Thursday, August 12, 2010

Love Western Romances?

Westerns... even the name conjures specific images. The strong character of the Western setting adds a romance of its own to this genre of writing. Is it because of its reputation as the Wild West? All those rugged individualist seeking adventure, riches and land combined with dishonorable, deadly villains? For a century the West was a minimally policed part of the country. The awe-inspiring mountains and deserts were harsh and dangerous places. Mere survival often spurred both the ruthless and the honorable sides of man's nature. To this day, many pioneering qualities exist in both the land and the people. Is this what makes the West such a desirable setting for novels?

In 1902 Owen Wister dedicated his novel The Virginian, the first recognized story written about a cowboy, to his friend, President Theodore Roosevelt. Little did Wister know he was setting a standard. His character remains the archetypal cowboy--the tall, handsome, terse, land-loving, hard-working, marriage shy (until his soul mate shows up) man with an ingrained sense for right and wrong. Since then, readers have devoured Westerns either as written for men by Zane Grey and Louis L'Amour (yes, I know, woman read them, too, I have), or the Western romances so many women enjoy. I read them, but would never write one. So I decided to ask several authors why they write in the Western genre.

Mary Jean Kelso is the author of The Homestead series from Wings e-Press.
Mary Jean:

I grew up in a "western" atmosphere.  My father was born in Texas before the turn of the century and my mother in Indian Territory, Oklahoma shortly after.  He worked as a cowboy and they lived the hardscrabble life of those days.  It was a challenge just to survive and that survival gene seems to have gotten passed on to me.

Writing Westerns probably ties into even earlier roots.  My grandmother, on my father's side, was the daughter of a Texas Ranger and granddaughter of Gordon C. Jennings who was killed at the Alamo.  Her great uncle was killed at Goliad.

The characters in The Homesteader series are influenced by my family history.  Molly, the primary character, is very loosely patterned after my grandmother on my mother's side who moved her family to New Mexico and became a homesteader.  Although she was called "Mollie" (which was not her real name) and would probably never have entertained some of the thoughts and actions of Molly.

One could  say writing Western Historical Romances and an interest in genealogy intertwine. The genre simply seems to come natural to me.

Linda LaRoque is a Texan who writes Westerns with Champagne Books and The Wild Roses Press, but in a more contemporary setting.
Linda

I've always wanted to be a cowgirl or I should say live in the Old West. Each Christmas my bother and I got a gun and holster so we could play cowboys and have shoot outs. As I grew older I wondered if I did live back then, what would my station in life be? My mother teased saying I'd probably be a poor farmer's wife and old before reaching thirty. My imagination ran more toward being a dance hall girl like Miss Kitty on Gunsmoke. However, being naive, I didn't really know what those ladies did for a living. Serving drinks and playing poker didn't seem bad at all. After learning the truth, I decided I'd have to be a wealthy rancher's wife or maybe the town school teacher.

As an adult, my fascination with the West remains. We've lived in west Texas and I love the area, the terrain and the people. Nothing inspires me more for either a historical or contemporary western romance than the panoramic views in the West, cowboys on horseback, or a couple of longhorns munching on grass. Writers tend to glamorize ranching when in truth it's hard work. But for those who've ranched for years and love it, it's the way of life that makes them happy. I hope my stories do justice to those who've honored the land and the lifestyle it provides.

I have three contemporary western romances out with Champagne Books--Forever Faithful, Investment of the Heart, and When the Ocotillo Bloom.

I have a two time travel romances set in the old west out with The Wild Rose Press--A Law of Her Own and My Heart Will Find Yours. 

Linda writes a blog, too, at Linga LaRoque's Musings. 

I've know Ginger Simpson since I was first published. Her humor always charms me and often has me laughing out loud. You can find her stories at Eternal Press and  (coming soon) MuseItUp Publishing.
People often ask me why I write historical fiction. My answer is always the same: I feel at home in the old west. I grew up on the awesome writing of Laura Ingalls Wilder, reading her series more times than I can count. Besides the famous Little House on the Prairie, I recall, Little House in the Big Woods, On the Banks of Plum Creek, By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, and These Happy Golden Years. There were more, but these were the ones that captured my heart and interest. Each time I read one of Ms. Wilder’s novels, I was swept away to a time and place that fascinated me. I’m sure if one could acquire the check-out cards from the library in my old grammar school, my name would be on every third or fourth line.

I was raised in a household where The Grand Ol’ Opry, Hee Haw, and every John Wayne western played on the television. I doubt we ever missed an episode of Bonanza, The Big Valley, Maverick, or Have Gun Will Travel. If the movie had a cowboy or Indian, we tuned in. What happened to the good old shoot ‘em ups?

Oh, Ginger! All the shoot'em ups are called police dramas now, but I do miss those hunky cowboys and Indians.  The Westerns, like Deadwood, have turned hard as nails. Check out Ginger's Blog Dishin' It Out.

