While I was writing Groom for Hire, I had a secondary character who had to be dropped off in a small town in the middle of nowhere because he was unfit to help lead the wagon train. In the back of my mind, I thought, “It’d be a shame to leave the poor guy there forever.” And so, I decided to write another book in the Pioneer Series.
In the book, Brandon is an alcoholic who needs to overcome his dependency on liquor. I grew up in a home with an alcoholic father. He was a functioning alcoholic, meaning that he was able to hold down a steady job despite his addiction. My mother almost left him because it put a strain on their marriage, but in the end, he was able to quit drinking. My dad was the quiet type of alcoholic. He never screamed or threw things. I did some research into alcoholism during the writing of this book. Mainly, I was interested in what alcoholics go through as they stop drinking, and the symptoms widely vary. So I picked the stuff that best fit Brandon’s personality. My dad never talked to me or my sister about what he went through, but I imagine it wasn’t too different from what Brandon went through. (Side note: my dad went to be with the Lord years ago. Even if he had been alive when I wrote this book, I wouldn’t have asked him about it.)
I got the idea for Lokni’s character after all of the spaghetti westerns my husband watched. These westerns are more nitty gritty than your typical western. There are a lot of brutal scenes in them. (Brutal for the 1960s and 1970s.) I have yet to see one of these movies end with a genuine happy ending for all of the main characters. I mean, they might live, but the main love interests never ended up together. One movie in particular involved a white man with a Native American woman who fell in love. Being a spaghetti western, they didn’t end up together. The romance writer in me hated that ending. So I decided to write this book where a white man and Native American woman would be forced together and end up together. This was my own “spaghetti western” without getting too far into the brutal aspects of it, though I did give Lokni a nitty gritty backstory.
While I did have characters on the wagon trail in two other books in the Pioneer Series, I wanted just the hero and heroine to be out in the wilderness as they made their way to the next town in this particular story. I thought it would be the best way for the two to get used to each other.
In some instances in my romances, I use the birth of a child to represent a fresh start in life. These are typically for characters who are struggling for a second chance but are unable to find the hope for a second chance any other way. The other book where I used this strategy was The Marriage Contract. In that book, it was the hero who needed it. In this book, however, both the hero and heroine needed it. This was why Lokni was pregnant at the beginning of the book, and she had to be ready to give birth.
In my research of the Wyoming Territory, I found out that there was a good mix of white people and Native Americans, and quite a few of these people married and had children. The stigma associated with whites and Native Americans marrying didn’t exist in these small towns. So this book had to be different from the Native American Series in how interracial couples were viewed. What I couldn’t do in Bismarck, North Dakota for Chogan and Julia (in Brave Beginnings), I could do in this book.
I’ve been in hotels with my kids when they were babies, and it’s a huge pain in the you-know-what. I never want to go through that ever again. It’s so much easier when they’re potty trained and old enough to sleep in a bed. Every time I wrote a scene with Lokni and the baby in that hotel room, my mind went back through all of those past trips I had to take because my husband was still in the Air Force, and we had to move around.
I felt it was important to give Lokni the option of being able to leave Brandon at some point in the story, so I did plan for that scenario when I started writing the book. After everything she’d been through, she needed to have a moment where she could finally pick what course she would take in her life. Since this was a romance, I already knew she’d stay with Brandon. The question was “how”. The “how” is what makes writing fun.
Though it wasn’t intentional, Brandon’s middle name “Clint” now makes me think of Clint Eastwood. 😀