1. Tell us about your latest book and your current WIP.
My novel is about one young woman’s struggle to be heard. Unfortunately for her (and others), she is feisty, independent and outspoken, not a good quality in an arranged marriage, and her mouth often gets her into trouble with her husband, Grant. He owns a mercantile in the city of Independence, Missouri. This city where they live is a hub of activity every spring, where folks by the hundreds converge to prepare for their journey west down the Oregon or Santa Fe Trails. Grant is making lots of money, which is just fine with him. But she has always envisioned a different future for herself.
Since she was young, she has wanted to return to the West and the mountains where she was born. Her father in his earlier years had been an explorer and trapper in the Rockies. Several years after her mother died in childbirth, her father decided “where the civilized folk lived” is where his daughter should be raised. Still, her longing for the wild and scenic country of her roots has never been far from her heart. And she figures the wagon train would be the perfect means to get her back there. Her husband thinks otherwise.
2. The Sacrifice of the Sage Hen takes place in Missouri in 1859, and I note you love writing about the Old West. What appeals to you about this time period?
I have always been intrigued by the people of past eras; I suppose because contemporary life is difficult enough, and I can’t hardly imagine the day-to-day hardships of life without a washing machine, an automobile, or even a doctor or corner grocery store. I am in awe of their stalwartness and their driving determination. Their desire of the pioneers for a new life was so strong they were willing to put their lives on the line, or the lives of their children, just to claim an unseen virgin piece of the earth thousands of miles away.
3. This is the first book in the series with Charlotte (Charlie) Mary West and Dirks Braelen, two very intriguing characters with two very different backgrounds. Tell us about them and what’s in store in the next book.
Charlotte Mary (Charlie) is 19 years old, slender, with long strawberry-blonde hair. She never knew the exact date of her birth, because her mother died on that day, and Micah Fremont, her father, being a mountain man, never kept track of any date. He remembered it was in the spring, during the month the snows began to melt and the sage hens danced for a mate, probably near the beginning of April. During her adolescence, Charlie gained a reputation for being wild and free-spirited, doing things her own way. Once married, she tried hard to be good, to be submissive to her husband, and work hard. But the life he had chosen for them is nowhere near what she craves for her own self. She is not remiss to tell him so.
Dark-haired, handsome Dirks Braelen is a man on the run, not from the law, but from a life of destruction, violence and pain. Since he was 14, he has lived his life with the gun, working for a greedy politician who strong-armed immigrants off their land. Now at 27, Dirks is burdened by the kind of man he has become, and he longs for peace for his soul. Leaving Texas in search of a fresh start, he rides northward 700 miles. Missouri is a good enough place, he figures – nothing special – just new. Till by chance he meets a spunky young woman, full of life and opinions, and he is sure this is where he is meant to be.
4. As a writer, you have authored articles and memoirs, award-winning short stories, as well as historical fiction. You also own and operate a professional writing service. Which do you prefer and why?
Writing fiction is my first love, and always has been. I especially love the long story, the novel, because for an extended period or whenever I choose, I can go to this other world of my own making. And I make sure that world is a place where my imagination loves to visit. I also do resume writing and copywriting. Article writing is a big part of my copywriting expertise, and I love the challenge of that too. I think it keeps my writing skills honed and sharp, and my brain clicking.
5. Your Grandmother Schade seems to have been a major influence in regards to storytelling and the history of the Old West. Tell us about her.
I didn’t get to know my Grandmother Schade very well. She died when I was still pretty young. But I have distinct memories of sitting on her lap when I was only about 5 or 6, staring out the window beside her rocking chair, in my mind visualizing the places where her stories transported me. She herself and her family had traveled cross country in covered wagons when she was young, and the excitement behind her stories inspired my first love of that time period.
6. Writing historical fiction must involve a lot of research. How much time do you typically devote to research when writing?
Before I began writing The Sacrifice of the Sage Hen, I did extensive research on the pioneers, their lifestyle, the Oregon Trail and the dangers thereof, horses, prairie schooners, Independence – you name it, if it had to do with that time period, I read about it. And I continued to do research throughout the writing and editing process of the book. My desire has always been to accurately chronicle the bravery and determination of these pioneers that I was so in awe of, to provide a realistic window into their day-to-day world. They were no different than us of our contemporary period, the same loves and fears and insecurities and points of view. But through their determination and willingness to face enormous obstacles, this country was formed to be what it is today. I wanted the story to be historically accurate, and I wanted to do justice to these peoples’ spirit.
7. What inspires you as a writer?
Writing is something that is in my blood, I suppose. I never set out to become a writer; it was something that lived inside me that begged at some point to come out, to manifest its personality. Anytime I sit down to read other books that are well written, I can’t help but take note of their characterization, their settings and descriptions, the talent behind the plot development (something all writers do, and if they don’t, they should). If the writing is done well, I feel the pull of inspiration to get busy and put my own pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). And of course, stories about 19th Century America are what inspire me the most. I have always been ga-ga for cowboys and wild horses, as any of my friends or family will testify.
8. Do you have a specific writing ritual?
Since most of the time I spend writing is for the professional writing service, I am usually at my desk in the office of my country home. I especially love the early morning hours. My mind is freshest then, and sometimes it’s scary what eeks out of me – for good or for bad. If my schedule allows, I try to write every single day.
9. What do you find works best for you in promoting?
Promotion is a funny thing. Writers are introverts for the most part – not all, but many that I have known. Public speaking, therefore, is difficult, but I have done it, and I have been told I do it well. Like with anything, I suppose the more you do something, the better you become. I have been taking a stab at promotion through social media of late as well. I hear it is the best way to go.
10. We love animals. Do you have pets? If so, tell us about them.
I am a huge fan of animals too. I believe they are an endowment to us from God, to protect our sanity and to provide us with undying love and acceptance. We seldom find such allegiance in the human race. Right now, I have two pug dogs. Rosie is 13, and Sebastian is 6. They are my constant companions. I also have 3 cats; one is a white manx kitty (born with no tail), the other a mix of Himalayan and something else (who lost his tail to a very unfriendly raccoon), and the other, a normal everyday black and white kitty (she has a tail). All my life, I have had numerous dogs and cats and horses. If I could, I would fill my house & property with animals of all sorts.
11. We are interested in learning about other areas of the country. Tell us about your “neck of the woods”.
I grew up a Kansas girl, and in our family, we bragged of its rich black soil. My father was a farmer and my mother his devoted helpmate. They had 8 children, and we all were expected to work the fields alongside them. I now reside in Missouri, surrounded on all sides by green fields and woods thick with pines and hedge trees. This area is known for its rolling hills and its kind, generous citizens. Right now outside my office window, the cicadas are serenading me, and the cool morning breeze is carrying the smell of freshly cut hay to me. And I smell rain in the distance.
12. What’s your favorite Southern expression and food?
The word “y’all” seems oddly enough to exit my mouth with some frequency.
And my favorite southern food is Mexican. Ha ha. Probably a little further south than you were thinking, huh? I also adore a plate of fresh hot biscuits smothered with sausage gravy and a couple of fried eggs on the side, and some thick red tomato slices to garnish. Not good diet food! And I don’t indulge often. But when I do …. mmm!
For more information about Susie: http://www.schade-brewer.com/