One of the things I’ve liked the most about writing fiction is being able to write about experiences that have thrilled me, and ideas I want to share. Twisting them into stories to entertain readers then becomes a challenge that has meaning, and is also quite a bit of fun.
Raised in a Chicago suburb, I married into a pioneer ranching family in Wyoming. The culture shock was enormous, but filled with awe and wonder. All my surroundings had changed. New experiences appeared around every corner, and the fascinating history of the Wild West was as close as the person standing next to me. My husband’s grandfather lived at the ranch through his declining years. He spent much of his youth as a round-up cook for various outfits. He was full of stories–encounters with the Butch Cassidy gang, a vigilante hanging in Newcastle, the ins and the outs of Johnson County war, and hundreds of others. I couldn’t get enough of them.
When my life-long love of reading turned to a desire to write a mystery guess who I chose as a heroine. You’re right! A young woman from Chicago who goes to Wyoming for the first time, not as a bride, but as an editor looking for stories. She, too, sees everything with new eyes. I even made a list of things I wanted her to experience, and evolved a plot that would include them. Things like ferocious thunder storms that turn dirt roads into quagmires of sticky, gumbo mud; spooky dugouts built into hills; underground coal fires caused by lightning or prairie fires; old-timers with secrets they want to keep buried, and of course, good-looking cowboys.
All you writers out there know that this story didn’t happen overnight. It took years of practicing craft, writing articles and short stories, learning the business, and becoming part of the writing community. But when my first novel was published, in hardback, it was the story of that young woman experiencing Wyoming for the first time. It’s the first book in the Thea Barlow Wyoming mystery series, All the Old Lions (which references those old-timers mentioned above.) I hope my love of Wyoming shines through all three (soon to be four) of the books.
Time moves along at an incredible rate. Everything changes. The small Wyoming town I knew as a bride, population three to four thousand, four paved streets, is now a thriving energy center, booming and busting through oil, coal, methane, and who knows what’s next. I’ve moved along as well. I now live in Colorado, but dream often of Wyoming.
I write about a lot of different things now, new places, new experiences, new ideas. But that first book–the thrill of writing, testing new skills–will always be the book of my heart.
If any of you have similar stories about a “special book” that you have written, or are working on, I’d love to hear them.