I learned at a young age the amazing impact storytelling can have on readers/listeners. I wanted to be able to have that positive impact on people, and so I started writing short stories in elementary school. When I was sorting through files a decade ago, I found the original hand-written short story that was the inspiration for Prairie Grace. When I was a kid and we drove across the prairie, I would see an abandoned farmstead and wonder what life must have been like for those early residents. This led me to create stories. For both Prairie Grace and sequel Prairie Truth, I had the privilege of researching less known areas and events of history and writing the history into my storylines. In All We Like Sheep: Lessons from the Sheepfold, my mom and I tell stories from our collective six decades of raising sheep.
Besides when you came to know the Lord, what is the happiest day in your life?
I don’t have to think about this response. It was definitely the two days, nine years apart, that my two daughters came into my life. I say came into my life, because both are adopted. Kelly was born in
became my daughter at eight months of age. We took Taiwan Shannon
home from the hospital at two days.
How has being published changed your life?
Publication confirms my ability to tell stories and enables me to affect more people’s lives, even if only in small ways. From a purely practical point-of-view, writing books makes no sense. Royalties don’t come even close to paying for the time to research, write, edit and promote a book. It may sound cliché, but I write because I believe God has gifted me to tell stories that affect people for His Kingdom.
I feel that way, too. What are you reading right now?
I just finished Her Daughter’s Dream by Francine Rivers. Other favorite writers are Lynn Austin, CJ Box and Sandra Dallas. And, I will be digging into some of Lena Nelson Dooley’s historical fiction soon. I also just ordered Susan Jenkins Scandalon. I am usually not a big memoir reader, but I am interested in her experience in
China, since I lived in ,
Republic of China, for five years. Taiwan
What is your current work in progress?
I just starting some research for the third book in the Prairie series. It will be set in northern
where I grew up and presently live. Among other things, I want to tie in the
story of the Russian Germans, who were lured from Colorado Germany
by Catherine the Great with the promise they could maintain their language,
culture, and faith and that they would never have to serve in the Russian army.
When this promise wasn’t kept, many of them emigrated to the Russia and worked on farms,
harvesting sugar beets and other crops. My Swedish ancestors on my maternal
grandfather’s side also did back-breaking field work and lived in structures
made for livestock when they were new immigrants. United States
I’m one fourth Swedish. He was half Norwegian and half Swedish. They settled in
. What would be your dream
I am looking forward to visiting
in 2020 with my family. While in Ireland we will visit a young man who
lived with us for a short time as an international 4-H exchangee. We really
liked him and have gotten to know (remotely) his family. I also hope to return
for a fourth time to visit people there who have become like family. There are
many beautiful sites in this country and abroad, but for me, it is the people
you meet and the relationships you build that are most memorable. Costa Rica
How do you choose your settings for each book?
Since I write heavily-research historical fiction, my research dictates the setting. I often find interesting places, events, and people and figure out how to naturally tie them into the story. For example, in Prairie Grace, I wanted to talk about the abolishment of slavery and had read about Frederick Douglass. With Prairie Grace set in territorial
, it was
difficult, so I ended up allowing the characters to discuss him, because Douglass
is just too interesting not to have been included. Colorado
If you could spend an evening with one person who is currently alive, who would it be and why?
I wish I had some profound ideas here, but I am a simple girl. I would love to go on a trail ride (with my horse) with Julie Goodnight, a well-known
horse trainer and instructor. She is pictured on the cover of Prairie
What are your hobbies, besides writing and reading?
I like gardening and preserving (canning, freezing, drying) the food I raise. I love horses and enjoy training them and trail riding with friends. I also sew for myself and others.
What is your most difficult writing obstacle, and how do you overcome it?
Time. I work nearly full time to pay the bills and raise sheep on the side, so it is difficult to carve out time to research and write. I find it is especially difficult to simultaneous write and promote. With the recent release of Prairie Grace sequel Prairie Truth, I find I am spending any spare time I carve out doing presentations, signings and writing newsletters and blogs.
What advice would you give to a beginning author?
Make sure you are writing for the right reason. The vast majority of authors do not support themselves on their royalties. Editing can be a brutal process. Quality books typically take years from idea to finished product. Writing isn’t glamorous; it’s lots of hard work. If you feel you have a story that must be told, make sure you can spend the time it will take to research, write and have your manuscript edited and that you are willing to promote your book. It is very satisfying to complete a quality book that people want to buy and read.
Tell us about the featured book.
In Prairie Grace, historic irony plays out as the eastern half of the
is embroiled in the Civil War to end slavery, while military and political leaders
in 1864 strive to enslave the Native
American population they see as impeding settlement and stalling gold
exploration. Caught in the clash of cultures are real people, white and Native.
