Having been born and raised in the hill country of southwestern Virginia and spending most of my adult life in Wisconsin, I am not exactly ‘cowgirl’ material. But I was blessed to have a father who devoured Louis L’Amour novels and loved western films. Later in life I had friends who lived in Phoenix where I visited several times, hiking the mountain and desert trails and marveling at the diversity of landscape this great country of ours has to offer. So when my publisher came looking for someone to propose a Western historical series, of course I raised my hand!!!
LAST CHANCE COWBOYS is a four-book series about a ranching family in Arizona in the late 1800’s. A lot of people don’t realize that the era of the cowboy as depicted in movies like Lonesome Dove was brief. Once the railroads made their way across the country, cattle drives that covered long distances and kept cowboys away from home for weeks or even months at a time were a thing of the past. Another factor that played into the demise of the Hollywood portrait of a cowboy was the huge influx of settlers heading West and taking claim to land—fencing that land to mark their property and in effect ending—or at least seriously limiting—the ‘open range.’ There were other factors as well—resettlement of native peoples among them.
Attending conferences in Denver and San Antonio, I was fortunate to connect with Arizonian Melody Groves . Melody has been my reader for all the books of the series and her contributions to setting and detail cannot be underestimated. I also spent ten days last fall in Santa Fe—first on a group tour that exposed me to pueblo life and history and then for a three day self-sabbatical when I stayed at the Quaker Meetinghouse in Santa Fe—a wonderful adobe building that certainly gave me the flavor of living in those surroundings. I’m returning this fall for a refresher!
Whether I am writing about cowboys, Amish families, World War II or modern-day characters, I see them all as people who experienced or are experiencing the same joys and travails people have gone through for as long as we’ve walked upright on this planet. So a Florida cowboy (THE DRIFTER) looking for a place to call home drifts across the southern United States until he stumbles upon a ranch in Arizona run by a woman. In THE LAWMAN, a prodigal son returns home to build a life and re-connect with his family and the love he left behind. Neither is all that different from a former hedge fund investor, just out of prison looking to make a fresh start. (Hint: my next project after this Western series!) My characters struggle with similar regrets, hopes, fears and triumphs that drive the choices—good and bad—they make throughout the novel. They may live in different centuries and get around by different modes of travel, but they have a lot in common.
This belief that while the world around us changes daily (sometimes hourly), people are essentially the same in how they go through their lives is what drives my writing. I love walking down a cobblestone street or through a historic building and thinking about those who have walked there before—the choices they faced, the decisions they made. The human spirit is a fascinating thing!!
Anna will give away an audio copy of THE DRIFTER (Book One of Last Chance Cowboys) to one individual who leaves a comment on this post.