I’ve noticed over the last couple of years there are several people in my acquaintance that have active imaginations when it comes to a story line for a book, but not the inclination to write the book themselves. They seek me out to tell me about their idea and suggest I should write the story for them.
That’s how my soon to be 18th book was started. This one has been three years in the writing so that’s why this book will seemed to be coming so close behind the last one I published. The genre is western. My second one. It so happens that I worked with one of the few readers of my first western. I can count on one hand the number of people I know that are as fond of reading westerns as I am. My coworker is one of them. I wrote the last western for the fun of it, because my parents loved westerns. Since that was the type of books laying around the house, that was what I read while I was growing up so I’m comfortable with old west tales from Zane Gray and Louis L’amour.
Of course, I’ve put my own spin on my character, a lackadaisical sheriff in small town Montana named Stringbean Hooper. This man is not at all like one of Louis L’amour’s tough, fearless Sackett brothers but more like Bret Maverick from the television series. However, when the man is forced to show what he’s made of while he’s trying to solve the town doctor’s wife’s disappearance he turns out to be more trust worthy than first thought.
A Stringbean Hooper book – The Dark Wind Howls Over Mary – (ISBN 1438221576) became such a favorite with my coworker, she asked me to write another western about him. I said I didn’t have any ideas what he should do next. The woman said she had it all thought out. She wanted him and his new wife to take a trip to California, camping out in the rugged elements. This woman is a fan of Lonesome Dove. I’m sure she was thinking of that book and movie. No way was I going to come up with a story written as well and with so much rugged authenticity as Larry McMurtry puts into his great stories.
However, I began to think I should give the story a try as a challenge for myself. I set to work researching to figure out what each state was like in the late 1800’s. I read about what was happening in history at that time in the west. With all my facts at hand, I wrote most of the first draft. Then came my retirement. Just before I stopped working, I told my western fan coworker that I wouldn’t forget her when the book was done. One day, she would find a package in her mailbox from me. Outside of her, one uncle and my older brother, no one else will want to read this western book. Those three will receive a complementary copy, and I’ll move on to the next Amish story.
A year ago during a snowstorm, I brought the manuscript up on my computer. Over the years, I’d gotten Stringbean and his bride through the pass into California, but I didn’t have a clue why they wanted to make such an arduous trip when they had a prosperous cattle ranch to work in Montana. The last time I talked to my western fan, I reminded her this story line was her idea. I asked her how I was suppose to end the story. She didn’t have a clue. I said I didn’t either. She told me coming up with an ending was my job. I’m the writer. Besides if she knew what was going to happen at the end, it would take all the fun out of reading the book. It would appear her imagination isn’t fool proof when it comes to book beginnings, middles and endings. She left me hanging high and dry so to speak.
Finally, while I was working on what I did have I was struck with the idea for the ending like a bolt of lightning had hit me (funny how that happens to me). I knew why the couple had to get to California, and I’ve ended the story in Stringbean Hooper style. Now I’m working on my last draft so I can send it to my editor. Some time in June when the book is published I’ll see if I can get my three readers to give me their reviews to use on a blog post.