Sunday 9 November 2014

A Guest Post from Choc Lit's Liz Harris

As you may well remember I devoured Liz's A Western Heart I was well and truly blown away by the novella and if you haven't already read my review you can read it here I look forward to reading A Bargain Struck many books so little time haha.

Liz agreed to pen something for us here at Dark Readers I hope you enjoy it as much as we did...


With your permission, I’d like to turn the clock back a few months and begin by mentioning A Bargain Struck, my full-length novel set in Wyoming 1887. In the story, widower Conn Maguire (yes, strong, tanned and handsome) is looking for a wife to help with his homestead, look after his eight year-old daughter, Bridget, and provide him with an heir. Ellen O’Sullivan is looking for somewhere to call home after a tragedy in her life, and she sees this as her only hope.
When Ellen arrives, it's clear she hasn’t been entirely honest with Connor (No, she is NOT pregnant. No, she does NOT already have a child – I thought I’d just get that out of the way!), but for reasons of his own, he goes ahead with what is a business agreement - one that was pretty commonplace at that time – and marries her.
The novel tells of their struggle to overcome the effects of Ellen’s deception, Bridget’s hostility and intervention from the outside as they try to build a life together in the harsh farming conditions of the 1880s. It’s a struggle that I set against an authentic historical background. In fact, I was so keen to get it right that I ended up going to Wyoming to find out everything I could about the life of second generation homesteaders.
There can be no greater thrill than walking in the footsteps of one’s characters, and it was the trip of a lifetime. I started off on a working ranch, and then moved on to the museums across Wyoming. I don’t think there was a single museum I hadn’t visited by the end of my stay, and I found out everything I wanted to know.
Long after I’d finished writing A Bargain Struck, the American West was still at the fore of my mind, so when I decided to write a novella between my full-length novels, it was a no-brainer that I went back to Wyoming, the heart of the American West.
But I didn’t go back to the same setting, nor to the same year.
I don’t like returning to the sort of locations I’ve already described – it’s more fun to try to capture the essence of somewhere entirely new. A Bargain Struck is set a hundred miles south of the Overland Trail in a beautiful green area that lies in the shadow of the Sierra Madre Mountains, but A Western Heart is set north of the Overland Trail in what is very much ranching country, and it’s the story not of homesteaders, but of the son and daughter of two successful neighbouring ranches, Will Hyde and Rose McKinley.
And I don’t like going back to a year I’ve previously explored. I set A Bargain Struck in 1887 because that was a transitional year in Wyoming history, marking as it did the end of the Open Range and of the long cattle drives, and I could see the story potential for homesteaders of what happened in that particular year.
I wanted a different year for A Western Heart, one that would enhance the story that was taking shape in my mind, so I sat down to look further into the 1870s and 1880s. In no time at all, I had found the perfect year for my needs - 1880.
1880 is perfect in four ways, but I’m going to be very careful how I describe those ways to you as I’d hate to give you a spoiler. Firstly, conditions for cattle grazing had never been better than in 1880 – the grass was lush and green, and it was there for the taking. Secondly, history offered me a very good reason for why lean, good-looking Nate Galloway might have left his Rock Springs home at that time.
Thirdly and fourthly, I was able to use true events in 1879 and 1883 to motivate Nate Galloway’s journey across Wyoming from one wealthy ranch to another. I don’t know whether anyone actually did what Nate did, but they might well have done.

Well, I think it’s time to say over and out. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed talking to you, Dark-Readers, and I’m very grateful to have been given this opportunity to do so. A HUGE thank you to you all.

You can find Liz on Twitter @lizharrisauthor she is one of the awesome @ChocLituk authors. Go check them out you WILL not be disappointed.


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