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May 4, 2015

Research on Western Historicals by Rosanne Bittner, Linda Broday & Co.

I don't usually read Western historical romances, BUT I've been watching a lot of western TV series lately and are enjoying the shows immensely! Here's a few authors 







Digging into the Old West for a Historical Western Romance

It’s no surprise that historical western authors love the history of the old west. But when beginning a new story, where do they start? Historical western authors E.E. Burke, Jacqui Nelson, Jo Goodman, Kaki Warner, Linda Broday, and Rosanne Bittner share the research they’ve done for their historical western novels!



A Dangerous Passion by E.E. Burke
Goodreads | Amazon | www.eeburke.com

People often ask me where I get my inspiration. Honestly, I couldn’t make up more exciting scenarios or colorful characters than those I come across in historical research—in this case, railroad history.

Fortunate for me, I had to look no further than my backyard (southeastern Kansas). I came across a thesis written by a Kansas historian about a railroad race in 1870 that had all the makings of an epic Western: crooked politics, underhanded landlords, angry mobs, liars, cheats, and mysterious killers. The characters and events surrounding that race set my series in motion and inspired Passion’s Prize and Her Bodyguard.

The hero in my latest novel, A Dangerous Passion, is loosely based on the first general manager of the Katy Railroad, Robert S. Stevens. He was the brains behind the Katy, as well as the driving force, and is credited for the railroad’s survival and growth at a time when railroads failed faster than banks.


Between Love and Lies by Jacqui Nelson
Goodreads | Amazon | www.jacquinelson.com

An author cannot visit every location she writes about, so I turn to books for some serious armchair travel to both distant settings and time periods. It helps that I work in a used bookstore where the perfect resource might arrive at any time, but more often than not I’m rewarded by the pages of an old favorite I’ve had since my teenage years—the 26 volume Time-Life Old West series.

The spark for my upcoming release, Between Love & Lies, came from this series and the following lines. “The longhorns were carriers of a microscopic tick. The Texas animals were immune to the parasite, but the same tick produced deadly splenic fever in local cattle.”

I imagined a small farm, held together only by the grit and hard work of its owner, might not survive such an event. I wondered what might happen next, both on that unlucky farm and in the nearest town: Dodge City, the Queen of Cattle Towns—where life would be challenging for a woman who luck had deserted.


This Gun for Hire by Jo Goodman
Goodreads | Amazon | www.jogoodman.com

I have books (yes, books) on lots of subjects that I reference frequently, but I also use the Internet for some specifics. I’ve researched clothes, of course, trains and train travel and train routes, dynamite, guns and more guns, mail express, safe cracking, dime novels, saloons, brothels, branding, barbed wire, outlaws, the marshal service, forts, maps and maps and maps, recipes, how to start and clean an iron cook stove, vocabulary, and how to saddle a horse. That’s still probably a short list.


Home by Morning by Kaki Warner
Goodreads | Amazon | www.kakiwarner.com

The list is endless. In addition to 1870s clothing, mining and ranching, weapons, horse training, railroads, transoceanic steamers, historical events (Great Epizootic, Underground Railroad, Irish migration, Transcontinental RR, Chinese labor, Cheyenne Dog Soldiers, currency issues, the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, and so on), I also had to research medical practices, breast pumps, condoms, rabies, water witching, photography, blindness, and of course, cool new ways to kill bad guys. It was fun. And exhausting.


Twice a Texas Bride by Linda Broday
Goodreads | Amazon | www.lindabroday.com

Research is so important in any story, but even more so for historicals. I‘ve research modes of travel and how fast they could go by horseback, wagon, and train. In Twice a Texas Bride I had to research canned milk to make sure it could’ve been in my story after the baby ran out while the outlaw had them under siege and there was nothing else. In that story I also found that canned peaches were available so I put them in. I’ve researched gunshots, leg injuries, plants, medicines—you name it and I’ve just about researched it. In the book I’m writing now, I’ve had to learn how broken legs were treated back then and if a doctor had the expertise to put someone in a cast.


Outlaw Hearts by Rosanne Bittner 
Goodreads | Amazon | www.rosannebittner.com

I have been studying America’s western history for over 30 years. I grew up on westerns on TV, loved books and movies about pioneers and Native Americans. I have a huge personal library of research books – hundreds of them. I strive for complete historical accuracy in my novels – events, locations, tools and utensils, clothing – all of it. I don’t “invent” forts or cities or a gold discovery if gold wasn’t actually discovered there, things like that. I LOVE America’s “Old West!”


There you have it! A great historical romance is only as good as the research put into it. There's so many nuances that some people miss from the clothes, landmarks, events, down to food and dialogue. Any book should have the ability to transport you, past, present, or future (or another world), and the ones above looks like it'll be worth the trip.





Talk Supe


50 comments:

  1. I'm not that big on Western Historical, but there may be 1 or 2 on my bookshelf that I've purchased over the years. Or they may have been inside one of the boxes that I took to the library last week. I hate to say that the cover of a book plays a, somewhat huge, part of my reading outside my usual genres. Sad, but true. Maybe I'll read one soon and stop being so picky.

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    1. I'm with you, but I've been watching a lot of westerns lately and I'm slowly warming up to maybe picking up a solid cowboy historical soon

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  2. Ohh so many interesting ones :D

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    1. I didn't know you read westerns...

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  3. Thank you so much, Braine, for letting us tie our horses to the hitching rail today. I'm so excited to be here and with such fabulous authors! I love writing about sexy cowboys and the American West. TWICE A TEXAS BRIDE releases today. This is book two of my Bachelors of Battle Creek series.I'm having so much fun with these three brothers who only thought they'd live the rest of their days alone. My ladies have other plans for them!! I hope readers will take a chance and pick one up even if they never read westerns.

