The talented, multi-published Alice Duncan, who also writes as Anne Robins, Emma Craig, and Rachel Wilson, gives us a behind-the-scenes look at her latest novel Sierra Ransom, to be published by Five Star in April 2009. (This interview also appeared on my website in Reading, April 2009.)
I hope you'll enjoy this story of how she breathed life into another memorable character and created what you'll find is another of her captivating stories. By the way, Alice is not only a fabulous writer by whichever name she may use, but she's also famous for living in the alien capital of the world, Roswell, NM.
From The Pen Of Alice Duncan
Sierra Ransom was a book I’d wanted to write for a long time. Today’s problems aren’t unique to our generation, but have been around for as long as people have existed, and I wanted to write about the women who coped without our modern conveniences.
Therefore, I decided to have an unmarried woman run away from her Massachusetts home to California during the Gold Rush. The product of a dreadful family, Zenobia Gray was seduced by a man whom she believed loved her. Naturally, when she arrived in California, her beau was long gone. Since California at that time was desperate for women to take care of the work that men didn’t know how to do (in other words, everything except dig holes and stuff like that), Zee at least had opportunities unavailable to her back east.
The problem with the book was that, although I’d lived in California for most of my life and had taken classes in California history in high school and college, I didn’t know much about the physical area where my story would take place: California’s Gold Country.
As luck would have it, an OLD friend (I emphasize the word old, because she’s eleven days older than I), Lauren Fiedler, invited me to visit Taylorsville, California, with her over the Fourth of July holiday, where we would stay with friends of hers. Well, hecky-darn, Taylorsville was right smack in the middle of where I wanted my book to be set! So I went, had a wonderful time, and managed to get in some real, live research while having tons of fun.
Lauren and I stayed with some friends of hers, Joe and Susan Tomaselli (Susan, unfortunately, died in an automobile accident a couple of years ago), and Joe was a mine of information about the area, the old mining operations, etc. He also told me to read THE SHIRLEY LETTERS, a book written by a woman who accompanied her spouse to the gold fields, so I got myself a copy. Boy, it turned out I was exactly right about my assumption that people have always been the same. Poor Mrs. Shirley suffered from migraine headaches and all sorts of things we suffer from today, but she had to cook over a wood fire, get water from the river, had no antibiotics when she or her hubby were injured, and so forth.
Thus the redoubtable Zee Gray ended up operating a soup kitchen in Muddy Flats, a run-down gold camp in the middle of the gold country. The reason Sam Ransom ended up in Muddy Flats is an entirely different story. Sam, you see, was on the lam from the law in about as many states and territories as the United States possessed at that time. Sam, determined to go straight at last, decided that the prim and proper Zenobia Gray would be a person to emulate in his new life as a law-abiding citizen.
Look for Sierra Ransom in April of 2009 and Angel's Flight in July. Buy them online from Five Star or Amazon or request your local Library to order them.