Where Did OVERTIME Come From?
The short answer would be: My head. My wish fulfillment. The world of imagination from whence all creativity bursts forth. But I don't have to be that vague.
1) I've loved the West ever since I spent two wonderful years of my childhood in Window Rock Arizona, the Tribal Seat of the Navajo Nation. At the time--the very early 70s--my Dad worked for the B.I.A, or the Bureau of Indian Affairs. When we lived in Illinois, outside of Chicago, his job was to help Native Americans fresh off the reservation to adapt to city life. Then, we got to move to their world.
This was great for so many reasons. For one thing, I learned what it was like to be in the minority--our family was one of only a handful of Anglo's in a hundred mile radius. For another, I learned that being different did not make a person wrong. And then there ws the land--dry heat, big sky, rocks for climbing and pinion trees to graze nuts off of. My big brother even had a horse!
We moved on before I'd finished the 3rd grade and, with the rose-colored gaze of a child, I longed for the Western climes ever since. It's no coincidence that, once we reached Texas, in my teenaged years, I set down roots and stayed.
2) But then there are the cattle drives--and, more important, the trail bosses. As a fan of Westerns, I'm sure I'd seen trail-drive episodes of Bonanza or High Chaparral. But I really went on my first fictional cattle drive in 1978, with the miniseries Centennial. (Hmm... '78? I wonder if my subconscious later drew me to that year, as surely as Lillabit gets drawn?) Based on a great book by James Michener, which I read several times afterwards, the miniseries was chock-full of characters to love, from Robert Conrad's voyageur to Timothy Dalton's British entrepreneur. But the segment I loved the most was segment in which Cliff de Young's John Skimmerhorn goes south to Texas and hires a trail boss to take a herd of longhorn cattle north to Colorado.
That trail boss? R. J. Poteet, perfectly played by Dennis Weaver, who not only handles everything that can go wrong with crusty competence, but becomes a mentor to the youngest cowboy on the drive, Jim Lloyd. This segment had everything, and I'm not talking about the dry runs, stampedes, bandits, and Indian attacks. It had cowboy humor. It had camaraderie. It was a world, in and of itself... and I was hooked.
After that, I looked for cattle drives. My most important find became a TV repeat of the classic 1948 Red River, starring the even more classic John Wayne. The tough Tom Dunson (Wayne) builds a cattle empire and, at the same time, adopts the orphaned Matthew Garth (who grows up to be the delicious Montgomery Clift). But on a desperate cattle drive to Missouri, Dunson goes power crazy, and Matthew has to take over. Things are complicated by a woman, Joanne Dru's Tess Millay--only years later did I realize her character was a prostitute (hmm, more parallels!) But in the meantime, all the details of the cattle drive, from the chuck wagon to the laconic, competent trail boss, felt like coming home.... ...which is probably why, when I belatedly discovered the 1989 miniseries Lonesome Dove (in 1992) I was so quickly and immediately hooked. Again, we had the older man/young boy hero worship/mentorship. Again, we had the cowboy humor, and a world that swallowed me up, with me happy to go. I rushed out to buy Larry McMurtry's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and read it three times in succession. It wasn't enough. I needed more, more, more....
So I began writing. As a romance reader and writer, I replaced the boy character with a young woman, my place holder. I tried several versions of her, as a historical figure, and she just didn't work--until I realized she wasn't a historical figure at all!
But that's another write-up, for once you know more certainly where Lillabit is from!
3) And then there was the family trip. My family used to make long drives every summer, but once I and my sister, the two youngers, went off to college, it rarely happened. Still, Mom and Dad kept taking trips, and when they invited me along to go visit my big brother Bert at his hat-making shop in Sheridan, Wyoming, I decided to ride along.
And thank God.
We were coming from Texas, remember -- where most cattle drives started as well. At first, we were going to cut through New Mexico, like the drive from Centennial. But at the last minute, Dad decided to cut up through Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska. At first, I was disappointed. I love New Mexico. I'm a big Billy-the-Kid afficianado. Kansas just didn't sound as Old Westy. But then, perusing our route, I saw the two-word name that changed everything:
Even better, when I asked to stop there, my Dad--who used to be so much of a "no stopping until we get where we're going!" guy--was willing. So we spent an hour exploring the historic recreation of Front Street and Boot Hill, and the museum. I stood in a cell of the old stockade from Fort Dodge, and the scenes that end Chapter 9 and start Chapter 10, especially the sound of the familiar bootsteps from outside the cell? It came to me, almost fully formed--so I wrote it.
Driving past hundreds of miles of Kansas, and then Nebraska prairie, I saw the cattle drive moving slowly through as well. I envisioned the scene at the end of Ch. 6, "Night, Boss," and wrote it too. I jotted more and more notes, and once we arrived in Sheridan, I knew that was where Jacob Garrison was headed, as well. That trip cemented OverTime, despite that I'd written very little.
Then I made my first book sale--Waiting for the Wolf Moon, to Silhouette Books--and was busy writing other stuff for four years.
4) Time. When I came back to OT, in 1997, the first two and a half books of Lillabit (and Garrison's) story flowed from me. It was, and is, the book of my heart... and nobody wanted to buy it.
Not without punching up the romance--but these particular characters needed to take time. What romance there might be was a saga, not a sprint. Not without making it an action/adventure--but I'd done enough research to know that a cattle drive chock full of action and adventure is a money-losing proposition and, often, a poorly run cattle drive. I wanted this to be a story that drew the reader into the reality of the Old West, rather than just using the Old West as a set design. And I wanted this story to explore a person being forced to slow down, after coming from a world that has been so artificially sped up.
Finally? More than one source told me that "first person doesn't sell."
So I used the world of OverTime, just adding 18 or 19 years, to write some straight historical novels instead. They were called "The Rancher's Daughters" series, and every one of them includes spoilers for OverTime.
And now, finally, enough time has passed. Books like Twilight and Hunger Games show that some readers are willing to follow a couple over a series of books, instead of demanding a Happily Ever After in 300 pages or less--and that first person isn't taboo.
And because of resources like CreateSpace and Kindle and Smashwords (after September!), I can publish OverTime for whatever readers might enjoy it, even if that's only a small handful. I'm trying to be honest about what this series is--and isn't. It's not Silhouette Bombshell (though I loved that series to pieces). It's not a Romance, unless you think of it as an EXTENDED romance. It's... a cattle drive. With a twist.
Now I can only hope that at least some people love it the way I have.
This map is not meant to be exact. That said, I'm pretty proud of it. I had a hard time finding any available maps of the Western trail for quite some time. Now I've made one that also includes:
RIVERS - Notice how the trail would veer off route or even go all the way through Indian Territory--aka the future Oklahoma--instead of just cutting across the Panhandle, specifically to stay near the rivers.
The significant rivers Garrison's herd crosses with Lillabit are, from Dodge City up:
*The Arkansas River (just south of Dodge City)
* The Smoky Hills River near Hays City, Kansas
* The Republican River, on the border of Kansas and Nebraska
* The Platte River, leaving Ogallala
* Niobrara River, just south of Fort Robinson
* The White River
* And then they follow the Belle Forche into Wyoming
The railroads that Garrison's herd crosses in OverTime are:
* The Atchison, Topeka, & Sante Fe (yes, the one from the old song) runs through Dodge City.
* The Kansas Pacific runs through Hays City
* The Union Pacific runs through Ogallala and Julesburg
For what it's worth, the Texas and Pacific railway had reached Forth Worth by 1876, but it was still cheaper to ship cattle by the Kansas and Nebraska railroads.