    Thanks again for having us, Braine!

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    1. It's my pleasure to have you girls over! Please come back and hitch your horses again on my rail in the future!

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  4. Yes, thank you for having us today on Talk Shupe! I agree that any book should have the ability to transport us. Wishing you a happy release day, Linda! I also agree that a cover is important, and I have to say that I LOVE your cover for TWICE A TEXAS BRIDE.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by! That's why I love reading, cheapest vacation ever!

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  5. Which Westerns have you been watching, Braine? One of my favorites, Hell On Wheels?Although we can't build cool sets like the ones on HOW--they build authentic trains and constructed a whole darn town--we can create another time and place in a reader's imagination, which is why we do so much research. Thanks for letting us share a little about how research plays such a big part in world-building and storytelling.

    Big kudos to Linda on her release today, Twice a Texas Bride. Speaking of research, for her excellent series she created a town that's based on an actual location and a fascinating event in Texas history. I'll leave you with that teaser. Go check it out!








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    1. Squeee!!! I know who to tweet and fangirl with now. I love HoW & I did watch the behind the scenes, the set building, etc. It's so fascinating, they sourced out some of their props from museums and such. Thank you!

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    2. Another HOW Fan! Awesome! I suspected as much based on your comments. They do such a great job recapturing the era and the fascinating personalities involved in building the railroads. Jacqui is also a big HOW fan. She and I and Jennifer Jakes (another convert) dreamed up the Steam! series after falling in the love with that show. Passion and ambition makes for a volatile combination, don't you think?

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    4. Yes it does. And yes, I am amazed by their props. I always watch the BTS videos on their site.

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  6. Jesus, I don't even want to imagine the amount of research needed to make an authentic Western Historical feel! Sometimes it feels like medieval Europe is far easier to research than Western Historical. If I ever need to do some done, I'd probably just play Red Dead Redemption on the Playstation 3. Haha!

    Faye at The Social Potato

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    1. Any historical period! There's a lot of expectations that goes with it, one has to make sure the details are accurate somewhat. Big props to these ladies.

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  7. I think research is important no matter what type of histoical book you are doing. I love a good historical, and I do love reading about the Wild West especially since I have always lived in the West. I am glad that you are finally trying a few cowboy books.

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    1. Exactly! I check out on a book when it's not atmospehric enough or if the dialogue is off.

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  8. Amen, Braine. The writer has to have twenty pairs of eyes, each seeing another detail, but well, when an author does manage to get it right ... sigh! I love those atmospheric books. Great guest post :)

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    1. Heck, we readers need 20 extra pairs of eyes too! Need many hours and heads to read all of these wonderful books!

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  9. Ooo yay I love this type. Goodman is amazing!

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  10. I don't mind stories that involved cowboys, damsels, and duels at high noon. It's been a while, actually. :D

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    1. I love watching them than reading about them. My knowledge and imagination regarding westerns is a bit limited so i don't know what they're describing half the time! lol

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  11. I love this niche in Historical Romance. I already consider Jo Goodman, Kaki Warner and Roseanne Bittner favorites. I still need to check out the others. Neat to see how the stories come together.

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    1. Wonderful! Looks like we just gave you an assignment.

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  12. Just got home from my day job at the bookstore. So nice to sit down and read all of your comments! I'm a fan of the "Hell On Wheels" TV series as well. I'll always be thankful to E.E. (Elisabeth) for telling me to start watching the show a couple years back. Without her nudge I wouldn't have been part of our "Steam! Romance and Rails" book series.

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    1. I'll be sure to fangirl with you once the new season starts. Also, thanks for stopping by!

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  13. Great post and comment exchange. I'm a life long western historical fan and love these ladies! So proud to count myself a member of the genre.

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    1. You gals are awesome! Writing historicals must be extra challenging.

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  14. Forgot to add, I'm inspired by images. PIctures I come across while researching always spark story ideas, or sometimes I'll go searching for images of something I need to see, be it places, people, clothing, tools, whatever. When I "discovered" Pinterest I finally had a place to put all those wonderful visuals. https://www.pinterest.com/authoreeburke/
    Anyone else use Pinterest to collect research?

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    1. I'm a photo junkie myself, some are creepy though.

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  15. Woo-hoo! YES to HELL ON WHEELS! I heard this is the last season. I sure hope they change their minds! You don't get much more realistic than that series - true "Old West" action!

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    1. What?!?! NOO!!!!!! We need to start a campaign to have them do another season!

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  16. I don't know that I've read any Western Historical Fiction (although I admit to having a few books from a couple of these authors on my kindle ;) but I do think research would be imperative to writing good historical fiction. It was nice to see how these authors go about that process. Thanks for sharing! :)

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    1. I don't read much of it either but now I am inclined to try it in the nearest future

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  17. I love a good western and appreciate when an authors goes the extra distance to keep it authentic...liked the canned milk. Thanks for sharing, this was a neat post

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  18. Dang stupid web ate my comment. But yes accuracy is so important. I love western and I have in the past read one or two western historical romances. Such fun!

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    1. Darn blogger! I hate it when that happens, Thanks for trying again :)

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  19. I've grown to love Westerns especially when its a contemporary one....man cowboys! girl!..... lols! awesome post!

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    1. Cowboys getting done cowgirl style

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  20. Westerns are a no for me. I can do a romance with a side of cowboy but not a western setting.

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    1. I struggle with it a bit but after watching a lot of westerns on TV the genre is starting to look very attractive to me now.

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