BEHIND THE SERIES:
The Kansas Flint Hills
Years ago, I took a college course at
Emporia State University called Flint Hills
Folklife. Dr. Jim Hoy taught about the Flint
Hills inside and outside the classroom.
That summer, my love for the Flint Hills of
Kansas was born. The Flint Hills are a strip
of land two hundred miles long and fifty
miles wide that stretch from Nebraska to
Oklahoma near the middle of Kansas.
Unlike most other land in Kansas, which is ripe for farming, this strip of land refuses to be tamed--too rocky to farm, its rolling hills encrusted with sharp native flint rock. Because of this, it has become one of the last remaining tallgrass prairie regions in the world.
I've always loved this parcel of Kansas grassland, but it wasn't until a few years ago that I realized I had a story to tell. So began my idea to write about the people of this land, to tell their story in a fictional piece of work. That idea stemmed into four contemporary stories, which blossomed into the Seasons of the Tallgrass series.
Our setting takes place in the heart of the Flint Hills in Charris County (a fictional combination of Chase & Morris County) with the local town of Diamond Falls (a fictional town roughly based on Cottonwood Falls, KS.)
Snow Melts in Spring - The Main Characters
The opening for this first book came to me very quickly. I knew there would be an accident involving a horse, and first on the scene would be a young lady veterinarian, and an aged rancher, who is the father of our hero, a professional quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers.
Mattie Evans - age 28, country veterinarian
Gilbert "Gil" McCray - age 37, professional quarterback
John McCray - Gil's dad and owner of the Lightning M Ranch
Dusty - chestnut gelding that Gil trained as a teenager.
Snow Melts in Spring - The Research
This story involved quite a bit of research. Of course, I had to learn everything I could about ranching in the Flint Hills. I read lots of books on the subject, visited with people from that area, and explored miles and miles of Flint Hills countryside. One such excursion occurred on our 16th wedding anniversary.
At that time, I was just beginning
research for Snow Melts in Spring. Part
of my study included staying at the Clover
Cliff Bed & Breakfast, built in 1860, near
Elmdale, KS. This charming spot hosts
thousands of acres of rolling prairie with
miles of trail and lots of history. You might find several similarities between this place and John McCray's Lightning M Ranch.
Other research included visiting local veterinarians and trailing one of them through a work day. This part was integral to the story, as I had to get the "accident" just right in order for my aged horse to survive the vehicle-related accident needed to initiate the plotline of my story.
The next bit of study involved the game of football. Now, I have to admit that I have never been too knowledgable about this particular sport. However, in order to write some of the opening scenes, I had to become knowledgable. So, I made a few more trips to the library, brought back tons of books about football, and watched a LOT of football on television. I'm sure my husband loved the extra attention I gave during those football seasons. I even bought a football to hold and throw and help me get into the story when it came time to write from Gil's point of view.
Seeds of Summer - The Main Characters
This book wasn't as easy to write. Again, while the opening came to me rather quickly, the closing scene eluded me for several months. It finally came to me, however, and I pray it will be an ending that leaves you sobbing with joy.
Natalie Adams - Age 22, Former Miss Rodeo Kansas
Jared Logan - Age 27, New Pastor in Diamond Falls
Willard Grover - Natalie's neighbor and family friend
Chelsey Adams - Natalie younger half sister
Dillon Adams - Natalie's younger half brother
Seeds of Summer - The Research
Because I already had the main research done for the setting of this book, I concentrated on learning all I could about the competitions for Miss Rodeo Kansas (MRK) and Miss Rodeo America (MRA). This proved to be quite interesting as well as entertaining. During the course of 18 months, I interacted with various people in the MRA, especially Amy Wilson, the 2008 Miss Rodeo America.
Check back later for additional stories about the series, or visit my blog where you can learn more about the Kansas Flint Hills or my writing.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
1 - How long does it take you to write a book?
--Before I had publishing deadlines, it took over a year to write a book. I'm currently contracted to write one in 9 months.
2 - What is your work day like?
--A typical day begins with breakfast & devotions, and then I check my e-mail. I'll write from 10-2:00, take a lunch break, check e-mail, and then take care of other business (sometimes this includes home/farm stuff). I try to sit down to write again from 4- 6, oftentimes hitting my stride at about 5:00. Sometimes I'll work on marketing/publicity items in the late evening after the kids have gone to bed. Oh, and did I mention chocolate? A day without a piece of chocolate (preferably Dove Dark) is not on my calendar. LOL.
3 - Do you have a designated office?
--Years ago, I wrote at a desk in the kitchen, and this is still where I check my email & do internet work. For actual writing, I have my office set up in a corner of our bedroom where I can shut the door if necessary, and I write on a laptop. Sometimes I'll move to a favorite chair or the living room couch to write, but normally, I work at my desk, getting up and down frequently for tea, or to keep the laundry going.
4 - What types of books do you like to read?
--I enjoy Christian romance and women's fiction, both contemporary and historical.
5 - Who are your favorite authors?
--I have many favorites, some of them good friends. Deborah Raney, Deeanne Gist, Francine Rivers, Kim Vogel Sawyer, Tamera Alexander . . . and Nicholas Sparks.
6 - What inspired you to become a writer?
--It's something I've wanted to do since high school. I'm so thankful for the online writing group ACFW, which helped me get to where I am today.
7 - What is your favorite/least favorite part of being a writer?
--Favorite: doing something I love and getting paid for it;
Least Favorite: having a deadline to do something I love.
8 - What do you do in your free time to relax?
--I like to take walks with our two golden retrievers or play the piano. I also like to bake and sew, although I don't sew as often as I used to. Scrapbooking is also fun, but that's taken a backseat for now, as well.
9 - Why do you write Christian fiction?
--I wanted to write books I could share with my girls or my grandmother--books with true and pure romance in them--the kind that reaches deep into the heart and soul of a person and makes her smile the rest of the day. My prayer for all my books is that they minister to a reader's heart in whatever fashion God allows.
10 - What are you working on now?
--I'm finishing up Book 3, Blades of Autumn, and starting to plot my next project.
11 - Will all of your stories have horses in them?
--I cannot predict the future, but I will say that my next 5-6 book ideas all have country settings and yes, they do include horses.
12- Would you be available to speak at an event?
--This past year, I have had the privilege of speaking to several reading and writing groups and would love the opportunity to speak at your event. Please contact me if you would like to schedule a speaking engagement.