Sara Luck has written several historical romance novels, each with their own special flare of realism that required countless hours of tantalizing research. CLAIMING THE HEART captures the history of Fort Worth, Texas (home to Greater Ft Worth Writers) and the Railroad boom of the 1870's, intermingled in with significant events around the United States. Sara Luck joins us today to share her experiences and relentless pursuit of researching America's thrilling history.
CLAIMING THE HEART took an enormous amount of research into American history after the Civil War, specifically in Texas. What is your research process like?
|Ft Worth Tarantula Train|
It is probably overkill. Every time I read some little kernel, I can't let it be. I have to find out who that person was and what their connection was. For every one fact that gets into the book, I have discarded three times that much. For instance, in Claiming the Heart, I found an old deed for a bone crushing factory. (If you have read the book, the hero's father was a bone crusher.) I could have put in how many train loads of buffalo bones came in and how much fertilizer was made and where it was sent. All that stuff is useless information in a romance, wouldn't you say? So getting back to your question, what is my research process like--the answer is that it never stops
What aspects of research do you like most and why? Social, economic, wars/politics?
If I could answer all of the above, I would. I have always enjoyed history and minored in political science in college. In researching these books, I am delving into a specific time period, generally 1870 to 1900. I try to find primary sources and if not actual primary sources at least contemporary sources. I've found Google books and Gutenberg to be invaluable resources. In reading these old books and magazines, I find myself constantly comparing what is happening today with what happened in the nineteenth century. I find in my research that the kernel of wisdom, 'history repeats itself,' is so true.
Tell us how you first started your writing career. Agent searching, querying, getting 'the call'.
|Author Sara Luck|
My situation is probably somewhat different from the experience most new writers have. I've been married to an author for nearly forty years. My husband, Robert Vaughan, has written so many books that he actually has lost count, and he has written in all genres except horror and science fiction. He frequently speaks at writers conferences, and in fact, he and I together had our own writing seminar for fifteen years. We invited writers to come to our home and Robert tutored our guests individually, while I cooked and cleaned. We called it 'Write on the Beach' because our house is on the Alabama beach at Fort Morgan. For all those years, I was often privy to the conversations that he had with writers, so over the years, I thought I could write a novel, too. I finally finished my first manuscript, after five years, and we tried to market it. I insisted that I didn't want to ride the coattails of my husband, so we sent the book to an agent who had been an assistant in the agency that handled my husband's projects at the time, so she knew me. That book circulated, but did not sell. So I wrote another one. And then I wrote another one. None of the three was ever sold, so I put them away and didn't think about being a writer anymore.
Then I bought a set of books called The Journals of Alfred Doten 1843-1903 for my husband. This set of books was the chronicle of one man's life for sixty years, and I found it very interesting, but Robert was too busy writing to ever really look at this treasure. But I kept goading him to write a book about the Comstock Lode and use all this material. Finally, he'd had enough, and he said, "if you think these books are so great, you write a story." And so I did.
This time I did not make the mistake of bypassing my husband's agent. He took the manuscript and sold a two-book contract to Simon and Schuster.
What inspired you to write about Fort Worth?
This is not the answer you will expect, but it is the truth. My husband is ghostwriting for a very successful franchise right now, and his editor told him to write a book about Texas.
"Anything about Texas will sell," he said. So I thought if that was true in his field, why wouldn't it be true for a romance as well? Jodi Thomas among countless others has realized this truism.
The next piece to the puzzle was to find a story.
I said that my husband and I had hosted 'Write on the Beach,' for fifteen years. Among our guests on multiple occasions were Annie Miller Tinsley and Jack before his death. Jack, who WAS the Star Telegram as far as I was concerned, had countless stories about Fort Worth. It was because of him that I had invested in another series of books called History of Texas; Fort Worth and the Texas Northwest Edition by Buckley B. Paddock who was also a newspaper publisher in Fort Worth. I had never read the four volumes, so I took them off the shelf and began. When I came to the story of bringing the Texas and Pacific Railroad into the city, I thought that story exemplified the attitude of self-reliance and pride that Jack Tinsley had always imparted to me about current residents of the city.
Do you write any other genres?
I do not. The first book I wrote was a contemporary novel, and I found in writing that book, it was much harder to recreate a believable world in real time, than it is to create a world in the past. Most people have not researched the past in depth, but they are certainly living the present. And if an author messes up on something that the reader knows very well, if she is like I am, she will put the book down and never finish it.