Georgia MacBaye, a throw-caution-to-the-wind, adventure-seeking, young
frontierswoman is the daughter of former plantation owners turned homesteaders.
Gray Wolf, a Cheyenne Indian brave who is gravely injured as the story opens,
is thrown into the white world when his uncle, Chief Lean Bear, seeks help for
him from Colorado Territory ’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. Georgia
Nearly a year later, Lean Bear has not returned to retrieve Gray Wolf, now a member of the MacBaye family. Gray Wolf and the MacBayes’ tranquil prairie lifestyle changes abruptly during a trip to
to sell cattle and grain and buy
supplies for the coming year. Both Denver and Gray Wolf are caught off
guard by the Denverites’ venomous reaction to Gray Wolf. On the return trip, Georgia and
Gray Wolf independently ponder their futures together. Georgia
An unexpected event sends
into a tailspin, until she
decides to deal with her disappointment by pursuing her dream of attending
medical school. Georgia, the only female medical student at her school, finds
success under the tutelage of her physician teacher, who encourages her to
combine “modern” medical know-how with traditional herbal remedies. She and her
male colleagues treat patients injured or diseased by the ravages of Georgia ’s devastating,
historic flood, which took place in May 1864. Denver
When Gray Wolf returns to his Native ways, including observing
Cheyenne religious practices, he
ponders conversations with ’s
father Thomas. Gray Wolf believes the white man’s religion is flawed. He cannot
accept a god whose son was not brave enough to fight but gave himself willing
to be killed by and for people who hated him. Georgia
Known as the Indian Wars, hostilities during this time between warring Indians and soldiers bring terrible consequences to settlers, especially ranchers and farmers who have little protection from Indian attacks. Prairie Grace incorporates dozens of historic events, places, and people into its storyline. Extensive research enables the author to accurately depict daily life and attitudes of people during this time, without being simplistic or stereotypical. The author’s expertise in agriculture, use of herbal and nutritional remedies, and horse training provide believable descriptions of settler life.
The book culminates with news of the Sand Creek Massacre, which occurred November 29, 1864, in present day southeastern
. Though less known than other massacres,
the Sand Creek Massacre ended with the killing and mutilation of over 130 Indians,
more than 100 of them women and children. Through divine grace, neither Gray
Wolf nor Colorado
is at the massacre site, but the cruelty, initially celebrated as a military
victory, eventually provides them the resolve to stand together against the ungodly
social mores of the time. Georgia
Prairie Grace dramatizes the worst and the best of humanity, as it accurately depicts both the Indian depredations and the ruthless
government/military campaigns to eliminate the Native Americans and their
threat or perceived threat to the whites. Broad research has enabled the author
to write realistic dialog between fictional and actual historical figures.
Historic events, including the U.S. Colorado gold
rush, the Denver flood of 1864, the Hungate
murders, the slaughter of innocent Indians in small villages, settlement on the
in southeastern Colorado, Lean Bear’s visit
with President Lincoln, and the treaties of Fort
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
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 . He told South Carolina 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. Georgia
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.
“Ring the dinner bell,
,” her mother, Loraine,
screamed, panic rising in her voice. Georgia
With the alarm sounded,
’s father and brothers,
James and Henry, were in the house within minutes. Georgia
“Close the curtains, Loraine,” Pa barked. Then he softened his tone. “I don’t expect any trouble, but I prefer to be able to see them without them seeing us.”
A few tense minutes later, the Indians pulled their ponies to a stop in front of the MacBaye house. Georgia, who had ignored her mother’s edict to hide in the root cellar, parted the lace-trimmed gingham curtains that framed the kitchen window. She tossed back wavy auburn hair that had escaped her ponytail. For all she knew, the hair had never made it into the ponytail. She was unconcerned with such details. She wondered if the Indians, who had now made their way into the unfenced pathway at the south end of the main pasture, could see her freckled nose and hazel eyes pressed against the glass. Nevertheless, she just had to get a glimpse of them astride their powerful mounts. Most were adorned with feathers, beads, porcupine quills and snake rattles. Naked chests, a shade or two darker than the buckskin they wore, glistened with sweat. Was it nerves, exertion, the warm spring day, or a combination of all three that caused them to sweat? Their presence, their power, their passion—all of it was frightening, yet exhilarating. They were so close that Georgia could not only hear them talking in their strange tongue, but she could also smell the familiar melding of human and horse sweat combined with sagebrush … and What is that smell? Bear fat? The settlers used crushed sagebrush to keep mosquitoes at bay, a trick they’d learned from the Indians. An application of rendered bear fat, she knew, was another Indian way to keep away insects.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
Thank you, Marilyn, for sharing your book with us. I’m like you. I do a lot of research to make my historical novels as historically authentic as possible.
Readers, here is a link to the book.Prairie Grace
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