THE GILBERT GIRLS ARE HERE! by CAT CAHILL

Hi there! I’m Cat Cahill, author of the Gilbert Girls series. Thank you for letting me sit a while here with you today. I’m going to chat about one of my favorite things—inspiration!

 

I love that moment when a new book idea hits me. It can be quiet or loud, detailed or vague, and sometimes it’s an older idea that’s changed into something new and different. The inspiration behind my Gilbert Girls series was the latter.

 

Several years ago, I was on a long road trip out West and we’d stopped for a few days at the Grand Canyon. If you’ve been, you might remember how steeped in history the Canyon is. From the buildings on the South Rim to the stories of brave souls paddling down the Colorado River, history is everywhere you turn. But one display in a building on the South Rim caught my attention for longer than anything else. It was about the Harvey Girls, and for the life of me, I couldn’t even tell you what was in that display now!

 

         El Tovar, the former Harvey hotel at the Grand Canyon.

 

2 HORSE CARRIAGE TO RIGHT OF FRONT ENTRANCE, EL TOVAR HOTEL. FAMILY ON PORCH. CIRCA 1908

I won’t go much into the history of the Harvey Girls, since there are already several excellent posts on this blog about them. But I was fascinated! I picked up a book about them in the gift shop and devoured it when I returned home. And that was it . . . until a couple of years ago when I got the idea that I wanted to write western historical romance. The Harvey Girls immediately popped into my head. I dug out that book again, did some more research, and I was hooked. But after tons of research, I realized something critical—I couldn’t write about the actual Harvey Girls.

 

I wanted to write a historical western, but most of the existing information about the Harvey Girls dates to 1900 or later; very little is available about the earlier, nineteenth century years. With little to go on and a desire to set my books in the beautiful Wet Mountain Valley of Colorado, I invented my own version of the Harvey Girls — the Gilbert Girls. This gave me the freedom to use the Harvey Girls as inspiration but invent facts where none existed before. What I love most about historical fiction is that it’s a beautiful blend of real-life history and, well, fiction.

 

It allowed me to create a new hotel with invented rules and characters from my head. For example, the Gilbert Girls aren’t allowed to be courted while they’re under contract at the hotel—you can guess how well that goes in a sweet romance book! I can bring in characters of all sorts, like Monroe, the hotel’s builder in the first book, Building Forever, who tries to bury his guilt over losing his wife with his work. Or Penny, in Wild Forever, the most recent book, who is starting over far away from a past that gave her no options at home.

 

Inspiration is a wonderful thing, even if you’re not a writer. I hope you find inspiration in your life, whether it’s to create, to spend more time doing what you love or with the people you cherish, or to think more about the philosophies by which you live your life.

 

What inspires you? Comment below, and you’ll be entered to win one set of signed paperback copies of the first two Gilbert Girls books (if you live outside the US, you’ll receive ebooks through Amazon).

 

Cat’s Bio:

A sunset. Snow on the mountains. A roaring river in the spring. A man and a woman who can’t fight the love that pulls them together. The danger and uncertainty of life in the Old West. This is what inspires Cat to write. She hopes you find an escape in her books!?

Cat lives with her family, a hound dog, and a few cats in Kentucky. When she’s not writing, she’s losing herself in a good book, planning her next travel adventure, doing a puzzle, attempting to garden, or wrangling her kids.?

You can visit Cat at her website, or follow her on Facebook to get all the latest Gilbert Girls news. You can also follow her on Amazon. Or sign up for her newsletter, where she’ll send you Forbidden Forever, the series prequel novella.

 

 

Petrified Forest and The Painted Desert

During our Route 66 travels through Arizona last summer I visited the famous Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert. These two wonders have been on my bucket list for years and they’re definitely worth seeing. The Petrified Forest is the only national park in our country that protects a section of Route 66.

The Petrified Forest National Park, which has one of the world’s largest deposits of petrified wood, encompasses the badlands of the Painted Desert, archeological sites and 200-million-year-old fossils. In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed legislation creating the Petrified Forest National Monument, and it became a national park in 1952. The park averages about 645,000 visitors each year. 

   

The Petrified Forest is known for its fallen trees (coniferous, ferns, and gingkoes) from the Late Triassic Period 225 million years ago. It’s believed some of the trees reached 200 feet high when they were alive. The park has one of the largest concentrations of petrified wood in the world. Other places with petrified wood are North Dakota, Argentina, and Egypt.

    

      

Painted Desert Inn

 

 

The National Park also contains the historic Painted Desert Inn, which sits on a mesa overlooking the Painted Desert. The Inn was built in 1924 as a roadside hotel called the Stone Tree House by Herbert David Lore (the name came from the petrified wood used in its construction). In 1935 the National Park Service purchased it and the surrounding land. The Inn was redesigned in the Pueblo Revival style by architect Lyle E. Bennett. The Civilian Conservation Corps supplied the labor. In 1987 The Painted Desert Inn became a National Historic Landmark.

View out the back of the Painted Desert Inn

    

Inside the Painted Desert Inn

   

   

The Painted Desert encompasses over 93,500 acres and stretches over 160 miles. It begins about 30 miles north of Cameron, Arizona near the southeastern rim of the Grand Canyon and extends all the way to the Petrified Forest about 26 miles east of Holbrook, AZ.

Photos don’t do justice to the breathtaking scenery and the vast emptiness that stretches to the horizon in all directions. I can only imagine what early travelers thought when they came upon the apocalyptic-looking badlands that seemed more like a planet from outer space than earth.

I’m wondering how many western historical authors have mentioned or used the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert…or perhaps the Painted Desert Inn in the plot of a book. Have you read a historical romance that mentions these places?

Until Next Time…Happy Trails!