It is with great pleasure today that I share an interview with you with Western author, Marsha Ward. I’ll be honest. I don’t generally enjoy reading books about the American West (although I love living in the American West!), but for Marsha Ward, I have learned to make an exception. She is a high quality writer and knows how to create an authentic historical world. Need proof? Her most recent novel, Trail of Storms, was recently named a finalist in the Western Fiction category in the “Best Books of 2010 Awards” this October! Marsha is celebrating by offering not one, but TWO, of her Western titles in e-book format as a giveaway at the end of this interview!
JDP: Trail of Storms is part of your Owen Family Western Saga series. Can you tell us a little bit about this series?
Marsha: The series I call the "Owen Family Saga" grew sort of organically. The writing of The Man from Shenandoah spanned quite a period of years, because I actually started it when I came home after my first year of college. It sat around for years until I got serious about writing commercially in the 1980s. I cut five children from the original family. Then I wrote a story recounting the trials and triumphs of Carl Owen, who got home from the Civil War just in time to join the rest of the family as they relocated to Colorado Territory. When I had finished, I thought that would be all I had to tell about the Owen Family. I was wrong. I'd set up quite a cast of characters, and one story in particular, begged to be told.
Long before I published The Man from Shenandoah, I had already begun to write Ride to Raton. That book is about another of the Owen sons, who leaves the new family homestead in Colorado and goes off on his own. Due to a circumstance that's too long to tell in this interview, I chose to self-publish The Man from Shenandoah, and readers liked it so well that I did the same with Ride to Raton nearly a year later.
It took a few years and a lot of re-writing, but I finally finished a third novel, Trail of Storms, which continued the saga and got me back in the good graces of my readers. My next book was going to be something totally different, so again, I thought I was finished. Wrong again.
I have begun to label the three published books as a series on my website and on all the book and library sites I participate in on the Internet. I also created new covers for the first two books when I made them into e-books. Ride to Raton carries the subtitle "Book 2: The Owen Family Saga." When Trail of Storms becomes an e-book, it will say "Book 3: The Owen Family Saga" on the cover.
JDP: Marsha was a huge help and inspiration to me when I initially decided to self-publish Loyalty’s Web, which Walnut Springs Press later picked up. Thank you, Marsha, for your patient support and guidance! I am so excited to see the success of your Western series. Would you please tell us a little about Trail of Storms specifically.
Marsha: Trail of Storms goes back to Virginia to pick up the story of the sweetheart James Owen left behind when his family left. Jessie Bingham's heart was broken when James's father refused to let him marry Jessie and bring her west. A year later, an act of brutality drove the Bingham family and a few friends to flee for their lives. Complications ensue when Jessie commits to marry another man, but encounters James Owen at a stop on the trail.
JDP: Trail of Storms is set in the post-Civil War American West. What did you find most fascinating about this time period?
Marsha: Years ago, I formed a friendship with a famous author, who told me that each writer has their favorite war. His was the French and Indian War. Mine, it turns out, is the Civil War and its aftermath. I can't explain that. I didn't have any ancestors involved in it, so I don't have a "dog in the fight," so to speak. If I had, they would have been on the Union side, but I write about Confederates. The time period just drew me in ever since I studied about the War in elementary school. Maybe the tragedy of the situation attracted me.
JDP: What an interesting statement! I suppose I’d have to say that the American Revolution would be my favorite war, although if one were to judge from my actual writing, you’d think my favorite war should be the civil war between Henry II and his sons in the Middle Ages. Hmm, I’ll have to think about that a little more thoroughly. In the meantime, I’m always interested in how authors research their historical novels. Could you tell us a little about how you researched the historical background for Trail of Storms?
Marsha: I had done a lot of study when I initially researched the time period for The Man from Shenandoah. I read over 150 research books during that time. This time, I had the benefit of the Internet. I still used many different books to research a vast variety of topics, including the Mormon Battalion Trail; songs of the Civil War period; the interaction between Anglos, former Mexican citizens, and Indians; and the topography of New Mexico and other Western states. I bought plenty of books, including one published during the Great Depression, when writers were put to work by the government to write the history of each state.