Last is Larriane Wills, who writes her Westerns as  Larion Wills, and her science fiction and fantasy as Larriane. Her current books are with Swimming Kangaroo. Look for more of her stories from MuseItUp Publishing soon. 
Larion:

Interesting question and one I've never analyzed before. I recall a quote from Sam Elliot, that dreamy voiced actor, in which he said he felt he'd been born a century too early. Sometimes I feel that way as well.

I have a fascination for the period from the Civil War to the turn of the century. 

Thinking about that, it's a bit odd since the person who snagged my interest in actually reading history, which in my early twenties I thought would be boring, began by telling me stories of Cushing, Oklahoma during the 'black gold' boom days when he and my grandmother were children growing up there. That was in the second decade of the 1900s. Previous to that time when I thought of boom towns, I thought of gold rushes in the 1800s. Cushing, during the oil rushes, was no slouch in wild and woolly to judge from the stories he and my grandmother told. He was my great uncle, my grandmother's brother, and I regret that I wasn't able to visit more with him and get more stories.
Our conversation migrated to the Civil War when I mentioned my family and I had recently visited a few of the park battle grounds and had been amazed at how many had died in that war. He started spouting off facts that floored me with the amount of information he carried in his head. I could have talked with him for hours. When time for my visit ended, he loaned me a book to take with me, my first on the Civil War.

Along about the same time my brother introduced me to the writings of Louis Lamour. I was hooked, both in reading and writing in that time period. 
Be sure to visit Larion's blog Larionmusing.

Do you hear a theme here? It seems family and early reading or play choices make authors chose Westerns. That, or there is just something inspiring about a guy in a Stetson, a horse, a rope and a gun. If you love Western Romance, and haven't discovered this site already, go to Love Western Romances. 

Thank you to my guest authors. Please check out their websites, blogs and books.

23 comments:

  1. I adore historical westerns. They are my comfort read when I'm stressed. And I love both Linda's work and Ginger's work. Though different, they both make you feel as if you're there. I'm not familiar with the other authors, but I will have to check them out.

    I agree with most on why the wild west presents intriguing subject matter. For one, the characters showed their courage each day as they faced hardships we can only imagine and of course, there's nothing more sexy than a man in a cowboy hat. JMO. Guess that's why I like writing in that genre too, though it's been a while.

    Excellent post.

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  2. Westerns are by far my favorite historical setting. For me, I grew up in Carson City, NV, and as a little girl, we had horses.

    There's a lot of rich western history still prevalent in Nevada. Going to Virginia City is a hoot, as well as seeing all the abandoned silver mines in them thar hills.

    I've even seen a band of real wild horses, although they're not as sleek and beautiful as Hollywood makes them out to be.

    So as a young girl, I was influenced by all these things. I tried so hard to get away from Nevada in my adulthood and I probably wouldn't move back BUT I still retain my love for the gritty western. :)

    ~~Becka

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  3. I was never a fan of reading historical westerns, even though I used to watch Wyatt Earp and The High Chaparral as a kid. When I joined a critique group I chose a chapter of Ginger Simpson's novel Sparta Rose to critique and found I couldn't wait for the next one. She really spirits me back to the late 1800's West and I quite like it there.

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  4. Fascinating topic, ladies. I agree that there is something magical about the old west. Having spent lots of years in outstate Nebraska I've written that locale into several of my books.
    I'm mesmerized by the way old values still exist in most of those 'left behind' villages and towns. What I especially like to do is take a modern character and give him/her attributes that came from history.
    Awe-struck will be publishing my romantic suspense A PERFECT STRANGER soon. The hero is a man who was raised a cowboy but who went to college and has become a financial wizard. When pressed to protect the heroine and her son, he reverts to his wild cowboy upbringing to save them.
    MuseItUP will be publishing my romantic family saga DANCE WITH THE DEVIL next summer. Set in northern Nebraska, it tells a tale of survival that could well have taken place a hundred years ago.
    In addition to that, when I lived up there I used to take little trips to various towns along the Nebraska/South Dakota border. Those towns hold enough history in their little historical societies to keep a writer going for years.
    Dale

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  5. Thank you so much, Ciara, Becka, Anita and Pat for your contributions on why Western Romance is so popular!

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  6. it seems to be a growing interest as well, Rhobin. what I find interesting is that even though westerns of the past haven't been called romances, they were. I could give example after example where the story either evolved around a romance or romance played a big part, and they weren't called romances.

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  7. I think you're right, Larriane. When genres started subdividing and cross-generating a few years ago, these new genre names emerged. Romance always existed in many genres, but was never called romance. Even The Virginian had a romance.

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  8. I'm honored to be in the company of such great authors, and I thank everyone for showing the "love", especially Robin for the great blog idea. I'll have to steal it. :)

    I'm happy to announce that in 2011, Eternal Press will add Odessa to my lineup. I'm just as excited over this book as I've been with every one released. I have to share this link with my friends...and how cool that among those leaving comments are two of my very favorite authors, Ciara and Anita. And I didn't pay them to be here, either. :)

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  9. I still watch the re runs of The little house on the prairie. I live in the uk and western life is like a fiction book to me, even when it's real. I have some great friends who I've met in my writing career, some live on ranches, wear REAL cowboy boots lol ride horses!! It all seems a million miles away from my life in London. Where the only horses you might see is when a policeman is seated on top of it. Not quite the scene I have in mind. I'd love to write one, but have no knowledge of the life. I envy Gingers young life, far from the smog of London, homeless people and tower blocks.

