Years ago, I wanted to write a historical romance, but my biggest fear was that I wouldn’t make it believable. Research wasn’t necessarily one of my strong suits, so I sat down to figure out the best way to accomplish a historical, without making too many period mistakes. My solution? A time travel. What better way to show historical times, but through the eyes of a modern twenty-first century woman?
Then I had to settle on a specific time period. I love westerns, always have. I mean really, who doesn’t love a cowboy? I grew up on Gunsmoke, with Marshal Dillon and Miss Kitty (le sigh), so I guess, in a way, the old west picked me.
Now that I had my era down, research was fun! I watched a lot of old re-runs of Gunsmoke and Bonanaza, watched movies like Tombstone, and every John Wayne and Clint Eastwood western I could find. Then there was Quigley Down Under, Cat Ballou, Maverick and Young Guns. But I didn’t limit my research to Hollywood. I spent hours at museums, looking at all sorts of frontier items. I’m the worst artist ever, but I made sketches of clothes, furniture and other assorted things that were used in the period.
Next was the most fun of all. Finding my setting. I decided that I wanted to use a real place, not just a made up western town, so I scoured the history books (which means I did an extensive internet search!) and found Calico, California. There was just something about this little town that sparked my imagination, so I took a closer look and fell in love.
Most of the layout of the town is my own creation. I did use some existing/former buildings in my version of Calico, though.
There really was a Marshal’s Office, and Lil’s Saloon exists to this day. If you look inside the interior of her saloon, you’ll see the tablecloths that Jenny O’Farrel gave Lil to use after Riley’s thugs tore up the place.
The old schoolhouse is still there, sitting at the edge of town, just as it did in Amy Mallory’s time (New Prints In Old Calico) as school teacher. This is the second schoolhouse, since the first one was burned down in a fire long ago. It was fun making up a reason for the arson, but in truth, no one really knows how the fire started that destroyed the first schoolhouse.
The backdrop of a real location really helped fuel the ideas for the two Calico novels (New Prints in Old Calico, Under A Calico Moon) and the one novella (Calico Bride). I’ve got another Calico story in the works and I’m sure there will be more short novellas as well because let’s face it, the people of Calico are not finished telling their stories yet.
And me? I’m just happy to share them with you.