Sunday, January 09, 2011
Sharpshooter in Petticoats is the action-packed, mayhem-riddled, climatic ending to the Sophie's Daughters series. I've spend two books, Doctor in Petticoats and Wrangler in Petticoats getting Mandy McClellen into terrible trouble. Now it's time for me to fix that, and it ain't easy. I really had so much fun with this book. I hope people have as much fun reading it as I did writing it.
I'm sure we will. Tell us about the book’s cover and what makes it unique.
I asked Barbour to give me covers that juxtaposed (great word, huh?) the male and the female. I wanted beautiful, utterly female heroines who'd been raised to believe in themselves, follow their dreams, take care of their own problems and be tough, tough, tough. So we came up with the mix of the female and male in the title—which played off Petticoat Ranch at the same time. Because the heroines in the Sophie's Daughters Series are the little girls from Petticoat Ranch, all grown up. With the titles in place I completely knew what I wanted in the covers. In fact, when Barbour sent me the cover background sheet, which they use to do the covers, I just erased almost all their questions and wrote in WOMAN IN A PETTICOAT HOLDING A DOCTOR'S BAG/SPURS(or something manly)/RIFLE. We'd developed a style with my covers that had no faces, and Barbour wanted to stick with that, so what's the point of spending hours describing how the hero/heroine looked? And Barbour was all for it. So these are the simplest-to-decide covers we've ever done.
And I love them. Please explain and differentiate between what’s fact and fiction in the book.
I spend a lot of time researching flora and fauna, figuring out what the land looks like. For Sharpshooter I spent a bit too much time (because I found it fascinating) researching guns. I had to search for Tom's horse and bulls. Were there Angus cattle in Montana at this time. Research is such a time sink, and that's mainly because I find it really engrossing and can lose two hours reading about the invention and progress of the Colt revolver, which then boils down to a line used about three times in a book.
I've also read a LOT about what exactly women were allowed to do in the west. Most women were certainly sheltered and treated with respect, even by cutthroats. But the woman who were out west were tough. Don't ever think they were sitting in their parlor drinking tea while their husbands tamed a wild land. Those women worked right alongside their husbands and, because things were so remote, I honestly believe a lot of those women were wearing pants and riding astride and roping and breaking horses with their husbands. Whatever was considered 'proper' was left behind when they primly rode their buckboard out of town. And there is enough history backing that up for me to believe women varied widely from the accepted behavior and dress of that time…in private at least.
How much research did you have to do for this book?
You know the most fun I had researching this book was hunting around for guns. I went to museums and found a Winchester 73. I found a woman whose husband owns a replica of it. I never got to touch it but she answered all my question. And we used a rifle my husband had at home to test the weight, try twirling it like I have Mandy do in the book, consider how to rig a strap to it to hang it over Mandy's shoulders and get it into action fast. Playing with that rifle with my husband was really interesting.
I'm glad there weren't any serious mistakes involved in the twirling, etc. What are some of the most interesting things you found about this subject that you weren’t able to use in the story?
I learned so much about different rifles, I could have gone on about that for a long time. I researched hidden and lost gold, so many myths and maybe-NOT-myths. I know a LOT about Angus cattle and when they came to America and why and their origins. And I learned about Herefords and longhorns, too. I could've made that book LONG. Boring, but long.
I did the cattle research for my novella, Charlsey's Accountant in Wild West Christnas. What inspired and surprised you while you were writing the book?
And I did that in Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico. What do you hope the reader takes away from the story?
I wanted to show Mandy demanding to be loved AS SHE WAS. Not as some man would have her be, some man's image of female. Mandy is just different. In her own way she's tougher than her husband and that's hard for a man to accept. But Tom is so centered. So sure of himself, it's not even a problem. Of course Mandy's quickness with that rifle was a huge problem for her first husband and he badgered her for her 'mannish' ways. But that's because her first husband, Sidney, was so twisted inside with his own image of himself. Because Sidney didn't believe in himself he couldn't accept his wife as she was. (wow, this is descending into psycho-babble, sorry) But Tom is so confident. His wife can be as strong as her spirit allows because Tom can handle it. There's a scene in the book, the first time Tom really sees Mandy in action with her rifle. I don't know if the reader will realize it but this scene is crucial. An absolute cornerstone of this book. Mandy's shooting saves them. She disables four men and neither she nor Tom are so much as scratched. And afterward, after their ice fades from her veins she's afraid Tom will hate what he saw. Hate that she did all the damage while he was shooting too, and he definitely helped but she saved them. The way Tom reacts to that scene defines that future they'll have together, though Mandy's too upset to realize it until later.
What is the next project you’re working on?
I've got a book releasing in May called Deep Trouble. It's a sequel to Cowboy Christmas. And…this is so cool…it's set in the bottom of the Grand Canyon. I did so much research. I didn't get to GO to the Grand Canyon, though. But I loved learning the history of that place. Here's a little bit about Deep Trouble.
Gabe Lasley has left his ranch in Wyoming because of his strong feelings for a married woman. He finds Shannon Dysart stranded in a mountaintop cave and saves her. She is on a quest to prove her father’s research isn’t the work of a madman, that he really did find a treasure in the wild west.
With trouble on their back trail from the villains who still want Shannon’s map, the dream of gold coloring every decision Shannon makes, and Gabe’s surprising need to protect her, they sets out to find a city of gold. Along the way they find that true treasure is rooted in love. And that was within their reach all along.
What do you do when you have to get away from the story for a while?
I read. I spend waaaaaay too much time online, checking emails. I really don't get away from my stories much. Writing is my first choice for fun, it's life I need to get away from.
Please give us the first page of the book.
Sharpshooter in Petticoats
Tom Linscott slid backward five feet before he caught a slender rock ledge and clawed at it to stop himself from plunging a hundred feet more.
The rock was nearly sheer. He felt blood flowing from his fingertips. His grip was tenuous already and now it was slippery. He clung to that ledge like a scared house cat, afraid to move, fighting to slow his slamming heart and steady his breathing. He'd been climbing a long time and he had a long way to fall if his grip didn't hold.
Then he did what any thinking man did when something scared him.
He got mad.
So, he clung to the side of that stupid mountain, gathered his strength to go the last twenty-five or so feet, and fumed. He was a rancher not a mountain goat. He should not have had to climb up here.
No woman should be this hard to get.
His handhold felt solid, his foot holds were all of three inches wide. He needed a minute of rest before he went on to a more precarious spot. And while he hung there, dangling over a dead drop that ended in jagged granite, he looked up and saw her.
The woman he'd come for.
She lived in a fortress, cut off from all the people she considered beneath her.
The rumors about her were legion and harrowing.
Ruthlessly dangerous, some said. Witched, others had called her. She'd put a curse on the land she ruled over.
Tom hadn't told anyone of his plans until just before he left home. But he'd listened for any whisper of her name, any passing reference to the legendary Lady Gray.
She was the most dangerous woman in the west some said. As fast and deadly with her rifle and any woman alive.
That last part, Tom suspected was true. The first, well, he hoped she wasn't dangerous to him, but he was minutes away from testing the theory.
I love it!! How can readers find you on the Internet?
Petticoats & Pistols
Thank you, Mary, for this visit. I always enjoy having you here.
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