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  10. Margaret, from my spot here in Michigan, London is one of the most romantic spots in the world. I must admit I have a lot of what I consider romantic places, but at least I've been to London!

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  11. I never used to like Western books, either. Then I read Lonesome Dove and Tony Hillerman. I started writing my own after my son's field trip to Bisbee and Tombstone. The historical research facilities at the University of Arizona are fabulous and I got lost for hours in the journals of the Wells Fargo detective reports. The challenges people faced from each other as well as the harsh land here in Arizona were just as complex as our border issues today. I've tried to explore those a bit in my own novels, and hope people will enjoy them when the first, Dragon & Hawk, is released by Champagne Books next spring. It deals with three Welsh brothers who come to Bisbee to mine copper and learn to assimilate into the multicultural mix the Arizona Territory. I loved doing the research...

    Great Blog, Robin!
    ~Jude

    Author of DRAGON & HAWK
    due April 2011 from Champagne Books: www.champagnebooks.com
    Historical Novelist: www.scorchedhawkpress.com

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  12. Thank you, Jude, for sharing both your information and why you write Western!

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  13. I adore westerns and am currently trying my hand at fiction by writing, you guessed it, a western romance. My grandmother in England loved Westerns and some of my earliest memories are watching John Wayne movies with her. I've seen every episode of Bonanza multiple times.

    As others have mentioned, the era evokes a sense of overcoming hardship, a time of strong characters, and, I'll be the first to admit, cowboy hats are pretty darn sexy.

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  14. Thanks, Fiona.

    While I love to read them, I know I wouldn't write them well, unless maybe the time setting is 4010 and set on another planet. Good luck on your Western Romance.

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  15. To me, westerns are more than just overcoming the hardship. They're about making your own justice. Forging your own way.

    Shrugging off the rules of society in an untamed wilderness.

    I mean think of how freeing that must have been at times! All alone on the mountain with your man - do you think the women always wore their corsets? Perhaps they cussed just a wee bit? Obviously they weren't afraid to get their hands dirty.

    That's what I love to explore with westerns. The fact that society at the time was strict and demanding, but in the Wild West, anything goes.

    Oh, and sleeping by the fire under the stars with a hottie is a BIG bonus. LOL Also, cowboys have that "bad boy" persona, wearing guns and knowing his way around a horse. I love a man who loves animals. And reading about a cowboy who tears across the desert on the back of his stallion with the wind in his hair gives me chills.

    Probably because that reinforces that freedom I was just talking about, whether it be from society, your family, expectations, rules...

    ~~Becka



    ~~Becka

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  16. This was a great post. I really enjoyed reading the four featured author's reasons for writing westerns and more authors in the comments too! I like various historical periods but the westerns do have a rugged sense of freedom and pioneer adventure to them. Or they might include the down to earth lifestyles and wisdom of the native Americans.
    Lots of material for exploration, danger, excitement and romance.

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  17. Hi everyone,
    What an amazing blog. I might be an Aussie, but I love Westerns.
    Bonanza was one of my favourites, that Little Joe, I adored him. Wagon Train with Ward Bond was great too. And I loved Kitty in Gunsmoke. I didn't realize what she was either. I was pure in mind in those days.

    Regards

    Margaret

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  18. Thank you, Rhobin, for including me in this terrific lineup of authors. It's interesting that we all had different input on why we like to write westerns.

    By the way, A Law of Her Own and My Heart Will Find Yours are both historical westerns.

    I appologize for being so late to post. I didn't check my email until a minute ago.

    Thanks again,

    Linda

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  19. Margaret -- I love Aussie contemporary and historical romance!

    Linda -- You're not late! Thank you so much for taking part.

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  20. I grew up watching westerns, too. I guess that dates me, LOL.
    My first never-finished novel was a western. Now I'm over in England, only in my books. I love seeing all these great western writers here.

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  21. Hi Linda and Ginger--the only two guests here I know. I'm familiar with both their works, and admire them as fellow authors of Western Romance. Western Historical romance is my choid to write and read--although I do throw other genres in once in a while. It's difficult to find good WR, but with these two I know I'll get a good story.
    I'm a native Texan with ancestors before the Republic--therefore, I'm a member of the Daughters of the Texas Republic.
    I taught science, but now I research our Texas history to add to my stories.
    Thanks for a wonderful blog--the idea of guests is a good one. Celia

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  22. I've always loved the old west. TV has romanticized it a lot but there's something about a man who'll work hard for what he wants and still be able to appreciate the woman who's willing to work along side of him.

    My favorite western authors are also two good friends, Dusty Richards and Mike Blakely. For several years, Mike has been encouraging me to write a romantic western. I'm finally working on one. I don't see it winning a SPUR award, hehe but I'm enjoying the process and playing in a part of history I've never written before.

    Blessings.

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  23. i like stories set in the Old West too. Keep 'em coming, ladies. :)

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