What do you find most challenging about your writing?
The discipline. In the book that I am working on right now, the heroine is being sent to the Academie Julian, an art school in Paris. This is a very minor part of the story, and it should only be half a chapter at the least and a whole chapter at the most, yet I have researched it to death (see above!). When I get into trouble, I take the dog for a walk, and on this particular scene, he's been going out at least every two hours.
What do you find the most rewarding about your writing career?
As I have said, I have been on the periphery of writing for a very long time, but I have always been in the background. I have been the one who put together publicity packets, (before the internet) booked radio stations, and generally kept track of my husband's career. Now for the first time, I fully understand what he meant when he used to say he would be depressed when he finished a book. The characters truly become like real people, and when the book is finished, you know you will never see those people again. But meeting them is a pleasure.
What is the craziest/most unusual piece of advice you've received from an editor, agent, or author?
I'll have to think about this one. Because I've been involved in this business so long, I've developed a filter of sorts, and I'm able to use what is useable, and discard what isn't. Perhaps there is some truth in "familiarity breeds contempt" because I don't always accept my husband's advice at face value. I don't think anyone intends to give bad advice, so whatever someone says, I try to understand how it could possibly relate to me. Peoples' advice is usually drawn from their own experience , so I try to evaluate why they feel as they do and take what I can get from anyone.
What piece of advice would you give to new writers?
My advice would be, that no matter what you write, make certain what you write is true, and I don't mean just factually true. I believe that future generations will look to novels to get a feel for the period, just as I have gone back and read some of Mark Twain and Owen Wister and Anthony Trollope to get a feel for the nineteenth century. As newspapers and magazines become less and less important in our internet age, the little things that make us who we are as a society, will be lost, and it will be in novels that people get their history.
What authors and genres do you like to read?
As any of you who have a book under contract can appreciate, your own reading for pleasure suffers. When I've had enough of nonfiction, I turn to a romance novel for pure enjoyment. I believe that my favorite romance author is Elizabeth Lowell when she writes historicals. I also like Linda Lael Miller and Cat Martin.
If you could have a beer/coffee/tea with a literary luminary (living or dead), who would it be and why?
As I attempted to say in my advice to new writers when I said write what is true, it is my belief that Margaret Mitchell has taught us more about the Civil War than any textbook could possibly have done. As a novice, she was able to create characters and a story line that no one can forget. And at the same time, she made us empathize, no matter what personal feelings we brought to the story about whose side was right or wrong. I would very much like to sit down with her and find out how she learned to do that. It was truly a gift.
What's next for you?
I have a new book out right now, (August, 2012) called Tallie's Hero. It is about an English author who writes a novel based on Queen Victoria's son, Prince Albert Edward. The Queen is displeased, and Tallie, with the help of her friend, Jennie Churchill, seeks refuge in America. She goes to a ranch in Wyoming operated by Jennie's brother-in-law, Morton Frewen. It just so happens that my hero, Jeb Tuhill, is a business partner and hands-on cattleman at that ranch, and Tallie finds him unbelievably attractive.
As with Claiming the Heart and my first book, Susanna's Choice, except for obvious fictional characters, all the characters are historical personages.
In February of 2013, Rimfire Bride will be released. It is set in the Dakota Territory in and around Bismarck. Jana Hartmann is a school teacher from Illinois, who wants to become a homesteader to make a better life for herself and her sister, but Drew Malone, a widower with two little boys, has other plans for her.
I am currently working on a book with the tentative title, The Lieutenant's Lady. It is about Marci Winters, a feisty young lady who finds herself in one scrape after another and is forced to accept a position as a photographer's assistant in Yellowstone National Park, when the park was patrolled by the United States Army. Here she is reunited with a young lieutenant, Cade McDowell, whom she had met in his cadet days at West Point, and a relationship is rekindled.
Where can we buy your books and find you on the web?
All the books are available at traditional points of purchase, as well as Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I have a website, www.saraluck.com and I would love to receive email at firstname.lastname@example.org I also would like to become your friend on facebook. I read Kristen Lamb's blog all the time, and her words haunt me. When this book is finished, I'm going to try to take her words to heart and work harder on my social media skills.