Rosanne Bittner: Heart of the West
Frequently Asked Questions
In response to my month-long "virtual party" to celebrate the reissue of THUNDER ON THE PLAINS in July 2012, many of you emailed me with questions about my work in general and THUNDER ON THE PLAINS in particular. Some of the questions were so good (and asked so often) that I thought I'd share the replies with you all here.
Though this page was created in response to reader reaction to THUNDER ON THE PLAINS, not all of the questions and answers are specific to that particular book. Please also see my About me and Advice to Writers pages, as well as the Complete List of All My Books and Here's How To Get Them pages elsewhere on this website. Then, if you still have questions about my writing, don't be shy about emailing me! You may see your question and my answer right here!
Q: The #1 question I am getting lately is, will there be a sequel to the Blue Hawk/ America West/ other of my older books?
I am delighted that you love my characters so much you want to read more about them -- I wrote SO many books that I wanted to continue at the time! However, the publishers always wanted me to go on to other things, and the publishers had the final say. When I originally answered this question a few months ago, I wrote that, with my older books 10 - 30 years old. it was unlikely that there would ever be sequels to any of them. However, Sourcebooks' totally unexpected reissue of and request for a sequel to OUTLAW HEARTS has taught me NEVER to say Never!
Q: How do I view the research process as far as describing the beauty of the American West?
For me, research is the best part of writing! I have a great passion for the West and its grand landscape and exciting history. My husband and I have traveled the West for close to 30 years and I have visited nearly every historical site written into my books. I continue to be totally fascinated by how fast the West was settled, its ecological effect as well as its emotional effect on Native Americans, and the pace at which people poured into the West, especially the fanatical quest to find gold. The Western landscape can be compared to no other, from the vast plains and prairies with endless horizons, to the looming greatness of the Rockies and Sierras. It's difficult to describe the beauty and grandeur of our American West to those who have never been there, but I try hard with my descriptions, which is why the West is a place that must be visited in order to properly describe it - even then it's often difficult to find the right words. How many ways are there to say "vast" and "grand" and "splendid?" If I sound redundant in describing the country I love so much, it's because there just aren't enough words.
Q: What sparked my love for the 1800's Old West?
Probably what sparked my love for the 1800's Old West was watching so many westerns on TV and in the movies when I was growing up. Of course many of the TV westerns and older western movies left a lot to be desired as far as accuracy, but I was impressed by the stunning landscape. If you watch old John Wayne movies, one of the grandest things about them is the background scenery. It is often quite spectacular, and it always fascinated me. When I was older my husband and I were finally able to drive out and visit such places, and I was even more awestruck when I saw them with my own eyes. What led to my wanting to write about the West and pioneers was A LANTERN IN HER HAND by Bess Streeter Aldrich - and THE PROUD BREED, by Celeste de Blasis. My quest to tell the truth about our Native Americans came from Dee Brown's BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE. And if you want to read about eastern Indians and the earlier history of our country (which I write about in my Wilderness trilogy), pick any book by Allen Eckert. It's some of the most fabulous writing of true history I've ever read. He brings it all to life.
Q: Do I become attached to my characters?
Thank you for your comment that my characters are so explicit and detailed that it's almost as if they really are a part of history - and you wondered if I become attached to them. That's a definite YES! I absolutely hate leaving my stories and characters, which is why I love writing big, fat books - so I can stay with these people as long as possible - and so I can properly flesh out all my characters and show how they become involved in real American historical events. The love for my characters is also why I have written series books (notably my Savage Destiny series - 30 years old and still selling) and why I've written several trilogies. In my book IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOUNTAINS, the heroine builds a monument to her father just outside of Denver, Colorado. The characters in that book were so real that I had readers write to me wondering where that monument is so that they can visit it!!! It doesn't exist, but they thought the people in my book really lived, and that is a wonderful compliment!
It refers to the big, roaring train engines that "thundered" across the plains and prairies when they built the transcontinental railroad - and it also refers to the thundering hearts of two people very much in love but who face many obstacles in finding a life together.
Q: What is my favorite feature about the heroine in THUNDER ON THE PLAINS, Sunny Landers?
Sunny comes from wealth, and at a very young age her father dies and leaves her partly in charge of finishing his dream of building a transcontinental railroad across the West, something in which Sunny's father is already heavily invested. What I liked most about Sunny was her determination to finish her father's project - the way she takes over and stands against a very prejudiced group of wealthy "good ole' boys" who don't believe there is a place for a woman in their meetings/decision making. I also like the fact that in spite of her wealth, Sunny understands and accepts the kind of life led by Colt Travis, the half-Indian western guide Sunny meets when she visits the building sites for the railroad. Colt's life is as different from Sunny's as can possibly be, but it fascinates her - and their meeting leads to falling in love - two people from very different worlds who (it seems) could never possibly truly share a life together....
Q: What about the hero in THUNDER ON THE PLAINS?
Our hero, Colt Travis, is a survivor because from childhood he had to rely only on himself to "make it" in the world. It toughened him up.
Q: What is my favorite moment in Sunny and Colt's story?
That would have to be the wild, passionate tryst that took place when they go riding alone out on the plains. Woo-hoo! It's hot! All that passion they have been trying to avoid finally explodes into a great love scene!
Q: Are there any historical facts or people in the book that might be new to readers?
I can't think of any particular fact or person that readers might not be aware of - but I am proud of my reference in this story to Abraham Lincoln and his death and how it affects Sunny. I often refer to a real historical character in my stories. In my Wilderness trilogy, I refer to a very young George Washington, who makes an appearance in one of the books.
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