Today I'm pleased to welcome Andrea Downing to my blog. For those of you who have been following this series, you know I'm interviewing historical authors on how they conduct their research to create romance stories that are compelling and believable. If you love cowboy romances (and I know there are a lot of you out there!) I think you'll enjoy today's interview.
First, a little bit of background on Andrea:
Andrea Downing has spent most of her life in the UK where she developed a penchant for tea-drinking, a tolerance for rainy days, and a deep knowledge of the London Underground system. In 2008 she returned to live in the city of her birth, NYC, but frequently exchanges the canyons of city streets for the wide-open spaces of the West. Her love of horses, ranches, rodeo and just about anything else western is reflected in her writing. Loveland, a western historical romance published by The Wild Rose Press, was her first book. She has a story, Lawless Love, coming out later this year. She is a member of Romance Writers of America and Women Writing the West.
First, can you tell us about the time period and setting for your novels?
Both Loveland and Lawless Love (coming out later this year) are set in the 1880s, the former in Colorado, the latter in Wyoming. I'm a cowgirl at heart!
Do you have any special connection to the period?
Not unless you believe in reincarnation! Ever since I was a little girl I was always fascinated by westerns & watched just about every western on tv., most all taking place, of course, during that time period. As I grew up, the tv westerns were replaced by the west in books.
What appeals to you about this period?
It was the so-called 'golden age' of the cowboy, and I believe life was a lot simpler then as far as the fundamentals of life were concerned. People were happy with a lot less. Also, America was still recovering from the Civil War, and there were huge numbers of men leaving the east, particularly the southeast, and there were all these wild cattle roaming around Texas. Ranches proved to be a form of investment for many, a fortune to be made as well as a way of life. America was expanding, fulfilling its manifest destiny and these men—the cowboys—were really helping the country become what it could be.
How much time do you spend researching each book?
Totally depends on the book. For Loveland, I spent time both travelling out to Colorado and southeastern Wyoming and a lot of time reading memoirs and other accounts of the time and place. For Lawless Love, which is a story, I really didn't have to do much research, as I know Wyoming fairly well; it was more a matter of having the Etymological Dictionary by my side to check language.
Do you tend to research before you write, or more as you write?
Before AND during! Visiting locations tends to be during so I know what I want to see and can then go back to the manuscript and expand and develop descriptions and so on. But for Loveland, I certainly couldn't have found the correct voice for my cowpunchers if I hadn't read the memoirs first. Nor would I have got such inspirational descriptions of the terrible winter of 1886 had I not read first-hand accounts.
Do you use secondary or primary research sources?
Both. Primary are far more important, of course. If you use secondary you must be extremely careful that anything you want to use is verified. I've seen even well known authors stumble at that and make mistakes.
Any favorite sources?
Dakota Cowboy: My Life in the Old Days by Ike Blasingame really captured early 20th Century ranch and cowboy life for me. And the most famous memoir is We Pointed Them North: Recollections of a Cowpuncher by E.C. "Teddy Blue" Abbott as told to Helen Huntington Smith—great stuff!
How can readers reach out to you if they want to learn more?