Wentz grew up on a family farm in Northern Colorado,
near the land homesteaded by her great-great grandparents. With a degree in
journalism, she has written
hundreds of news releases and feature stories for her clients and employers, which include Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising Taiwan, the National Farmers Union and the National Bison
Association. In addition to operating Prairie Natural Lamb, she currently is editor of two agricultural publications: Bison World and Open Pastures. She and her family live on the
Eastern Plains of
Welcome, Marilyn. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
My characters are an amalgamation of people I know and imagine. In Prairie Grace,
tomboy, throw-caution-to-the-wind personality is more like my middle sister
Shelly and my mother, but her use of herbal remedies is my thing. Her studying
medicine is not me or them. I think it is easier to understand a character and
write believably if the character’s experiences parallel my own.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
I am quite normal and sane. It is my sisters who do quirky things. One of them had a rabbit heart collection when she was about six. The other sister extracted this sister’s tooth years before it was supposed to come out. The root was double the length of the tooth. I don’t know what was quirkier, the sister extracting the tooth with our father’s pliers or my other sister allowing her to do it.
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I have imagined stories since I was a very small child. Some of these stories actually made it to the page. The skeleton story of Prairie Grace comes from a Thanksgiving story I wrote when I was about 12 years old about a gravely ill Indian boy who is dropped off at a settler family’s home. They nurse him back to health and teach him their ways. Several years later, he returns their kindness by bringing them food when they are in need.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I love well written fiction, whether modern day or historical, Christian or secular. My favorite authors include Lynn Austin, Sandra Dallas, Charles Martin, and even C.J. Box, because I love high action and unpredictable stories with good and bad well-defined. For me, good stories must end well, not perfect and not predictable, but justly. I also enjoy reading history texts and biographies, which I’m doing currently as research for my next Prairie Series novel. The best book and the one I read most every day is the Bible. God is the best dramatist ever!
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
One day I looked at my to-do list for that week, which included “haul dead llama to back fence line” and “vaccinate and castrate lambs,” and thought it was probably pretty different from the average 53-year-old American suburban woman’s to-do list. This is not to say I don’t have stress. I have a lot of writing deadlines and physically demanding farm work, but living 40 plus miles from the nearest shopping mall reduces the sense of frenzy in my life.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
Many of the characters in Prairie Grace are actual, historical people, but for the fictional ones, I chose given names that were used during that time period. In the case of
Georgia, Georgianna was my
grandmother’s middle name. Georgia’s
surname McBaye was the surname of my Scot-Irish ancestors who immigrated to the
in the 1800s, although, I believe it was spelled McBay or MacBay. They soon
dropped the Mc, so my maiden name is Bay. For the fictional Native names—Gray
Wolf, Meadow Lark, Soaring Falcon—I read how Cheyenne Indians chose names, and
I used names with animals seen in Colorado.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Relationships are all that really matters. It is exciting to see my byline in a publication or on a book, but the goal of my writing is either to support myself and my family, or more importantly, to move readers toward a closer relationship with the Almighty.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
I love horses, although I’m not sure I would want to be one. I own three horses, a mare that is coming 25 and is the great granddaughter of the first horse I owned as a ten-year-old, and her two daughters. The daughters, Tai and Comet, are the prototypes for the horses owned by
and Gray Wolf in Prairie Grace. I’ve trained all three from the ground up. As a
4-H leader, judge, and level rater, I’ve helped a lot of young people learn to
better handle and enjoy their horses. Working with horses has taught me
humility and patience and to listen to the Lord.
What is your favorite food?
I love to garden, cook, and EAT. I have to say my favorite meat is probably bison—we raise it, along with lamb and chickens. Any dish with fresh herbs and veggies and homegrown meat is pretty delicious. I love Mexican and
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
In addition to raising sheep, I write and edit magazines and newsletters for a living, so I thought writing a novel, might be too much writing. Not so. I loved researching and writing Prairie Grace. The problem was and continues to be finding the time. The other daunting part of the process, or so I supposed, was finding and working with a publisher. The Colorado Christian Writers Conference enabled me to find my publisher, and Koehler Books has been fantastic to work with.