JDP: Can you share with us your top three favorite research books or other resources?
New Mexico, a Guide to the Colorful State, and other books of the series, which came out of the Writers' Program of the Work Projects Administration; The Writers Guide to Everyday Life in the Wild West, by Candy Moulton; Cowboy Lingo, by Ramon F. Adams; and several volumes of first-hand accounts of women traveling on various western trails in that era. I know. That's more than three.
JDP: I have The Writers Guide to Everyday Life in the Middle Ages. Mine was by Sherrilyn Kenyon. That was a good series from Writers Digest!
Are there any historical figures from the era of Trail of Storms who particularly intrigue you?
Marsha: The everyday, unsung, unnamed men and women who settled the West through a lot of back-breaking work and ceaseless toil are my heroes and heroines.
JDP: What inspired you to write Trail of Storms?
Marsha: A lot of restless fans. Seriously. It took a long time to write the book, unfortunately, during which I moved from the home I'd lived in for more than 20 years and settled in a new community. I also took a detour into retail sales for a year. Once the business failed and I had sufficient time to write, the initial output was disappointing, and I had to step back and take a fresh look at the story. I changed the main viewpoint character, added a new cast, then put the first output into its proper place in the middle of the plot. Even so, the completed first draft wasn't satisfactory. I ended up revising the first two-thirds of the book, cutting off the last third, and re-writing the ending from scratch. That must have worked. Trail of Storms was named the Finalist in the Western Fiction category of the "Best Books 2010" Awards in October. There was only one finalist named, so I think Trail of Storms stacked up pretty well against the competition.
JDP: What a thrilling and well-deserved recognition for you Marsha! Are you working on any new projects?
Marsha: Yes. I'm writing an unnamed fourth novel in the Owen Family Saga. I had an idea for a non-fiction book, but I'm trying hard to keep it in its place on the back burner until the novel is finished.
JDP: Where can readers obtain copies of your books?
Marsha: All of my novels are available in print at BarnesandNoble.com, Amazon.com, iUniverse.com, and many more online booksellers, including those in Great Britain and the European Union, South Africa, Australia, and India. The first two novels, The Man from Shenandoah and Ride to Raton, are available as e-books in many formats at Smashwords.com. The ibookstore, kobobooks.com, barnesandnoble.com, and other retail partners of Smashwords carry the version for their e-reader. Trail of Storms may be purchased as an e-book at iUniverse.com. I also sell autographed copies of all my novels from my website, http://marshaward.com.
JDP: Thank you so much for joining us today, Marsha!
Marsha: Thank you for interviewing me, Joyce. It was a pleasure.
Giveaway time! Marsha is offering a free e-book download from Smashwords.com for each of the following Marsha Ward titles: Man from Shenandoah and Ride to Raton. Since they’re e-books, we’ll open this giveaway to both USA and International entries.
For a chance to win either Man from Shenandoah or Ride to Raton, do one, two, or all three of the following. Each will count as a separate entry, so please do not combine your answers into one email, or you’ll only be counted once.
(1) Leave a comment on this blog telling me why you’d like to win one of Marsha’s books, then email me at firstname.lastname@example.org WITH YOUR NAME AND E-MAIL ADDRESS (don’t need mailing address this time) and type: #1: I love Westerns!” into the subject line.
(2) Visit Marsha’s blog, The Characters in Marsha’s Head, read her post on “A passel of pain”, and tell me what Marie’s last exchange with James was. Email me the answer WITH YOUR NAME AND EMAIL ADDRESS to email@example.com, and type “#2: I love Westerns!” into the subject line.
(3) Visit Marsha’s website, click on the “Background & Awards” tab in the left hand sidebar, and tell me what writers group Marsha founded in 1986. Then email me the answer WITH YOUR NAME AND E-MAIL ADDRESS to firstname.lastname@example.org, and type: “#3: I love Westerns!” into the subject line.
Deadline for entries is November 19, midnight PST. Winners will be drawn on November 20 by Random.org. The first name drawn will win an e-copy of The Man from Shenandoah, the second name drawn will win Ride to Raton. Have fun and good luck!