Stacey, your heroines are always gutsy, independent women. How would you compare the women who settled the west, like your heroines, with the modern woman of today?
Thanks for having me! My women of the west tend to be hard, driven and focused on their goal--an attitude inherited by women today. The west was hard on men, and even harder on women. They had to be strong to survive. But they also have a tender, feminine side yearning to be set free, and to find a man they can lean on. It takes the right man to gain their trust and uncover the gentle, giving women hidden beneath. As my slogan say, "Stories of heroic women and the men strong enough to love them."
Nearly all of my heroines are inspired by my grandmothers--my true heroines who endured and overcame so much hardship. I've never known harder-working women, full of strength, courage, devotion, love and flat-out determination to do the best they can by their family and their community. They are stronger women than I, and I'm always awe-inspired when I think of how they started out, taking chances, raising their families and working hard to build a home from the dust up, providing the rest of us with a solid foundation. They are my women of the west, the ones who stood beside their men, working just as hard, if not harder, to carve out their place in the world. I believe women of today emulate of that kind of strength and courage, able to stand alone if they have to, but who can find love, appreciation and strength in the arms of their counterpart. Those are the women I feel empowered by, and the women I strive to portray in my books.
You have two books out this summer: an anthology called STETSONS, SPRING & WEDDING RINGS, which includes your story "Courted by a Cowboy," and MOUNTAIN WILD, the third in your Wild Trilogy. Let's talk first about "Courted by a Cowboy." Can you share with us the genesis for your plucky heroine, Constance Pauley, who was scarred in a fire?
The story concept for this novella is actually the only one I've done inspired by a true story of someone local. I had just begun to dabble in writing when I heard about a local woman who'd ended up in California as the result of a house fire in Montana in the early 1900s. Eighteen years old and working as a housekeeper in a boardinghouse, she'd accidentally knocked a kerosene lamp into a basket of linens. No fire-retardant fabrics back then, so the room was quickly ablaze and she suffered burns to her legs and hands. The rural Montana community didn't have a physician capable of treating such burns--not without the loss of her legs.
The town sent out a wire asking for help. The nearest hospital willing to treat her was in San Francisco, and arrangements were made to send her to California by train. Back then, a caboose was coupled at the back of each train and the only doors on the standard cars were on the ends. The passage was too narrow for a stretcher to get through. Bound to the stretcher with blankets, she was hoisted up by a number of men and slid in through a window. Her treatment was a success, and after her release from the hospital, she found a teaching job outside of San Francisco. She met and married a farmer and eventually found her way to our small agricultural town where she taught school until she retired.
I was fascinated by the imagery of this young woman being bound to a stretcher and the fear she must have felt as that window swallowed her up into the belly of the train, transporting her hundred of miles from her home. Those images started the manuscript originally titled "Morning Star," and became my "Courted by the Cowboy" novella in STETSONS, SPRING & WEDDING RINGS.
As for Constance Pauley herself, I think she gets a lot of her pluck from my husband's Grandma Kuehl--five feet of Irish charm, laughter, and sass. She began teaching in a one-room schoolhouse when she was around nineteen (her to-be suitor and hubby worked the farm across the road), and told stories of how she'd been terrified those first few days because some of the boys were a foot taller than their spunky teacher. But she stood her ground and was stern as they tested her authority, while silently shaking in her shoes because she knew she couldn't physically make them stay in school. And yet they did.
And now, tell us a bit about your latest release out this month, MOUNTAIN WILD.
MOUNTAIN WILD is the third and final book in my Wild Trilogy. Garret Daines first appeared in MUSTANG WILD at the tender age of thirteen and did his best to defend his older sister. By MAVERICK WILD, Garret had packed on some muscle and developed a serious crush on Chance's heroine, which ultimately caused him some heartache and prompted his decision to buy his own cattle ranch at the age of sixteen.
Garret's heroine, Maggie Strafford, made her first appearance in MAVERICK WILD, as the infamous Mad Mag who drops in to save Chance Morgan's hide a time or two. It wasn't until I'd reached the end of MAVERICK WILD that I knew Maggie would be coming back for her own book. She captivated me with her harsh exterior and subtle kindness, and I wanted her to find love and healing. I knew tender Garret, whom I'd watched grow up, could become just the man to reach beneath that hard exterior to the gentle women beneath.
My editors were actually against the idea of having this raving mountain woman as a heroine, especially one as harsh and reclusive as Mad Mag. But I'm stubborn (a shocker, I know) and sent them the opening chapters I'd already written...and was then asked to write the book ASAP.
As for the historical backdrop of their book, it follows the cattle wars of 1889, prompted by a natural disaster during the winter of 1886-87 when a freak winter blizzard nearly wiped out the cattle trade in Montana, freezing cowboys and cattle alike. In the years that followed, ranchers struggled to rebuild and hold onto their land as new money came into the area looking to capitalize on their tragedy, and as often happens, desperation and greed turned to violence. Garret and Maggie find themselves caught up the turmoil, as well as trouble from their own violent pasts. I do hope readers will enjoy Garret and Maggie's journey and transformation.
Reviews and more excerpts can be found on my website.
A mad, reclusive heroine and a studly man to love her? Now that's my kind of story. Literally! Now leave a comment or question for Stacey for your chance to win a copy of MOUNTAIN WILD. I'll draw a winner next Sunday. Good luck! And thanks to Stacey for joining us today!