Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Researching the Montana Series with Author Velda Brotherton (3 Books in 1)

"If you like your characters to be strong but with human flaws . . . if you want good to overcome evil after great difficulty, this book will be the best you'll ever read . . . her writing is a genuine storytelling gift polished to its highest gloss." Kay Hall, Morning News

Researching the Montana Series

by Velda Brotherton

3 Books in 1!
When I first planned to write a western historical romance trilogy there was no doubt where I wanted to set it. In the Big Sky Country of Montana. Only one problem, I had never been there. Now, I know everyone preaches to write what you know, but some of us haven't had the wide array of experiences that others have. So I decided to write what I wanted to know. And my dream had always been to visit Montana and Wyoming. When I was a kid my dad went hunting up there every year, and of course, being a girl, I was not allowed to accompany him. Back then hunting camps were for men only.
So I began several months of in-depth researching of Montana. The first book would take place near the end of the Civil War when gold was discovered at Alder Gulch near Virginia City; the second when the railroads spanned the entire country; the third when the land barons tried to wipe out all the small ranches to build their cattle empires. All would take place around Virginia City.
I began the research in the early Nineties long before the Internet existed for home use. I began by sending letters to Chambers of Commerce in the area where the books would take place. They sent me big fat envelopes of information that included flora and fauna and beautiful photos. I researched in books about all the critters down to the tiniest mouse, the wildest flowers, the type of soil and rocks and trees.
Once that was done, I began to dig into the history. My historical romances would include true occurrences and real characters with which my fictional characters could interact. I read every fictional book by authors I trusted about the state's history to acquaint myself with the three time periods I had chosen. All this long before I chose my characters. First I had to know what their challenges would be in order to create characters who would be strong enough to survive all I intended to put them through.
Years after the books were written and published by Penguin/Topaz, I was fortunate to visit the state and the reconstructed ghost town of Virginia City, Montana. As we walked the streets amid the silent buildings that looked exactly as I knew they would, I saw as clearly as if they lived, those characters acting out my stories. Though I had imagined the beauty of Montana, nothing could come near the real thing. The awesome mountains, the rivers and streams, the crisp, clear air beneath that famous Big Sky were even more inspiring than I'd dreamed they would be.
But I must have come close. I knew that when I received fan mail from a woman in California, who had been raised in Montana. She told me she loved the books because they made her feel as if she were going home.
So if you think you don't know enough to write about a particular subject or place, then begin your research. Dig deep and read a lot. Check everything you find with other sources. Immerse yourself in your subject, learn everything you can and let your imagination flow.

Enjoy an Excerpt from Montana Destiny, third in the trilogy:
Across the sprawling valley patches of new grass shared space with winter-dried bare earth to form a crazy quilt. Purple mountains cut into a brilliant columbine sky. Along the ground clouds of dust moved in the wind like ghost herds pursuing the cattle drive. Mitch squinted into the bright spring sunlight. He was late. Spring roundup had begun.
Between his legs the powerful stallion shifted restlessly, nostrils flaring in a puff of wind. He held the animal yet another moment to absorb the intangible emotions that poured through him, hot raw, and bittersweet. He'd never expected to return to Montana Territory. Yet the past that had kept him away had ultimately chased him back like an angry, wounded animal bent on revenge.

With an impatient grunt he settled the black Stetson firmly on his head, tilting it so the brim shadowed a scar that slashed through his left eyebrow. The vivid mark never let him forget what he had lost
He shook off the memories. He'd come here to use his gun, and it was time he got to it. Long past time that someone paid for what had happened. Besides, the man who had hired him was waiting. No need to look back any longer. If he did he might catch sight of the beast that pursued him with such fury.
He loosened the reins. The black stallion neighed into the wind, tightened his haunches, and tore down the incline.
Most of that day Mitch rode across Circle D land until at last he reached the colonel's house, a rambling, low structure squatted on high ground at the horseshoe bend of Little Porcupine Creek. Before dismounting, he rested a moment to study the enormous ranch house, its extravagant glass windows, the wide veranda skirted by freshly dug flower beds. At last he dropped wearily from the horse and pulled a leather gun belt and holster from his saddlebag. Without removing the black cowhide gloves he strapped on the Colt .44 and settled it low so the gleaming butt rested a trifle below his right hip.
Get the Special Edition Series on Amazon! (3 books for the price of 1)
Meet the Author
Velda Brotherton has a long career in historical writing, both fiction and nonfiction. Her love of history and the west is responsible for the publication of 15 books and novels since 1994. But she's not about ready to stop there. When the mid-list crisis hit big city publishers, she turned first to writing regional nonfiction, then began to look at the growing popularity of E Books as a source for the books that continued to flow from her busy mind. Those voices simply won't shut up, and so she finds them a home.




  1. Thanks for a super spot on your lovely blog. It was beautifully laid out. I've shared it several places.

    1. Lovely to have you join us, Velda! Interesting post, too. I know there are a lot of authors who write about places they haven't been (myself included--England), but it is nice when you can see it for yourself and step foot in the setting.

  2. Your comments on the research and writing process almost (!!) as interesting as the books.