Joyce Henderson is a multi-published author who writes Native American Romance set in Central Texas where she was born. Joyce writes “what she knows,” horses and ranching, and she loves researching Indian lore. Her work has finaled in national contests: National Readers’ Choice Award, Georgia Romance Writers Maggie, and several others. During her 25-year writing career, she’s mentored a half-dozen or more writers who have gone on to publication.
And she worked for local newspapers for several years writing a by-lined column.
Married forever, she has three children and three grandkids, plus six step-grandkids and six step-great-grandchildren.
Yeehaw, I’m back to kick up my heels at the Junction! It’s a right pretty place I love to visit.
Now, to get on with why I’m here…
I’m asked over and over by readers and other writers: Which one of your heroes is your favorite?
The short answer is: The one I’m presently writing.
Upon donning my thinking cap, I realize there’s a much deeper, more complex reason for that answer.
I suppose it has to do with how I write in the first place. First, if you’re a writer let me say for the umpteenth time when writers have been faced with “rules,” there’s no right or wrong way when it comes to how one devises prose. We all approach this art form differently. And I believe, oft times to my detriment, those so-called rules are made to be broken. LOL
I consider myself a visual writer. By that I mean, more often than not I “see” entire scenes in my mind, and then I see people acting, reacting within those scenes. What that scene depicts is a visual of the era and location where my entire story will be set and expanded upon. Actually, I use scenes almost like another character.
While I’m writing a story, people pop into scenes, so… I must visualize many individuals, give each a tick or trait that make each one stand out from others. For me, that’s one of the fun parts of writing. I usually write a ton of secondary people into my stories, but I have to caution myself as I conjure these characters…don’t let them take over. All my stories are he-and-she romances, secondary characters must have a purpose, but remember who each one is: secondary. And since my stories are romances, they must end with HEA, happily ever after.
Look with me at the Prologue and opening scene of my very first published book, Walks in Shadow, and the visual I saw before I typed the first word…
It’s dark, with light rain at the tail end of a storm. A lone man gazes into the distance, stands beneath trees, limbs bending and swaying overhead. He wears a Stetson hat, rain drips before his eyes and cascades off the brim down his back . His arms hold a bulge beneath his yellow slicker. That’s my basic visual.
You’ve probably heard the admonition directed at writers, “Write what you know.”
Most of my Native American historical stories are set in and around the town where I was born in Central Texas. While I knew dirt when it was still a rock, honestly, I wasn’t around in the year in which this story is set, 1860. LOL The oaks my hero stands beneath are like those which used to line the dirt road leading to my great-grandmother’s old homestead. I know the place.
Okay, back to my scene… (This is wheels grinding in my pea brain. LOL) I ask myself, what’s this guy doing there? What’s riveted his attention? What’s hidden beneath the slicker that he’s holding against his chest? I enlarge my visual.
Across a clearing is a two-story house… (My great-grandma’s place was one story.) There’s a porch the width of the house (Grandma’s was half the width), one central door with a window each side from which light spills. Nearby, a barn, and an attached lean-to, a chicken coop.
Switch back to the man…He looks down, separates the coat and stares into the face of a sleeping child. From his thoughts I begin to learn who he is and why he’s there. He’s anguished because he’s about to abandon this boy-child on the porch. But why? Because…he promised his adopted sister on her deathbed he would take her…half-breed son to be raised in the white man’s world.
Why would she ask that of him? Let me think…. Because…this guy is a white man who was captured while a toddler and raised Comanche. He’s the logical one to honor his sister’s wish, return to his roots, but…he’s unsure if he can be a white man again, or if he really wants to.
Little Spring is the product of his sister’s rape by a white man. Still, why is this guy now leaving the child here? Because…the white man who helped his sister lives in this house. It’s super hard to leave Little Spring, but he whispers a promise. One day he will return for the boy.
Let’s see. I already like this guy because…no matter how difficult it is and despite his love for the boy, he’ll honor his sister’s dying wish. This is the basic premise for my hero. Now what’s his name? Light bulb flash. He travels at night, remains in the shadows so…Walks in Shadow is born!
The prologue ends with Walks in Shadow’s promise, chapter one begins with the heroine, and that produces another visual in my mind. The terrain is rolling, oaks dotted here and yon. A black stallion stands on a distant hill, silhouetted against a cerulean sky.
What does that have to do with anything? The first lines of chapter one will introduce the heroine, and ultimately clue-in the reader to what that visual is and why the horse is important.
Samantha Timberlake wanted him the first time she saw him. The yearning was so intense, so primal, it took her breath. She was twenty-five years old, and though she loved her father, Aunt Mattie and Little Guy fiercely, she’d never experienced a desire so strong—until now.
