One of the questions I’m often asked is how I get the ideas for my books. The answer is that oh-so-frustrating “It depends.” And it does. Each book is different from every other.
Those of you who’ve read my bio know that I’m an avid traveler, and so you probably won’t be surprised to learn that Summer of Promise was inspired by a trip. I’ve always been fascinated by the pioneers who traveled West in covered wagons, so what better place to visit than Fort Laramie, where all the wagon trains stopped to rest and stock up on supplies before crossing the Rockies?
At the time that I planned the trip, I had no intention of setting a book there. It was simply a chance to escape the seemingly unending work associated with moving into a new house. But inspiration strikes when you least expect it.
When we arrived at the fort, I was struck by several things. First of all, it didn’t look like my image of a Western fort. There’s no stockade surrounding the garrison. Instead, it’s open and seemingly unprotected. The second surprise was that the buildings didn’t fit my picture of Army construction. The barracks and the officers’ housing were constructed of a variety of materials and, combined with the central parade ground, made the fort look like a New England village. The third surprise was that, although this was once a military installation, it felt peaceful. In other words, it wasn’t what I had expected.
Prior to that day, if someone had asked me to write a book set at Fort Laramie, I would have assumed that it would take place during the great migration and that the heroine would be part of a wagon train. But as I walked around the fort and learned more about its history, I became fascinated with its final days. During its last decade of existence (the 1880s), Fort Laramie saw no wars, and not even much in the way of conflict. Instead, it was a place where officers lived in relative luxury, where their wives held teas and balls, and where the parade ground boasted gaslights and birdbaths.
I was hooked. And so, in the space of an afternoon, when all I had expected was a little recreation, I had the beginning of a book. As it turned out, not just one but three. I realized that Abigail, the heroine of Summer of Promise, was one of three sisters and that each of them deserved her own book. The Westward Winds trilogy was born.
If you journey with Abigail and Ethan to Fort Laramie in the summer of 1885, I hope you’ll come to love the old fort as much as I do. And, if you’re ever in Wyoming, don’t pass up the opportunity to visit it in person. Who knows? You might come away with an idea for a book … or three.