The Making of The Americans Are Coming
The making of The Americans Are Coming didn’t just happen overnight. In fact, this book has been simmering for several years. I have taken countless classes through Romance Writers of America and my local group, Heart of Carolina on everything from Horses in Literature to Writing a Historical Novel. I have also been focusing more on the cozy mystery aspect of writing. I have really enjoyed following YouTube Author, Jane Kalmes aka Fiction Technician. Jane had a mystery writers’ course recently I really wanted to take but with my responsibilities with the Pamlico Writers’ Group and the Heart of Carolina, the timing didn’t pan out. But I am really thinking about taking it the next time she offers it.
The kernel of an idea came about thanks to my husband, actually his grandfather. In our home that burned David had a whip that once belonged to his grandfather who’d been a performer in a wild west show. When I heard the story, I knew one day I’d write a character who was a performer in a wild west show. Incidentally, David’s grandfather did an act where he snapped quarters tossed in the air with his whip.
Winnie’s name took several metamorphoses. I originally planned to name her Willowmina but since I used Willow in my contemporary story, Willow’s Retreat, I did not want to confuse myself more than normal. Keeping my characters’ names straight is almost as bad as keeping my children’s names straight. Unfortunately, readers don’t like it when you call the role in a story. My kids probably don’t like being called by the other’s names either but oh well.
Winnie, a nickname for Winona, and Harry her love interest were inspired by good friends I’ve known since my childhood, the parents of one of my dearest friends and school mates. They also became close with my youngest son when he began working with Mr. Harry at the museum. Our backyards connected and so much of our lives intertwined. They always seemed to have a good time together and made being around them fun. I couldn’t think of a better couple to inspire my young sleuths.
As the story came together, Winnie became half Lakota and as I began describing her appearance, I used my granddaughter Phalha to help me get an image of the character. You can see a slightly younger version of the character and Phalha in the original artwork painted by Susan McIntyre. Sue used photos I had of Phalha to create the cover of the book. While Phalha is half Cambodian, not Lakota, looking at pictures of Lakota women, I felt she closely resembled them and gave me a more personal connection to the character.
Since I am not a horsewoman, I needed expert advice to help me flesh out my character as Winnie is a trick rider and caregiver to the animals. I turned to another of my granddaughters, Hailey. Hailey is an accomplished horsewoman who trained her horse Cooper whom others felt was untrainable. Not only did she train him, but she’s won countless awards with him. Hailey answered all of my crazy questions and she inspired much of Winnie’s relationship with her horse and the other animals.
My grandsons Psi and Jack were great about helping me with Riley and Harry, inspiring looks as well as some of the fun things they do from the inventions to their reactions. My husband and my sons were also on hand to answer questions about ‘would this work?’ It’s great to have people around who know things or are willing to research them. My husband has become my accomplice on many of my adventures from helping me plan my murders to planting evidence. If our family decides to turn to crime, it could be bad…really bad.
A lot of research went into this story but I’m sure I didn’t get everything just right. I mean sometimes you have to bend things to get the story to work the way you want it to work.
I am so thankful for my friend Cyn Hayden who gave me information on steamer ships for that one little piece I needed to make the story believable. The ending wouldn’t work without it.
I am also thankful for my local library and the women who work there: Robina Norman, Denise Toler and Myra Shields. These ladies are great at finding things I cannot find online. They are my research assistants, my Beta readers and proofreaders. I cannot thank them enough for always supporting me. They have hosted my book signings and even suggest my books to patrons.
I have several Beta readers who make the story better, stronger, less filled with errors. I said less errors, not error-free, I still manage to get a few of those, sorry. Everyone who reads and gives me feedback, everyone who reviews the stories, they all help me make a better story and I appreciate all the love and support, the encouragement and the occasional kick in the butt I need to get these stories done.
The cover design is by my friend and fellow Pamlico Writers’ Group member, Sue McIntyre. Sue is the author of a memoir, Outside Heaven: An Afghanistan Experience and she is also an artist in residence at the Lemonade Gallery in Washington. She has done two paintings for me for this novel. The first based on a photograph I sent her with just a few ideas. I loved it but as I was finishing The Americans are Coming, I realized I needed to represent the main character better. Since she was half Lakota, an obviously white woman would not be representative. I also wanted the first book to give more of the feel of the wild west show. Using photos of my granddaughter, Sue did a lovely job of depicting Winnie.
While she is younger on the cover than in the story, I still feel it is a great depiction of what the beginning of the series is about. Winnie isn’t exactly innocent, her life even before joining the wild west show was hardly easy, nor was she protected from the harshness of life. But Winnie’s outlook is one of hope and love. Everything she does from trying to solve the murder to breaking up her father’s relationship with one woman and pushing him into a relationship with another, is about love and hope for the future.
The Americans are Coming is a murder mystery, but it also has romance, family drama, friendship and a view into living together harmoniously with diverse characters. Fiction should entertain but it should also make you feel something. I hope when you finish this book you feel the connection and understanding I was trying to convey. Happy reading, y’all.
Print books are suppose to arrive today but they won’t have this cover. If you want books with Sue’s original artwork, they are available at Amazon, and I hope to have them available elsewhere very soon.