What do you get when you mix a “mad scientist” hero with a woman on a mission to save her family? Lots of explosive action and heart-pounding romance. And when I say, explosive, I mean KABOOM!!!
When I started writing this book, I knew I wanted to pair a feisty heroine with a hero who was obsessed with science. But what kind of scientific obsession would make sense in Texas in the 19th century? I wanted something exciting, something explosive. At first I played around with making him a chemist, thinking of all the lovely laboratory experiments that could go wrong. But it had been far too many years since my high school chemistry days, and I didn’t trust myself to handle the science needed to accurately portray that type of hero.
Then I remembered steam engines – steamboat engines in particular. Very explosive. I started digging into the research and learned that during the height of riverboat expansion into the American west in the 1840s and 50s, thousands of passengers and crew lost their lives every year in boiler explosions aboard steamboats. So I put my hero aboard an actual 19th century steamboat, the Louisiana, on the day that its boiler exploded in New Orleans.
A few minutes after 5:00 p.m. on November 15, 1849, the Louisiana began to pull away from the wharf, and all at once the boilers exploded with such force that large pieces of the boilers were blown hundred of yards, killing not only passengers, but pedestrians and animals on land as well as severely damaging two other nearby vessels on the river. Some passengers were scalded to death, falling timbers and debris crushed others, still others drowned trying to escape. The mighty ship sunk in a mere ten minutes. Over 150 people died that day. And no one could determine the cause of the explosion.
This is where Darius Thornton’s obsession was born. He was aboard the Louisiana during this horrendous tragedy, saw the death and destruction firsthand, and despite his efforts to save the women and children around him, still lost too many. Darius gave up his lucrative position in his family’s business, bought an abandoned plantation near Liberty, Texas along the Trinity River, and started conducting his own experiments with steam engine boilers, determined to find a way to help make steamboat travel safer.
In honor of Full Steam Ahead’s release, I’ll be drawing two names from today’s commenters to receive free, autographed copies. [Available for US addresses only.]
So here’s a question for you . . .
- Who are your favorite scientific heroes – mad or otherwise?