Velda Brotherton writes of romance in the old west with an authenticity that makes her many historical characters ring true. A knowledge of the rich history of our country comes through in both her fiction and nonfiction books, as well as in her writing workshops and speaking engagements. She just as easily steps out of the past into contemporary settings to create novels about women with the ability to conquer life’s difficult challenges. Tough heroines, strong and gentle heroes, villains to die for, all live in the pages of her novels and books.
Could you tell us about your latest release, Stone Heart’s Woman?
Be happy to. Stone Heart's mother is a Northern Cheyenne, his father is George Armstrong Custer. Educated as a white man, he is torn between those two worlds, and must make a choice when his father begins to slaughter his mother's people. In 1879 the Northern Cheyenne had broken free of the reservation in Indian Territory but were imprisoned at Fort Robinson in Nebraska. Stone Heart is injured in what becomes known as the final breakout and takes refuge in an abandoned shack to heal.
Aiden Connor is deserted by the man she was supposed to marry. She is earning money to return home to St. Louis when the good women of the small town of Benson run her out of town. She takes refuge in the same shack to get out of the stormy night and finds a knife at her throat. A knife held by Stone Heart, who has vowed to never speak the tongue of his white father again.
What brought the Northern Cheyenne’s experience to mind for your book?
A trip my husband and I took in which we toured all the forts along the route running north out of Oklahoma (once Indian Territory) revealed the story as we moved from one place to another. After a visit to Fort Robinson we toured some museums where we learned more about the Northern Cheyenne. Intrigued, I then read the book, Cheyenne Autumn by Mari Sandoz and knew I had to write an historical romance set during this heartbreaking era. I'm always interested in developing characters strong enough to survive harsh times.
Your paranormal, Wolf Song, is set during the Grey Wolf reclamation project in Montana. Do you always find a serious theme to attach to your stories? And does that make it difficult to write the lighter scenes?
I really never thought about the themes being serious, but you're right. Almost all my books revolve around intense themes. Once I tried to write a humorous book and failed miserably. I can usually have a minor character who lightens up some of the scenes, but I guess I've always been serious in what I read and what I write. Readers will find some lighter scenes in all my books, but they shouldn't expect Stephanie Plum. She just ain't there anywhere.
Historical Romances seem a great challenge to me because the period and location are characters in themselves. How do you incorporate them into the book without making the period and location a distraction?
My favorite suggestion to most young writers is, "You need a sense of place." If the reader can't experience where my characters live, work, play and make love, then they won't enjoy my books. In most cases my locale and period are characters themselves. But description for its own sake is boring, so I make sure that a sense of place is woven lightly throughout the action. If the wind rises, it blows her hair across his chest, tickling his flesh. Or flaps the hem of her skirt against shapely ankles. You don't need a river unless you're going to cross it.
Since you are a historian, I’m guessing that you are a stickler for facts. Do you have an example of when the facts didn’t read as well as a more creative version? You are writing fiction, but is it difficult for you to shape or add to history for a more exciting story?
Occasionally I'll do just that. Once my characters were heading west in a wagon train. At the Cimarron Cut-off, they chose to follow the Santa Fe main trail for reasons important to the plot, but I was so fascinated by a particular river crossing, that I had them make that crossing, though they would have missed it. I made sure to explain that in the author's notes at the end of the book. Sometimes as fiction writers, we're sorely tempted and can't help ourselves. But I do stay true to everything historical, including real characters that I enjoy including in my stories.
Your website lists many fun and interesting events. Do you prefer the in-person approach to online social networking? And how do you connect with so many great venues, such as historic societies, landmark hotels, and even NPR?
Wow, this is an interesting question which comes at a time when I'm forced to put an end to the in-person approach and turn to online social networking because of my physical health. The most fun I've had is running around the country taking part in events and meeting my readers, but sadly there comes a time in our lives when we have to face facts. I think I was able to connect with these great venues because of the many years I spent working for a newspaper. For 10 years I was a feature reporter for a weekly newspaper, and as such got to know everyone in the area involved with all sorts of events. When I began to have fiction and regional nonfiction published, I had the contacts to help me out. My first regional book was read and discussed on NPR because they already knew who I was. The same is true of historical societies. I interviewed the owner of a landmark hotel for a newspaper story, so it was no problem to give her a call and get a book signing when a book came out that told her story again, in greater detail. I interviewed distant relations of President Obama for a book I was writing when I learned that his mother's people had settled for a while in a nearby county. I'd previously interviewed this man because he was an historian and his family owned a local bank. This is one reason I urge young writers to begin their careers by writing for newspapers. It builds the sort of contacts you can't buy.
It seems you attend a lot of events offered by writing societies, such as the Ozark Writer’s League and Women Writing the West. These sound like great venues for writers, but I thought they might have a lot to offer readers as well. Can you tell us some advantages they offer that might appeal to each group?
Though these organizations are by and for writers, readers often do attend because they can meet their favorite authors, find and acquire autographed books, and enjoy a day or two spent with people they otherwise might never meet. Of course, it's a given that writers should attend a few conferences each year. Networking in this way acquaints them with agents and editors who will remember them and their work. Even writers who are already established need to get away once in a while to recharge. If we sit in our office writing all the time, we are never challenged with new ideas or characterizations. A lot of my best ideas come to me while talking with other writers.
What’s next for you?
Having turned almost exclusively to promoting and marketing online, I'll continue to do a lot of that. I also am getting involved in publishing to Kindle. Once all my backlist fiction books are on Kindle, and there are four there now, I plan to publish several women's fiction novels. E books offer excellent new opportunities to writers who have struggled, learned their craft, but were caught in the publishing crisis. With book stores closing and publishing houses turning to best sellers for their new works, E books, small publishers and self-publishing offers the opportunity to continue in the career we love. And I have no intention of quitting after 28 years in the business.
Thanks, Jackie for having me here to visit with you and your readers. I enjoyed it a lot.
Thank you for taking the time. Be sure to learn more about Velda and where to order her books at her website!