My thanks to Margaret Hawke at http://writeonreflections.blogspot.com for inviting me to join her on this blog tour. For those unfamiliar with the concept, a blog tour is like a chain letter except it’s on the Internet, and woe to she who breaks the chain for their will be dire consequences. I don’t know what those might be, a wart on the nose maybe. Why my wart is growing, here are the answers to the four discussion questions.
1) What Am I working On?
Presently I’m working on four different books, all mysteries, two contemporary and two historical. Murder in the Moon When the Leaves Fall is the first in the Spotted Tongue series featuring a Comanche warrior who solves murders among his tribe. The series is set prior to 1875, the date when the last of the free Comanches are settled on a reservation in then Oklahoma Territory. Spotted Tongue is not politically correct; he is a warrior who raids settlements, kidnaps women and children, and, oh, yes, he does scalp his enemies. But as my old editor at Berkley said, “He’s likable despite his scalping habit.”
My second project is titled Highwater Secrets, the first full length novel featuring Elizabeth Walker, a widow in hock to the IRS and the first female elected to public office in Highwater, Texas, population 455. The population varies from day to day, depending on the birth rate and the body count. The tiny Panhandle town is ranching country, and everyone has at least one pair of boots. While this a more serious series than say the Megan Clark books, there is still enough humor to satisfy most readers.
The third work in progress is titled Blue Norther Murders featuring a Texas county sheriff who suffers from asthma and a family secret he hides from the voters. He is a distant relative of Cole Younger, the infamous member of the Jesse James gang. He suspects the voters of Miller County, Texas, wouldn’t be likely to vote for anybody related to a famous outlaw, especially not one who specialized in robbing banks. Sheriff Tom Coleman is known for something besides his asthma: he is death on illegal drugs and those who sell them, so when one of the county’s drug dealers is given parole, Tom is ready to lay every crime in the county at his doorstep, never dreaming that a psychopath from his own past is stalking him.
My fourth work in progress is a historical mystery titled Rendezvous, the first in a series of Mountain Man mysteries featuring a runaway teen from Boston who would rather trap beaver than attend Harvard. This is very humorous series as young Jamie is very accident prone, although he is more the cause of the accidents that cause chaos on the fur trading expedition to the annual rendezvous than the victim.
2) How Does My Work Differ From Others Of Its Genre?
I would have to say that the sense of authenticity separates my work from other mysteries. After nearly four decades living in the Texas Panhandle I know its weather, its landscape, and its people better than most. Living in a small town in a rural county,much like Crawford County in my Sheriff Charles Matthews series, where my husband served as County Attorney, and listening to the tales of early pioneer days told by its elderly residents, I gained a very real sense of the region’s past and the belief systems of its residents. I believe these experiences translate into the authenticity and sense of place that make my mysteries unique.
3) Why Do I Write What I Do?
I write mysteries and historical fiction because those are my favorite genres. Mysteries provide a sense of order to the world in that my baddie always gets his one way or the other, not always through the criminal justice system. My historical fiction are portraits of times past, sometimes pleasant, sometimes tragic, but as close to the feelings and beliefs as possible of those who lived in those times. I try never to impose our present-day opinions, nor judge those who died long before I was born. Again, as with my mysteries, I listens to stories told by the very elderly about their grandparents’ experiences as pioneers. I think too many writers overlook the elderly as a source of information.
4)How Does My Writing Process Work?
The inspiration for any of my books, be they mysteries or historical fiction, is often the landscape: the small town with its old courthouse that figures so prominently in the Sheriff Charles Matthews series; Capulin National Monument that serves as a setting for The Sheriff and Folsom Man Murders. For that book I asked myself what was the murder victim doing inside an extinct volcano in the middle of the night, and why was a prehistoric weapon used? In Homefront Murders, another of the Sheriff Charles Matthews series, pushing the wrong button in the elevator in the Moore County courthouse landed me in the subbasement, dark, musty-smelling, its dirt floor covered with discarded office furniture. I immediately asked myself who buried a body over in that dark corner and why. My two historical novels were inspired by an abandoned family cemetery on a local ranch, and the old courthouse in Tascosa. The courthouse is now a museum and the town was bulldozed after WWII to make way for Boys’ Ranch. Much of my knowledge of Tascosa comes not only from my research in archives, but the knowledge of an elderly gentleman who had worked at Boys’ Ranch all his life.
After asking questions about the landscape, I begin to write stories that answer those question, keeping in mind a quote from Nathaniel Hawthorne: “Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind.” I write about that shadow that affects the lives of my characters as they interact with the landscape.
Links and bios of Sarah O’Rourke and Kathleen Creighton Fuchs will be on Part II of my blog tour.