(Drina’s Choice is a Mail-Order-Bride novel)
A writer friend of mine describes fiction as ‘what could have happened instead of what really happened.’ I think she pretty much nailed it. We all know good fiction comes from stories we see and hear and live.
In writing western romance fiction among the many things we depend on are the facts we have read about in history classes or have found on the internet or stories that have been handed down through the generations. We writers take these facts, give them a twist to suit our stories and make the situation fit the characters we’ve created. But we always try to make sure the real facts are correct. We wouldn’t dare set an historical fact such as the battle at Little Big Horn in Kansas or the fight for the Alamo in Nevada. We’d never sell another book if we used our ‘literary license’ in this way.
The truth is, we all know the west was at one time a lawless place where most men and some women carried guns for the own protection as well as the protection of their families. The towns were settled with hard work, sweat and tears and many lives were lost in the process.
At first there were few women in the towns that sprang up. Most of the people on the frontier were men. To ease their loneliness and to build families the mail-order-bride was born. Not only did men advertise for a wife, there were actually businesses set up to find wives for the lonely men who wanted to remain in the west and raise families there.
Though the following were a part of everyday life in the west, seldom are the dangers that plagued the pioneers mentioned in the books we read today. Some of these dangers were wild animals, outlaws, Indians, disease, starvation and the lack of medical care available. Also only mentioned occasionally is Prairie Madness, a disease many women faced from being so isolated and lonely because they would go for long periods of time without interaction with other people. Many women went mad and/or committed suicide when this malady hit them. Many women also died in childbirth because of the lack of medical care. Among the many other factors that took the lives of men, women and children, I’ll only mention a couple: snake bites and accidents.
Our forefathers where not only a tough and hearty breed who were able to take a hostile land, settle it and turn it into the thriving west we know today. They raised families, built cities, and formed good lives for themselves and those they loved. These men, who lived by their wits and their guns, were also accomplished in other ways. Because of the isolation, they were often avid readers, they wrote poetry, sang songs and taught themselves skills that were needed to survive.
Writers, and I’m one of them, have taken many of these facts and turned them into the romantic western fiction we see in the movies and read about today. So when you read a western novel, you will not only read about the history of our country, but you will see how we all wished that history had been for the brave men and women who settled the west.