The Great American West has been the inspiration for who knows how many novels over the past 300 years. Even before the west was in it’s prime, dime novels were sold on the street corners depicting the dashing, daring lifestyles of the glorious frontier. Unfortunately, it was never half as easy living as most people believed and whilst the West was a land full of new opportunities, it was just that: full of opportunities. Opportunities for the good, the bad and the ugly. People could own land, and thieves could take it from them. Pioneers could load up all their worldly belongings and head across thousands of miles of rugged country, only to be beset upon by renegades and badmen. As unpredictable as it was, people still crossed the expanse with high hopes and big dreams, longing only for a chance to raise a family in the wilderness. Justice wasn’t subject to change, but it was primarily ruled by the swift laws of the six-gun and a vigilante’s hangman’s noose.
The “Taming of the West” period, when looked at in relevance to the rest of world history, took a very, very short period of time. The fact that in a mere two hundred and fifty years the American settling era became so enthralling that people on the other side of the world desperately wanted to pick up shop and move, was–and still is–astounding. Even if we had no records of the perilous tales recounted down to our generations, it would not be difficult to see exactly how compelling the mere thought of moving west was to those living on the other side of the world. The chance to own land, to raise animals and provide for a family was an opportunity most could not pass up. With that thought in mind, we must realize it is only because of these brave pioneers that we have the nation many of us live in today.
For Girls & Gunsmoke in particular, I chose to capitalize on the many stories we have of the wagon trains that crossed the prairies, mountains, deserts and bare expanses of the West. I myself have a relative or two who cracked a whip over the backs of oxen as they plodded ever west, following the wagon before them. Most of us, when we reflect upon the incidents that occurred along the trail, forget to remember the hardships, the dramatic losses and the many who failed to survive. But it these who deserve our remembrance.
When writing G&G, I researched as much as I could, eating up other writer’s novels, history books, the encyclopedia, grandpa’s stories, and anything else that would tell me more about the legendary wagon trains along the Oregon Trail. About three years ago, I happened upon the true stories of the Mountain Meadows, Donner Party and Oatman Massacres, and was struck by a singular idea after having read a sentence from the preserved diary of a massacre survivor. He said something to the effect of, “We sent the young girls away for water, for fear they would be taken when the camp fell…” and I immediately thought, “that is my story.”
Soon after, I was again researching wagon train massacres when I ran across another tale of a single surviving girl, who under the disguise of a man, tracked the band of outlaws that slaughtered her family along the Oregon Trail and in turn killed as many men as she could, one by one. The accounting was written by one of the men she wished to kill, and he never knew her name and only escaped with his life by the whiskers on his chinny-chin-chin. I only wish I could have met her, or only just known her name. Be that as it may, I am ever grateful to have had the brief chance to glimpse her life through history’s eyes and I must say, (as if it isn’t already obvious), I cannot take credit for the writing of G&G, for the story was already there. I simply put it to paper, along with a few characters added for more depth, and my own theory of how it might have all gone down at the very end.
I’ve found most authors who recall historical happenings, like to tell the happy stories. They know their readers want a feel-good, happy-go-lucky tale that makes them jittery with joy and excited for the character’s future. If that is more your thing, I’ll warn you up front, G&G is probably not the best fit for you. If you enjoy history and are prepared to accept the pain along with the joy as you read about how things once were, I know you will love G&G. Simply put, it is my tribute to how the west was won.