I'm delighted to welcome Sally Quilford back to MBB today, to talk to us about her latest release, LONESOME RANGER, an historical romance set in the Wild West of the United States, back in the days of cowboys and Indians. So now to ask a couple of searching questions:
Cowboy/western romance is not a genre usually associated with British authors. Sally, how did you take up writing this genre?
I love old westerns, especially The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and The Magnificent Seven. Then there’s the musical western romances such as Oklahoma and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. And cowboys are dead sexy, aren’t they? But I also love a challenge and writing outside of my comfort zone. Writing Bella’s Vineyard and Lonesome Ranger gave me a chance to flex my writing muscles and try something different. So I sent my English heroines to America and tried them out in a different setting. I particularly liked exploring the difference between a rather staid, Victorian Britain and the wide open brand new country of America where anything was possible and my heroines were faced with passionate men who weren’t shy about making their feelings known in the way English men were at the time.
Can you share a little about the type of research you had to do?
Never having been to America, I relied much on the internet for research. Well that and watching my favourite westerns several times over! But finding a template for my fictional town in Lonesome Ranger turned out to be easier than I thought. I had decided early on that my hero, Nate Truman, would be inspired by gorgeous 1980s mini-series king, Peter Strauss. Then when I got carried away researching pictures of Strauss (ahem) I found out that he now has a citrus farm in a town called Ojai, which is famous for its pink sunsets. Ojai became my border town, Ocasa (Spanish for sunset). Nate Truman isn’t a citrus farmer, but the growth of oranges and lemons helped me to create the pretty landscape in my town. Then I did a quick bit of research about how oranges came to America (from the Spaniards).
And I very much subscribe to legendary western writer, Louis L’Amour’s edict that if he wanted to put a rock or a tree in a place then he would put it there, regardless of whether it should be there. So I created the town as I wanted it to be, and also put it only 3 miles from the sea. But I do try to make everything plausible and authentic. It’s not too difficult as you can use western town clichés, like the saloon and the telegraph office, not to mention the ‘cathouse’ and other buildings that are shown in most television and film westerns. Then there’s the old timer who knows all and dispenses wisdom. In Bella’s Vineyard it was May Tucker, and in Lonesome Ranger it’s Old Tom. Plus, with romantic westerns, you’re not looking for gritty realism so things can be as pretty as you want them to be, even if it’s not historically accurate.
I had to laugh though because when I wrote Bella’s Vineyard I mentioned on my blog setting it in a vineyard in the Sierra Nevada. I then followed a link back from my stats page to an American site where they mocked my ‘alpine grapes’. I very smugly pointed them towards the Sierra Nevada Wine Growers Association. In other words, in that case, I had done my research properly!
But I do think it’s important to allow ourselves to create our own worlds, within reason. I find that if you put enough truth in, people don’t mind if you bend the rules a bit and put a rock where there shouldn’t be a rock.
Did you have a blast writing these books - or was it just plain graft?
I loved writing both Bella’s Vineyard and Lonesome Ranger and finished them both in a very short time because I became so caught up in the stories and the world I was creating that I didn’t want to leave them. I was exhausted when I’d finished, but I think it was worth it for the finished product. And I’ve always found that the stories I’ve most enjoyed writing have been those that others have most enjoyed reading.
Can you share a tweet sized summary of the essence of your latest release?
When an English rose arrives in the border town of Ocasa with a secret, she doesn’t reckon for the warm-hearted residents and a handsome but scarred cowboy.
And what's next on your agenda?
At the moment I’m working on a pocket novel I’ve been asked by the editor to write for a special anniversary that’s coming up in July. Other than that, I’d rather not say as generally when I share my ideas it’s the kiss of death for them. So far I’m enjoying writing it very much so that’s a good sign! After that I aim to complete a full length novel in the crime genre, as opposed to my usual romantic intrigue novellas. It’s the next big challenge I’ve set myself. I’m sure I’ll put a bit of romance in there – I’m an incurable romantic when all is said and done - but it won’t be the main focus of the story.
Oh and there’s the YA novel I keep promising myself I’ll write.
And I also want to complete a proper, non-romantic, western one day.
And I’d like to write another western romance, so I have a sort of trilogy of them.
I just need a few more hours in the day
SALLY ON THE WEB