Tell us about the featured book.
As the eastern half of the
States is embroiled in the Civil War to end slavery, military
and political leaders in 1864 strive to
enslave the Native American population they see as impeding settlement and
stalling gold exploration. Prairie Grace chronicles the events
leading up to the Sand Creek Massacre, which occurred Nov. 29, 1864. It is told
through the eyes of Georgia MacBaye, a throw-caution-to-the-wind,
adventure-seeking young frontierswoman, is the daughter of former plantation
owners turned homesteaders, and Gray Wolf, a Cheyenne Indian brave who is
gravely injured and is thrown into the white world when his uncle Chief Lean
Bear, seeks help for him from Georgia’s mother, Loraine, a well-known healer.
The MacBayes not only nurse Gray Wolf back to health, they also teach him their
tongue, their ways, and their faith. Gray Wolf’s time in their home teaches the
MacBayes to stop viewing Indians as sub-human menaces to be disposed of—an
attitude common among settlers and politicians during this era—and to value
them as fellow human beings. Colorado
Prairie Grace dramatizes the worst and the best of humanity. Extensive research has enabled me to write realistic dialog between fictional and actual historical figures. Historic events, including the
gold rush, the Denver flood of 1864, the Hungate
murders, the slaughter of innocent Indians in small villages, settlement on the
in southeastern Colorado, and the treaties of Fort Laramie
and are woven into the storyline. Historical
figures Lean Bear, Bull Bear, Roman Nose, One-Eye, Beaver aka George Bent,
Black Kettle, Tall Bull, Cheyenne captive Laura Roper, Issac Van Wormer, Indian
Agent Samuel Colley, Edward Wynkoop, Silas Soule, Governor Evans, and Col. John
Chivington all make appearances in Prairie Grace. The extent to which
history is portrayed and daily routines—both Native and settler—described make Prairie
Grace not just a good read but a history primer. Fort Wise
Lovers of history and Westerns, as well as those who yearn for the solace of the open plains will appreciate Prairie Grace.
Please give us the first page of the book.
Georgia MacBaye didn’t dislike gathering eggs or milking the family’s
Jersey cow, Blue Bell. It’s just …
well … there were so many more exciting things to do. She opened the milking
stanchion and released the gentle cow. A basket of eggs in one hand and the
bucket of milk in the other, Georgia left the barn for the house, its reddish-brown
adobe blending in with the prairie. The second story appeared an extension of
the imposing bluffs. Her father chose the site in the Bijou
Basin because the big oak trees
reminded him of South Carolina.
He told Georgia
he hoped it would make her mother feel less homesick. He also had practical
reasons for building where he did. The bluffs to the west blocked the fierce
winter blizzards, and the Bijou Creek, just out their backdoor, provided the
MacBayes and their stock with water.
This morning, the rugged beauty was not what caught her eye. Snaking single file down the bluffs was a procession of Indian ponies. The pace of the horses and the absence of war paint told her the Indians meant no harm, but she couldn’t be certain.
How can readers find you on the Internet?I have a website www.MarilynBayWentz.com and a blog Prairie Ponderings. Be patient with me, as I am still figuring out the blogging and social media integration. I am also on Facebook and Linkedin.
Thank you, Marilyn, for sharing your novel with us. I love novels that are closely tied to actual history.
Readers, here are links to the book. By using one when you order, you help support this blog.
Prairie Grace - Amazon
Prairie Grace - Kindle
Leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book. Please tell us where you live, at least the state or territory. (Comments containing links may be subject to removal by blog owner.)
Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.
The only notification you’ll receive is the winner post on this blog. So be sure to check back a week from Saturday to see if you won. You will have 4 weeks from the posting of the winners to claim your book.
If you’re reading this on Google+, Feedblitz, Facebook, Linkedin, or Amazon, please come to the blog to leave your comment if you want to be included in the drawing. Here’s a link.