About Prairie Grace- Q&A

IMG_3644Where and how did the story emerge?

The skeleton storyline for Prairie Grace came from a short story I handwrote when I was about 12 years old. It was a Thanksgiving story about a gravely ill young brave dropped off by his family members on the doorstep of a settler family. The settlers nurse him back to health and they learn to appreciate each other’s ways. The brave returns to his tribe, but repays the settler family’s kindness by bringing them food for Thanksgiving when they are themselves in need.

I always loved to create stories in my head. Some actually made it to paper. When I finally got serious about writing a novel, I believed I should start with this story. I knew about the Sand Creek Massacre, and I knew I needed a major conflict for the story, but I was well into the writing of Prairie Grace when I knew the story of the massacre had to be a part of the storyline.

What is fact?

Prairie Grace incorporates dozens of actual events, places and people into its storyline, including the Sand Creek Massacre, which occurred November 29, 1864, in present day southeastern Colorado, as well as several accounts of Indian depredations and numerous U.S. government/military campaigns to eliminate the Native Americans and their threat or perceived threat to the whites.

Historic events, including the Colorado gold rush, the Denver flood of 1864, the Hungate murders, the slaughter of innocent Indians in small villages, settlement on the Purgatory River in southeastern Colorado, ranching in the Bijou Basin (present day Elbert County) the transport by ox cart from the east the printing press used to produce the Rocky Mountain News, and the treaties of Fort Laramie and Fort Wise are woven into the storyline. Historical figures Lean Bear, Bull Bear, Roman Nose, One-Eye, Beaver aka George Bent, Black Kettle, Tall Bull, Cheyenne captive Laura Roper, Issac Van Wormer, Indian Agent Samuel Colley, Edward Wynkoop, Silas Soule, Governor Evans, and Col. John Chivington all make appearances in Prairie Grace. The extent to which history is portrayed and daily routines-both Native and settler-described make Prairie Grace not just a good read but a history primer.

imageWhat is fiction?

Prairie Grace’s MacBaye family, as well as the Karlson family, Gray Wolf, his sister Meadow Lark, and Soaring Falcon are all fictional characters. Portions of the settler backstories and individual character traits are drawn from my own family. In addition, I took great care to read extensively and research everyday settler life and Cheyenne customs and history, so that these fictional characters would act and talk in a way that is engaging and believable.  I worked very hard to depict attitudes of people during this time, without being simplistic or stereotypical. My experience in agriculture, use of herbal and nutritional remedies and horse training helped me write credible descriptions of these aspects of settler life.

Who will enjoy Prairie Grace?

Prairie Grace is a great story for those who love Westerns, history buffs, and for anyone who yearns for the open prairie and simpler times. There is a thread horse lovers and trainers will appreciate. There also is a romantic thread, but even James Patterson and John Grisham novels have a romance. Don’t worry, gentlemen, there is very little “mushy” dialog between the couple. Men and women will enjoy Prairie Grace for its complex, fast-moving storyline. It is well-researched and suspenseful. It is a great family or book club read, portraying the atrocities of the Indian Wars era but without graphic or horrifying descriptions. Homeschool parents looking for an engaging way to teach 1860s Colorado Territory history will find the story holds the attention of their 12 and older children, while providing an opportunity to discuss honorable versus dishonorable actions and attitudes.

What is the world view of Prairie Grace?

Prairie Grace reflects my Christian world view. Adhering to historical accuracy, it is no stretch that Thomas MacBaye would read the Bible to his family after an evening meal. Gray Wolf has no respect for a god that would not fight for his people (African American slaves), and he is predisposed to doubt the white man’s religion because it has been used to manipulate his people. The hypocrisy of officials, especially Colonel John Chivington, a preacher and abolitionist, are clearly portrayed. Thomas shares his beliefs, while validating Gray Wolf’s religion, suggesting that the two faiths may have more in common than opposed.

What comes next?

Prairie Grace is my first work of fiction and the first in my “Prairie Series” of historic Colorado.  The next installment is still in the research stage but will continue more than two decades later when a young woman seeks to run from her mixed heritage by escaping to southern Colorado where she plots to blend in with the Hispanic population. Spanish land grants in southern Colorado, most of them not honored by U.S. authorities, are intriguing and make for another great story of hope in the midst of injustice. Stay tuned.