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You are the author of a historical sweet romance series called “A Family Saga in Bear Lake Idaho.” What was the inspiration behind the first novel?
In Melinda and the Wild West, I included one of my own experiences as a substitute teacher. An eight-year-old student had been labeled as a troublemaker by her teacher. The students had listened to the teacher and steered away from her, not wanting to be her friend. This not only made her feel degraded, but she wanted to fight back and she did. She stopped doing schoolwork, refused to be part of the class, and got into a few fights. She seemed angry at the world but after working with her for a while, I soon learned what a sweet and wonderful child she was. She had characteristics that I was impressed with. When she realized that I really cared, she was willing to do her work, just to please me. In fact, her mother was impressed that her daughter wanted to please me so much. I’ll never know how this young girl’s life turned out, but in my novel I chose a happily-ever-after ending, just because Melinda cared and made a difference in the girl’s life.
Why was this subject important to me? Because something similar happened to one of my own daughters when she was little and it was so difficult to see my child receive an unjust label from a teacher.
This novel has “sweet” romance and adventure. What kind of adventure? When Melinda takes a job as a schoolteacher in the small town of Paris, Idaho, she comes face-to-face with a notorious bank robber, a vicious grizzly bear, and a terrible blizzard that leaves her clinging to her life. But it’s a rugged rancher who challenges Melinda with the one thing for which she was least prepared—love.
Do you ever add true family experiences in your historical novels?
After writing my ancestors’ and parents’ stories, I felt so close to them and wanted to add their experiences to my “sweet” romance series. In Melinda and the Wild West, I added one of my father’s experiences as a boy. When he was thirteen, he was asked to bury the skunks that his father had shot. But before he buried them, he drained the scent glands of each skunk until he had a jar full of “skunk oil.” Then he took it to school with him to show his classmates. He was so excited as he explained how he had done it. But in all the excitement, the bottle slipped from his hands and landed on the schoolroom floor and splattered everywhere. The stench was so terrible that everyone held their noses and ran outside as fast as their legs could go. The teacher excused school for the rest of the day and my dad was considered a “hero” by his classmates because he had closed down the school.
What kind of research do you do for one of your novels?
I put a great deal of research into my novels. The subplot of Jenny’s Dream, the 3rd book in this series, is about Old Ephraim, the ten-foot grizzly bear. The research about this old grizzly was exciting to me because Old Ephraim was from southern Idaho, where I was raised. He wreaked havoc wherever he went, killing sheep and scaring sheepherders so badly that they actually quit their jobs. He was so powerful that with one blow of his paw, he could break the back of a cow. I found out he was the smartest bear that ever roamed the Rocky Mountains. No one could catch him. Every bear trap Frank Clark set was tossed many yards away from where he had put it, and the ones that weren’t tripped had his tracks all around it. How did he know? Because Old Ephraim only had three toes. So they called him Old Three Toes. He was too smart to be caught so Frank Clark had to outsmart him. In this story, I included every detail about this bear and his deeds.
The Bear Lake Monster was a fun one to research. Scotland has the Lock Ness Monster and Bear Lake Valley has theirs. In my 4th novel in this series, Sarah’s Special Gift, the subplot is about David trying to disprove the legend of the Bear Lake Monster. I was raised just over the mountain from Bear Lake so the research about the monster was fun. I discovered that it was 90-feet long, his eyes were flaming red, and his ears stuck out from the sides of his skinny head. Its body was long, resembling a gigantic alligator and it could swim faster than a galloping horse. It had small legs and a huge mouth, big enough to eat a man. (Ha-ha.) I was surprised about what I found. I even got an email from a woman who said that her grandfather had seen the monster. In fact, many people still believe in the Bear Lake Monster today.
What was the inspiration behind the last four novels in this series?
Edith and the Mysterious Stranger was inspired by my parents’ courtship. They didn’t meet the traditional way. They met through letters. Their story was so romantic that I patterned this book after their courtship and used my father’s sweet, romantic letters. Can people really fall in love through letters? Absolutely! With mysterious letters, cattle rustlers, a spunky woman, Halloween, and young love, there is always something happening.
Jenny’s Dream was inspired because of some unpleasant childhood experiences that I experienced as a young girl and now Jenny must learn forgiveness before she can choose which dream to follow. Meanwhile, a legendary ten-foot grizzly is seen in the area and its boldness has frightened the community.
Sarah’s Special Gift was inspired because of my great grandmother who was deaf. I wanted to learn more about her life and how she coped with her disability. I learned so much about her and how courageous she was, so I decided to give her experiences to my character, Sarah. This story has deep-rooted legends, a few mysterious events, the mystery of the Bear Lake Monster, and a tender love story!
Elena, Woman of Courage is my last book in this series. My inspiration was the “Roaring Twenties.” This was a new decade of independent women, when they raised their hemlines and bobbed their hair. I found that if a woman bobbed her hair, she was fired from her job. A new language grew from this time period. They used words like: Cat’s pajamas! Horsefeathers! Baloney! When referring to a woman, they used doll or tomato. What was the difference? A tomato was a woman. A doll was a good-looking woman. A woman’s legs were called “gams” and her lovely shape was referred to as a “chassis.” If you were in love, you had a “crush,” were “goofy,” or “moonstruck.” And when a woman was not in the mood for kissing, she would say, “The bank’s closed.” Thus, my new novel was born! As Elena Yeates fights to prove herself as the newest doctor in town, the town’s most eligible bachelor finds it a challenge to see if he can win her heart.