When Fiction Becomes Our Reality

In the Shadow of the Mountains
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Genre: Historical Western Romance
Release January 19, 2016
Published by: Diversion Books
Length: 673 Pages

Bold, headstrong, and passionate, the indomitable Kirklands struggled to survive in a treacherous, hostile land. From penniless settlers to wealthy mine owners to Denver's regal first family, together—and separately—they pursued their dazzling dreams of love and glory. From the era of the covered wagon to the rise of the western railroad, from the gold rush years through the golden age of the American West, IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOUNTAINS is the breathtaking saga of a remarkable family who endured tragedy and hardship to build a glorious mountain empire.

In my book IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOUNTAINS, about the birth and first 25 years or so of the growth of Denver, Colorado, I had my heroine build a monument to her father toward the end of the story. Her father was one of the (fictitious) founding fathers of Denver, and the monument was (in my story) in the foothills of the Rockies. After reading the book, one fan wrote me wanting to know where they could find that monument because she wanted to go see it. I had to explain to her that it doesn’t really exist. It was just part of the ending of my fictitious story. But that letter showed me just how real my characters become to my readers, and nothing warms my heart more.

Absolutely the most comments I get from readers are about how real my characters seem – so real that I have often been asked if my story was true or if this or that character really lived. Well, some of them did – when I throw in actual people from American history just to make the story more realistic and alive. But I never allow real historical figures to become an integral, active part of the story. After all, they really did live, so I can’t make up something about them because of that. However, by bringing these people into the story I make the readers wonder if my own (fictitious) characters were also real.

The other comment I often receive is how much real history my readers learn from my books, more than they ever learned in school. I am very proud of that. I try especially hard when writing about Native Americans, because so little of their true history is told, and young people think they just happily trotted off to reservations and were perfectly content to stay there. But think about it – how would you feel if ISIS came to your door and ordered you out of your own house because they were taking over. Wouldn’t you fight back? That’s all our Native Americans did. They fought back, but our government and the media at the time led people to believe all Indians were bad and vicious rapists and murders. That was so far from the truth, but people wanted to believe the worst, so we tamed down our original natives through disease, attacks, displacement and starvation, to the point that they didn’t have the strength or resources to make any more trouble for anyone.

I am glad my readers feel as though my characters really lived, because as far as I’m concerned they DID live. They are all alive in my mind and heart almost constantly. I wouldn’t be able to write these characters into realistic circumstances and feelings and situations if I couldn’t picture them truly alive myself. And when they come alive for me, I could write books and books about each one of them. That’s why I’ve written several trilogies and series-type stories – because the characters were so real that I didn’t want to leave them. When I finish a book I miss them.

I recently posted a message on Facebook that I was in “Jake” mode. I’ve been working on the edits to my third “Outlaw” book – LOVE’S SWEET REVENGE (Sourcebooks/September 2016). When I write these stories about Jake Harkner I tend to take on his personality – his – not his wife Miranda’s. I don’t know why, but I identify with the hero more than the heroine when I write. I can’t explain that because in real life I’m a glitzy girly-girl and most definitely a woman who loves her husband and loves being the “heroine” when it comes to love scenes in my stories. But when I write my very alpha heroes, I find myself feeling a bit empowered and wanting to strut around wearing six guns and daring people to cross me. I state my opinion about things whether others like that opinion or not. I don’t care if they like me or not or if they agree with me. I love carrying my own .38. And when Jake and Randy make love, I want to make love with my husband. We have a running joke between us – “Honey, get ready, because I’ll be working on a love scene.”

Yes, I’m weird. Most writers are a little bit crazy, I suppose, and our imaginations run rampant. But if you don’t have a wild imagination, and if you can’t “walk in the shoes” of your characters and feel their personalities, their thoughts, their emotions, and if you don’t fully understand their background and why they are the way they are, you can’t bring them to life in the pages of a book. I am so convinced that some of my characters really lived that I expect to see them waiting for me when I die and (hopefully) go to heaven. Zeke and Abbie Monroe from SAVAGE DESTINY will be there, as well as Wolf’s Blood and Swift Arrow – Caleb Sax from my Blue Hawk books will be there – all the characters from my Wilderness trilogy will be there – the Native American hero and heroine from my Mystic Indian trilogy will be there – and Jake and Randy Harkner will definitely be there!

I decided in LOVE’S SWEET REVENGE to start mingling characters from totally different books of mine into some of my new stories – i.e. – if a major character from one of my other books lived in the same area and same time period as the book I am currently working on, then why can’t he or she make a cameo appearance in my new book? I decided it was a great idea, and I incorporated it into LOVE’S SWEET REVENGE. I’m not telling how, or who this person is, but I felt I just had to mention this person because if they were vibrant and well-known and crucial to another book I wrote, it just seems to me they really lived and should logically be a part of my new book, just to make those older characters completely alive again and even more realistic – something to again make readers wonder if that person really lived. My editor liked the idea, and my readers can’t wait to find out who the “mystery character” is in LOVE’S SWEET REVENGE. I will try to do this more and more as things unfold. And, of course, bringing in a character from another book only urges readers to look for that book (if they haven’t already read it) and read that one also.

In the meantime – yes, we crazy writers tend to become so attached to our characters (especially when writing a series of books) that it seems they really lived. When I finish a book I am usually depressed for a while because I hate leaving these people who have become so real to me. And my advice to new writers is to find that “key” to bringing your characters so alive that they not only live in your heart forever, but also in the hearts of your readers! It will only make readers go and look for more of your books!


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