He’d stood on a hill, wild, proud, fierce, as beautiful as Texas was brutal. Then he disappeared from view.
I’ve led the reader to believe she’s seeing Walks in Shadow. Not until the bottom of the page does the reader discover she’s seeing and yearning for a black stallion. And that gets my thoughts to grinding again…make Walks in Shadow a horse-whisperer-style trainer.
When Samantha meets Walks in Shadow, it’s five years from when he left Little Spring on this very ranch. Walks in Shadow has more or less transformed himself into a white man, he speaks very precise English that he learned during this time, and his name is now Holden Walker.
Why that name? Walker, of course, is a play on his Indian name, but why Holden? Because…it’s a name he vaguely remembers from when he was a toddler.
When Walks in Shadow recognizes Guy as Little Spring and realizes he can’t take the boy from this place, from these people who now consider him son and brother, his heart breaks a little.
In order to remain close to the child, he offers to train the stallion, and not break the horse’s spirit in the process like, to his mind, the white man’s sometimes brutal methods.
From Samantha’s POV I now begin to see Walks in Shadow/Holden Walker more clearly. He’s a hunk! Did you doubt it? Well, hey, this is a romance. LOL Tall, dark hair. I often see Benjamin Bratt as my hero in these stories.
Although, when writing most of my Native American heroes, I picture Adam Beach’s hair and how he wears a feather.
As the story unfolds in my mind, I learn of the length’s Walks in Shadow has gone in an effort to honor his dead sister’s final request, to make himself presentable as a white man. While seeing these scenes, I learn how gentle the man really is. What he abhorred about the Comanche, what he loved about them, how undecided he is about making a life forever in the white man’s world.
He’s immeasurably sad when he knows the boy has grown up without learning about his Indian people. Walks in Shadow’s heart breaks just a little when he regrets not teaching Little Spring to use the small bow and arrows he made just for him; the gift he still carries in his belongings. Ah, yes…the gift conjures another scene that I make notes about for later use.
And in each scenario, I like what I see when Holden handles horses. I like how he helps Guy through the child’s first brush with the death of a loved one. I like how he helps a soiled dove in her time of need. I like how he defends Samantha and her beloved Timberoaks from the obnoxious neighbor and his overbearing father. Each of these “likes” occur as I conjure scenes for each one.
With each revelation, I fall a little more in love with him. I guess that’s why I believe my favorite hero is the one I’m writing.
I’m having fun discovering another Native American hero. While my Indians rarely smile, this hunk is certainly how I picture my new guy. Meet Comanche Duane Loken. That’s probably a white shepherd he’s holding, but a wolf does play a prominent in this story.
This time the hero is baffled by a twenty-first century heroine who drops into his life, in Texas. i.e: Can a woman of today seize her destiny—to love a Comanche warrior?in the year 1860?
This story takes me into a new sub-genre of writing: time travel. Writing is never easy, but I make it doubly hard for myself when I fly off into the mist in a sub-genre foreign to my prior writing knowledge. Still, this idea came about when I pictured my heroine waking in a gully. It takes a while to realize she’s no longer in the twenty-first century.
My mind spins, and once again I begin to fall in love with a hero as he comes to life in my head; as I picture scenes and conjure a story around two protagonists. For a romance writer, there’s nothing better.
May I again thank you for having me at the Junction. And to those visiting today, I wish writers productive writing…and happy reading to everyone!
Take a look at my latest release from The Wild Rose Press. It’s historical and Western themed, but it’s set in Southern California where I ranched for 20 years. In fact, Garrett Montez’s ranch is patterned after the Mexican Landgrant on which my ranch occupied a little corner.
Southern California, 1898: Scarred by his father’s
rejection, Garrett Montez prefers a life of solitude on
the prosperous ranch he’s built on land bequeathed
him by his grandfather. When his housekeeper quits,
he is desperate to find another, but not the beautiful
woman with gentle eyes and a sweet smile who
arrives on his doorstep. Neither his ranch nor his heart
needs the kind of trouble she could cause. With
nowhere to go, Neely O’Conner must find employment,
but handsome and rugged Garrett Montez
rejects her the minute he lays eyes on her. More
determined than ever, she offers to work for a month
without pay, hoping time will change his mind. Does
a mysterious woman hold the key to Garrett’s love, or
can Neely crack through his iron-encased heart
and…Promise the Moon?
Leave a comment and Joyce will include your name in a drawing to receive a free pdf of Promise the Moon. Return to the Junction tomorrow to see if you’re the lucky winner!
Joyce loves to hear from her fans @: www.joycehendersonauthor.com