Why do I write westerns?
I was asked this question recently. Why not Regencies? They’re selling, after all. I’m told publishing houses are looking for romance novels set in England prior to 1900. Why not write what the market wants? Especially when one considers that what I wrote is not your typical western–for The Marker, the story would have worked just as well in Regency England, I suppose. Turn Nicholas into an earl’s son instead of the son of wealthy merchant, set it in England, and the story itself wouldn’t have been so different. The Marker, even though it’s about a man who wins a woman in a poker game, is not dependent upon the setting to tell the story. There are hardly any horses, no gunfights, and it’s set in San Francisco–a very cosmopolitan town for the west, particularly in 1874.
So, when I say I write westerns, that’s only partially true. I write historicals that are not setting dependent. But I choose to set them in the West for a couple of reasons.
1) I live in the west. Easy to do research. Take the fam and head to Sacramento for the day, visit the train museum. I know this landscape, I know these hills. I know the scent of the Pacific, the color of the water. The Atlantic is… different. It’s beautiful, but the colors are more muted. When I was back east and in Europe, the landscape, like the people and the architecture, seemed refined. The west is wild and grandiose. Exuberant. And maybe a little bipolar. Things are fabulous. Oh, no, they suck.
2) I got tired of men in kilts. Don’t get me wrong–I love a man in a kilt as much as the next girl. But honestly, how many well-hung Highland lairds can there be, anyway? Contrary to popular belief, not every man out of Scotland looks like Kevin McKidd or Gerard Butler (oh, how I wish that were true). Trust me, I know. I’ve been there.
3) And if we’re going with the English Regency period, how many rakish dukes and earls are there? When I was in England, I couldn’t convince anyone–male or female–that it was okay to ask the waiter for menus after we’d been sitting there for half an hour. And my dining companions seemed absolutely scandalized when I finally did it, even though our party of 12 may have starved to death before we got menus. I have a hard time believing that these are the same men who can seduce virgins out of their petticoats in one hundred pages or less. Really.
Give me a good merchant any day. Oo, and a Spaniard.
So, that’s why I write non-traditional westerns. Because even though I understand that westerns are all about setting, a good love story is a good love story, whether it’s with a Highland laird, a wealthy aristocrat, or a gunslinger. And it’s about time we acknowledge that not everyone in the west was a gunslinger or a rancher. Not everyone out here lived out in the sticks.
And just because my Nicholas is not a duke doesn’t mean he’s not devilishly handsome. Or that he can’t seduce a girl out of her petticoat. 🙂