Today we welcome a new historical western author – Rachel Wesson – to the Pioneer Hearts blog!
Rachel, you have an exciting new series out, Clover Springs – Mail Order Brides. Tell us what the series is about.
The series is about strong female heroines, many who have traveled from Ireland, who face life’s challenges head on and survive. Love blossoms along the way.
Katie O’Callaghan left Ireland in search of a better life in America, but she never dreamed that she’d end up having to flee Boston and head West less than a year later. Daniel Sullivan is in need of a wife and he likes the spark he sees in fiery Katie!
Mary Ryan leaves the orphanage and heartbreak behind and follows her friend Katie to Clover Springs to become a mail order bride. Davy Sullivan needs a wife to bear him children. His brother’s wife is certain her friend, Mary Ryan, will be the perfect woman to care for his home and warm his bed. Love isn’t part of the package Davy is offering!
What do you think was the greatest challenge of Irish immigrants?
I guess the fact that they knew, well the majority knew, they would never see home again. Many people believe the Irish wanted to emigrate, and some did, but for the majority, there was no choice. They could stay and starve or take a chance on a waterlogged, overcrowded, dirty ship and try to get to America. They died in thousands on that voyage over, only to find the situation for some was as dire in America as it had been at home. Of course, others made their fortune. About 22 US Presidents were of Irish descent, the most famous being President John F. Kennedy. Walt Disney, Maureen O’Hara, Gene Kelly and others are all of Irish descent.
Tell us about Clover Springs. As I close my eyes, describe it to me.
Clover Springs is a small town in 1880’s Colorado with a new church and school house. The rest of the town is fairly shabby, although Katie and her friends are working on that. Clover Springs has a store, a blacksmith shop and a saloon, but so far the characters haven’t been inside that particular establishment! The town is growing and has far too many male inhabitants. Females are in short supply but the men have heard of a couple of mail order brides who are more than pleasing to the eye.
At the moment, the streets are dusty and townsfolk must walk carefully to keep their feet clean. The men of the town are regular cowboys. Most are pleasant and wholesome but there are a few nasty scoundrels around. The few women are a mixture of nice and nasty. One woman in particular has taken a dislike to the Irish and fears her town is in danger of becoming a mini-Ireland!
What did you find most challenging about writing about Clover Springs?
It is challenging making the story sound like it was written in the 1880’s in Colorado. There is a lot of information online and in books, but very little of it relates to this specific time period. It is after the Civil War and the major movement of people going west has already taken place.
I am enjoying finding out more about how the people lived back then. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to live in that time period. I couldn’t do washing by hand and I can only imagine the smell when all those men got together in one place! I think I would swoon.
Would you want to live in that time period?
Absolutely not! I am a true believer in the pioneer spirit but I wouldn’t have been able to live under the thumb of someone else. I believe I am capable of doing any job I like and that attitude wouldn’t have suited the Wild West.
How many books will there be in the series?
I am planning at least six but readers keep asking for more on certain characters, so there may end up being more. It’s fantastic though. I love getting feedback from readers who want to hear more about characters I’ve written. Sometimes it is a person who I never intended on having center stage. At this point, I have to say, I have never come across such a nice bunch of people as those in the Pioneer Hearts Facebook group. They have been so welcoming and encouraging – including authors as well as readers. It is wonderful!
What do you like about the historical western romance genre?
I loved Little House on the Prairie when I was growing up. My mam used to wonder why my sisters and I couldn’t be like the Ingalls’s girls. I was the eldest, so my sisters called me Mary, but I related more to Laura. I love learning about how other people live. History was my favorite subject at school. I was, and probably still am, besotted with finding out how people coped with the curve balls life flings at you – particularly women. There are a lot of books written about men and how hard they had it. And they did, but when you understand that women had to overcome similar difficulties and then face the added burden of being considered second class citizens, I think they are the unsung heroines. They were not seen as being capable of making decisions for themselves, but were the property of their fathers and then their husbands. Of course, you hear about famous women like the first doctors, nurses and other occupations. But the women who just lived day to day trying their best to survive and raise happy, healthy children are my heroines.
Was there anything unusual that you learned while researching for the Clover Springs series?
Yes, I hadn’t heard the story of the Choctaw Indians. They sent money to help the victims of the famine. There are monuments here in Southern Ireland to these generous people who, despite their own problems, sent over $170 – tens of thousands of dollars in today’s money. Those dollars saved lives. The irony was that Andrew Jackson, the President who signed the order to move these Indians off their own lands and into reservations miles away from their home was Irish. His family wouldn’t have been victims of the famine, as they were rich, but still. His family came from Ireland, yet by signing the order, he contributed to the deaths the Choctaw Indians.
Their forced emigration was part of what is known as “The Trail of Tears.” Choctaws were removed west of the Mississippi started in 1831. More than half who started the forced march died before they reached Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. Ironically, the man who signed the order to send them away from their homes was the same man who took their help and aid when he fought against the British in New Orleans during the 1812 war.
Yet, the Choctaw Indians didn’t hesitate to answer the call for help from a nation stricken by starvation. In 1847, an estimated 1 million Irish were starving to death. Ireland had a population of circa 8.2 million in 1841 (according to the census, the actual figure may have been 9 million). In the next ten years, that number fell by over 1.5 million at a time when the rest of the world’s population was increasing. Ireland lost nearly 2 million people to the famine either directly by death or indirectly by emigration. Very few of those people who left Ireland ever came home again. In fact, the population of Ireland today stands at slightly less than 4 million.
Have you written any other books?
Yes. I have written three books set in World War II under the pen name, Ellie Keaton. Like my Clover Spring Series, these fiction books feature strong female heroines. Penny is the story of a secret agent in Nazi Occupied France. Molly is an American pilot who travels through U-Boat infested waters to fly for the English against the Nazis. Gracie joins the WAAF but her main role is as a mother trying to protect her children in a country at war.
When you’re not writing, how do you relax and recharge?
I spend time with my three kids. My little girl is six now and she has such a vivid imagination. She is great fun to be around. My eight year old son wants to be a gamer so he is going through a phase where mom is not cool. My soon to be thirteen year old son wants to be a writer. But he won’t publish on Amazon. He is holding out for a publishing contract. He wants to be as rich as J.K. Rowling.
Visit Rachel Wesson on the Pioneer Hearts Bookstore to follow her series and discover other amazing Pioneer Hearts historical western authors.
To purchase Katie on Amazon, visit http://amzn.to/1YhvgH9
To purchase Mary on Amazon, visit http://amzn.to/23lXkwq
Coming Soon: Book Three – Sorcha