In 1794, April Williamson, a young Philadelphia widow, is determined to return to her childhood home of Kentucky. She refuses to let her fear of Indians or the hazards of the journey deter her. She coerces Dan McKenzie, a civilian army scout, into escorting her although he believes the frontier is no place for a woman. As the son of a half-breed, Dan's only concern is to see the fighting between the Indians and the settlers stop. Amidst the dangers and the hardship of the journey, Dan and April fall in love. But a dark secret in Dan's past means April cannot be his.***
What's so unusual about KENTUCKY GREEN?
It's the more the time frame, 1794, than the frontier stetting. It's after the American Revolution, but before what most people think of when they think of the words "frontier" and "the west" which conjure up visions of the Great Plains west of the Mississippi. But for the early settlers, the western frontier was the uncharted wilderness beyond the eastern tidewater, the land first glimpsed by frontiersmen such as John Finley and Daniel Boone. This was the first wave of the western expansion by the white settlers. And from the point of view of the Native Americans, an invasion of there territory.
Why did you choose this time and place?
Ahhh... The time period just spoke to me. I think it's the idea of the frontier, where it took a man and a woman working together to settle the wilderness and make home and family. Which is a lesson that Dan and April learn. And, now that I think about it, it's probably because of my family.
What do you mean by your family?
I was lucky enough to grow up in a large, extended Midwest family with a rich oral tradition. I remember sitting on the front porch listening to my grandparents tell stories of when they were children, and telling to stories their parents told them. This is where I got my love of history. I like to think that some of my ancestors lived just down the road from Dan and April.
How does the history figure in your story?
Well, since this month's theme on Unusual Historicals is Expansion and Invasion, it fits right in. The colonial American desire to expand into these lands, and the British restrictions against such expansion, added to the desire for American independence. With the start of the American Revolution in 1776, early settlers west of the Appalachians were attacked by British-backed bands of Indians. In the decade that followed end of the Revolutionary War, people wanting their own land swarmed into the newly acquired Northwest Territories. Both Dan's grandfather and April's father were some of the frontiersmen who crossed the Appalachians to home stead in Kentucky.
But for every expansion, from the other side it's an invasion. The various Indian tribes did not take kindly to settlers who came in droves to settle the hunting ground that had been Kentucky. Forming a loose confederation, they turned to their traditional allies, the British who, in violation of the Treaty of Paris of 1783, still occupied forts in the Ohio Territory.
To make the Ohio Valley of Indians safe for settlers, President Washington sent expeditions in 1790 under Hammer and in 1791 under St. Clair. Both armies were defeated. Washington then gave the task to Anthony Wayne, a Revolutionary War hero. Taking time to discipline and organize the army, Wayne moved his Legion, toward the British forts.
In the character of Dan, the son of a half breed, I have a character who can look at both sides of the conflict between the settlers and the Indians. He's serving as a civilian scout for Wayne's army. He wants to see the conflict stopped before any more Indians are killed as he knows the westward expansion can’t be halted. Because he can see both sides, he's very conflicted.
What sort of research did you have to do?
Because of my degrees in history, I already was familiar with most of the political, social and economic aspects of the story. In my academic career I'd written a lot of term papers plus a huge pre-thesis for my Masters so I wasn't intimidated in by tackling a story of 90,000 to 100,000 words. What I really had to research was the costuming--since it's a romance chances someone's clothes are going to come off so you have to know what they are wearing to start. And I'm one who really loves research, so looking for any little detail I needed was fun.
What lead you to write romance?
I'd always wanted to be a history major since high school, and to me, a history teacher is a storyteller. So when I was teaching I had all this academic knowledge and everyone said "you should write a book." My excuse was that I wasn't the best typist in the world--then my husband bought a computer and so I had to write a book. So I took a class at the local university and I learned that the chances of selling are better if you choose a genre: like mysteries, sci-fi or romance.
Also, I think knowing the past in important. You know Koko the gorilla who learned sign language? When she signs "the past" she motions in front of her, when she signs "the future" she motions behind her, as we can see what in front (the past) but can't see behind us (the future). So how can we know where we want to go in the future unless we have some idea of our past?
I'd always read historical novels, and when I started reading romance I discovered the one of the elements in those historical novels was a strong romantic thread although they weren't labeled romance. And the romance element is the universality of any story. Regardless of time or setting, social customs, economic conditions, politics, wars, crusades or whatever, there is always the relationship between men and women to be explored.
Any final thoughts?
Thanks to Unusual Historials for letting talk about Dan and April's story. This was my first historical romance and I'm very glad that it's available again. For more information, please visit my website.
Thanks for stopping by, Terry.
You know the drill, readers. Leave a comment for your chance to receive a free copy of Terry's novel, KENTUCKY GREEN. Or you can answer this question: what attracts you (or does not) to a colonial or early American frontier setting? I'm curious, myself, why we don't see more of these...