Kay P. Dawson has tied up her pony in the corral and is here to sit a spell and tell us a bit about herself and her writing journey. She’s also offering a few of her books and items to one lucky individual who comments.
Please give her a warm filly welcome!
I grew up on a farm, and spent a great deal of my early life hanging around my grandparent’s farms. (We come from a long line of farmers, and my younger brothers are carrying on the tradition).
In the fall, we even used to have an old-fashioned “thrashing” day when my great-uncle would fire up the old steam engine and all of us kids would follow along in the fields throwing the hay up onto the horse-drawn wagon.
So, hearing the stories of when my grandparents were young, and when their parents were young always fascinated me. I used to imagine being back in the times they were talking about, scenes that I would play out in my mind as I pretended to be a pioneer. Of course, right around this time, Little House on the Prairie was a massive hit on our one channel TV, and I was drawn to the stories playing on the screen. (I always pretended to be Laura, and my sister was Mary. Sometimes I’d drag my brothers and my cousin in to play too, although I don’t think they were as excited about it as me.)
Writing historical western romance was natural for me. I began reading the old western love stories when I was a teenager, at the same time everyone was reading the Sweet Valley High books. Something about the past intrigued me, and when my grandparents would tell a story about how they’d lived, I couldn’t get enough.
The part I love the most about being able to write western romance is the time I get to spend researching. Sometimes, I can lose a whole day of writing because I’ve found something else fascinating that takes me off the path I was originally looking up.
I’ve recently started writing some contemporary stories too, but all of my books have a “western” or small-town, rural feel to them. That’s all I really know, so that’s what I like to write about.
When I was a little girl, I had a great uncle Rob who was the truest cowboy you could ever meet. He used to let me and my friend hang out in the stables with his horses for hours on end, and never once lost his patience with us. He had a smile for every one he met, and he had a soft, quiet voice you’d have to strain to hear. I always remember him with a cowboy hat on his head, and his dusty blue jeans.
So much of what goes into my books is taken from the people I’ve known and where I’ve grown up. Even though I’ve had stories take place in Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, Kansas, Texas…and now British Columbia and Yukon in the early 1900’s – I’ve never been to these places. I’ve had to research and learn, and spend some time getting a “feel” for the places I’m writing about.
But they all have a common element, and that’s family, small town, rural roots. Those are the virtues that have defined me as I grew up, and that’s what I know best. Something about the call of home and family, where neighbors look out for each other and life moves at a slower pace.
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What about you? Have you noticed how much of your own upbringing and the people and places you spent time around as you grew up has defined what you do today?
I’d love to hear your comments below!
For those who comment, Felicia Filly plans to draw one of your names
for this sweet giveaway offer from Kay P. Dawson!
Thank you to everyone – all of the authors of the Petticoats & Pistols blog and the readers – for letting me hang out with you all today!
I have a variety of books out at the moment – Mail Order Brides, Oregon Trail, and even a cattle drive romance! I also have some contemporary stories that take place in rural, small towns and a couple western time travel stories. (These I really enjoyed because it was so fun to imagine being able to actually travel back to the times I write about!)
You can find all of my books listed on my website or Amazon author page:
I”m writing a new series set in Two-Time, Texas (wait till you out find out why it”s called Two-Time). Like an old teabag I”ve been steeped in research since the first of the year, and just learned that not everything in Texas is huge. Take for example Sunday houses.
A Sunday house was a small (and I do mean small) second dwelling located next to a church. These houses were built by devout German farmers and ranchers who lived in the Texas Hill boonies.
Originally, German settlements were laid out as farm communities and farmers were given town lots. They were expected to live in town and drive out daily to their farms or ranches to work. It didn”t take farmers long to figure out that it was less of a hassle to live on the farms and travel to town on weekends.
This led to the building of Sunday houses. Every Saturday farming families traveled to town to purchase supplies, attend to business and, if necessary, receive medical treatment.
Saturday nights was a time to socialize and this generally included a dance. They would then spend the night at their Sunday houses so as to attend church the following morning. They would either return to farm or ranch on Sunday afternoon, or wait till Monday.
These wood-framed weekend houses were small and usually had only one and a half rooms. Many had gabled attics reached from an outside staircase where children would sleep. The pitched roofs were made from handmade cypress shingles and the windows and woodwork embellished with mill work.
The first floor had a lean-to kitchen and covered porch. A fireplace provided warmth and cooking facilities, but there was no running water.
These second dwellings fell out of favor in the 1920s. Improved roads and automobiles made Sunday houses no longer necessary. Fortunately, many of these charming houses still exist in Gillespie County and supposedly cost a bundle.
Now if I could just figure out how to work a Sunday house into my story. Anyone seen one of these?
Hot Flash: Book two in Margaret”s Undercover Ladies series
UNDERCOVER BRIDE can be ordered now (hint, hint).
Who in the name of Sam Hill was the green-eyed beauty
You know how sometimes you realize something and wonder why you never really saw it before? That happened to me last week. I was doing a little research for my new book, piecing together my hero’s past, and I had just finished a week of admin. A whole week. And that’s when it hit me. I have something in common with the ranchers I write about – more than the love of the outdoors and wide-open skies.
Is that a skeptical brow I see arched in my direction? I know. Our professions couldn’t be more different, right? I sit on my butt in front of a computer all day. A rancher spends most of his day outside, in the fields and barns. I make things up, farmers are faced with reality every moment and deal with the here and now. Farmers are physically tough; I have a real ongoing issue with Writer’s Butt, and it ain’t pretty.
But we have a lot in common too. We’re in the business of producing goods, and if we don’t pay close attention to quality, our market dries up and we don’t get paid. And guess what. There’s not a writer or farmer I know who punches a clock. We do what has to get done when it has to get done.
More than that, though, is the change to our professions brought on by technology. Farmers aren’t just farmers and writers aren’t just writers. We are business people. There is more to being an author than writing the book. There’s more to being a farmer than milking the cow or harvesting the wheat.
Farmers need to be up to speed with developments – water management, land management, economics, livestock management, genetic developments, and dear Lord yes, finances. I don’t think a lot of people out there realize what goes into the jug of milk they buy, the tray of steak or the bag of apples they pick up at the grocery store.
Writers need to know the market, they need to promote themselves and keep pace with developments in the industry. The days are gone where you could write a book, send it off to your publisher and trust the rest. I spend a good portion of my time reading up on the changes in the industry, figuring out where to spend my promotional dollars, doing paperwork, developing relationships with readers, and yes, writing new books. Because writing is my business.
It was really cool to make the parallel, and it happened when I was looking at some of the programs offered at Olds College in Alberta. The term “simple farmer” gets my goat. There is nothing simple about farming and the men and women who do it – and let’s face it, not many farmers are getting rich at it – are savvy and dedicated.
Just like a writer should be.
And just another reason why I love writing modern westerns.
You can check out my latest “innovative” cowboy in Honeymoon with the Rancher, featuring an Argentine Gaucho who uses his smarts to keep the family estancia going as a guest ranch. It’s out in the UK this month and will be in the US and Canada in May. And you can always catch up with my at my site, www.donnaalward.com !