Friday, October 23, 2009

The Rough and Tumble (and Romantic) Wild West

Happy Friday - Today I'm copying a post that I made last month at Seduced By History which is the blog for members of the RWA Hearts Through History chapter. Enjoy!

My love affair with the historical western started when I was about 8 or 9 and my dad began reading me the “Little House on the Prairie” books. I was obsessed with watching the TV show when I got home from school and Dad wanted to share with me the stories that inspired the show. In junior high school my love affair with the western continued with the short lived TV series “The Young Riders”, about the Pony Express, featuring some real life people like Jimmy “Wild Bill” Hickock and William “Buffalo Bill” Cody. My 13 year old self wanted nothing more than to have one of these dashing riders come to my rescue. In fact, my first ever historical western story was based off the show (I was writing fan fiction before I even knew what it was!). Other shows like “The Magnificent Seven” and “Deadwood” soon followed and further fueled my love of this time period. Oddly enough I don’t enjoy most movie westerns. When I started reading romances in my late teens, I was drawn to the historicals and mostly drawn to the westerns. The truly wonderful authors who write this genre took me to a time and a place that I’d loved since I was a child. When I decided to take my love of writing and pursue being published, a historical western romance was my first project. So why the historical west? My simple answer is: variety. The historical west was a vast place, there are stories written from the Canadian Yukon to the Mexican border, from the plains of Minnesota to the coasts of Oregon and everywhere in between. It was a time of change and exploration in our country’s history. The time period is just as vast as the places, from before the Civil War, to during that conflict to afterward through the turn of the century and even beyond. Then there are the story arcs. Of course historical westerns have their clich├ęs just like any other genre, but for me it’s much harder to happen upon the same story arc over and over in westerns than with other genres. The types of characters and conflicts within a historical western are as vast as the time period and setting. People of all faiths, races and economic status headed out to settle the west. One couldn’t venture into this place during this time and be a wimp. The heroines were already strong or came to find a strength they didn’t know they possessed, often out of pure necessity to survive. The heros were rugged, tough and mostly lived by their own rules in a place where law was practically non-existent. The couples that came together could have been different as night and day and yet managed to find true love despite all the odds. I love doing research and I love being able to experience a place first hand. My family’s travels when I was younger seemed to center on road trips through my native Minnesota, into South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. I’ve been to Register Rock in Idaho and stood in the spot where Jack McCall shot Wild Bill Hickock. I’ve stood at the Little Big Horn Battlefield and at the place Laura Ingalls once called home. These experiences have helped to fuel my love for this time period even more. I’d love to know what others think of historical western romances. Do you read them? Who are some of your favorite authors? What other time periods do you enjoy reading and can you give me any recommendations? Among my favorite historical western romance authors are Linda Lael Miller, Sarah McCarty and Stacey Kane . As a whole I don’t really enjoy Regencies but perhaps you can suggest something that might change my mind? I have read a couple of medieval stories that have led me to think this might be a time period I’d love to explore more of. I also really enjoy time travel romance.


Katie said...

Little House on the Prairie has always been one of my loves - the novel and the TV show. In fact, hubby and I watch reruns of the show on TVLand.

It's strange, but I don't really have a "favorite author". I'll read just about anything - paranormal, Regency (yes, heaven help me), contemporary, historical (of the English/Irish/medieval variety).

Christina Dodd has written some Regency-esque novels which I have enjoyed. They're worth checking out.

Andrea said...

My experience with historical romances- all of them, not just westerns- is limited to my years selling them when I worked for B. Dalton. :) That said, this is a wonderful tribute to the genre and it makes me want to expand my own reading horizons.

Sheila said...

As far as Regency romances go, look for anything by Barbara Metzger. Her style is very crisp and witty, and I just sit there in awe and hope to be half as good someday.