several times in the book. They turned into so much more than a one time gift.

  8. Hi Karen, What’s the saying? Cheaters never prosper? Writing about the 1870s has been a particular challenge for me. I’m more comfortable in the 1880s, so I’ve had to check all sorts of stuff. The railroad changed everyday life profoundly, but it’s also a very exciting time in history.

  9. What an appealing cover, Vicki. And the story sounds wonderful. I love your “stories behind the stories”, too.
    I just finished a book set in 1858. The most challenging bit of research was the pre-Civil War guns. They mostly had percussion caps and were very different from later weapons.
    Great blog today!

  10. The railroad situation in the mid 19th century is out of control. Short lines of track. Bankruptcy. The train is there, then not there.
    We hear about the Union Pacific Railroad, the Transcontinental Railroad, the Golden Spike. But there is so much more to train history.

    It’s really hard to nail down TRUTH.

  11. Hi Elizabeth, So much changed with the Civil War. My husband and I were just at a museum with an exhibit of guns from the Old West. He could see every detail, every change. Whenever I need a gun for a hero or a bad guy, I ask him which one to use.

    Howdy, Mary! The big train lines, the weather and basic geography are carved in historical stone, but other things are up for grabs. One of the glories of a fictional town is that we get to make stuff up!

  12. Vicki, if I wasn’t already hooked on this book, I would be now. I love the behind the scenes look at why a story forms in a writer’s mind. It’s fortunate that higher powers were at work here. Your story came out far deeper and more emotional than when you tried to fit a round peg in a square hole. I can’t wait for this release.

    And thanks for little tidbit about the Social Security website. Sounds like I need to check that out.

  13. Hi Linda, You know how it is when you’re at the computer, and you’re *trying* so hard to make something work but it just doesn’t? That’s how it was with the flowers. The research definitely paid off. I so agree about a higher power being at work. The trick for me is to listen *before* I start writing.

    I think I got the Social Security idea from Cheryl St.John. I also use the PBR membership list. That idea came from Charlene Sands. Fillies are awesome!

  14. Congrats on your upcoming release! Thanks for sharing your behind the scenes info with us… always enjoy them! 😀

  15. I’ve had the same thing happen to me when researching for a work-in-progress. In my case it was researching my hero’s Confederate Army unit that gave me a whole new load of information about his background and consequently new ideas for the storyline. Research can be a ton of fun, and also very daunting on occasion! One of the biggest challenges so far about writing something set on a Texas farm has been figuring out the details of crops and growing seasons so I have an idea of what work should be going on.

  16. Hello Colleen! I’m glad to see this book on the shelves. I started it in 2008, wrote half, then stopped and wrote “Kansas Courtship.” I thought the release day would never come!

    Hi Elisabeth, Funny you’d mention your Confederate hero. The hero in “Wyoming Lawman” also foughtwith the Confederate Army. That led to research about Texans serving the War, which led to a specific battle, which led to a specific place, which just happened to be in northern Virginia, where I used to live. It all fit together. And I hear you on crops and growing seasons. That’s information that influences an entire book.

  17. Hi Loretta, New releases are always exciting. First the authors copies arrive and I see that it’s really a book, then reviews start . . . So far, so good for “Wyoming Lawman.”

    Hello Melinda, The book is a sequel to “Maverick Preacher.” Pearl is getting her HEA at last!

  18. Can’t believe I missed yesterday’s post. Interesting. Odd how a choice made more or less randomly turns out to be perfect when the history of the story starts taking shape. I’ll be looking for WYOMING LAWMAN.

  19. Got my copy from eharlequin last week and it’s patiently waiting it’s turn in my TBR. Darn my 2 favorite genres, cozy mysteries and western historicals, so many good books lately I just can’t keep up LOL

  20. Hi Patricia, We all miss posts now and then. P&P is usually my first stop in the morning, but you know how it goes. Pearl’s name was definitely a happy surprise.

    Hello Melissa, I got my book club books about a week ago. I’m looking forward to reading Dorothy’s book. Laurie Kingery’s book, too. AND Christine Johnson’s book . . . it’s a good couple of months for LIH!

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