Donna Schlachter, fellow author, shares historical background for her novel. Welcome back, Donna!
By Donna Schlachter
Fort Laramie, Wyoming Territory, in September 1878, was important for several reasons: wagon trains with immigrants from the Prairies heading west often began here; the city was at a major crossroads of trails, so there were more choices on which destination to choose; the city was big enough to supply wagon trains of all sizes; although the Westward migration had slowed by 1878, wagon trains continued west into the 1920s; and it was a direct run from Deadwood, Dakota Territory to Fort Laramie.
The Oregon Trail to Oregon City, California, remained open late in the year, and although most wagon trains departed in the late spring, giving six weeks of warm and dry weather, it’s possible a train left in September. The train in my story is a small one by comparison, comprising only seven wagons. Some trains could be as large as 200 wagons. However, the couple-only requirement of the train leader would keep the numbers small, as would his strong Christian morals and insistence on observing a day of rest each week, and of holding weekly church services.
Deciding to base a novel on a real-life historical event offered choices, restrictions, and possibilities. While my wagon train story had to take place after the real life Homestake Mine stagecoach robbery in Deadwood, Dakota Territory, I was free to create characters that might have been present at the robbery but weren’t actually named. In my case, I created a younger brother for one of the named robbers, and constructed a backstory to suit my story and the character.
However, I was restricted to the months following the actual robbery, and if I wanted to include any of the real characters from the theft, they had to have been able to be present where I put them when I put them there. In fact, Lame Johnny, leader of the gang, went on the run for a month or so before being caught again, so I included him near the end of my book and had him escape from the story back into his known history.
Updates on the robbery spread far and wide, as did rumors, so including those tidbits of information as my story moved west anchored the story to the history, and added tension and trouble for my main characters as they sought a way to avoid facing their greatest fears.
A prostitute’s daughter, an outlaw’s brother, and a stagecoach robbery—can anything good come out of Deadwood?
Kate Benton, daughter of a saloon floozy, runs away days before her official introduction into that sordid life, straight into the arms of Tom McBride, fleeing from his outlaw brother’s past. Can these two young people, damaged and labeled by life experiences, tear down the walls of guilt and mistrust that separate them? Will they allow God to change them forever from the inside out? Or are they destined to remain alone forever?
Donna lives in Denver with husband Patrick. As a hybrid author, she writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts, and has been published more than 30 times in novellas and full-length novels. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Writers on the Rock, Sisters In Crime, Pikes Peak Writers, and Christian Authors Network; facilitates a critique group; and teaches writing classes online and in person. Donna also ghostwrites, edits, and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, and travels extensively for both. Donna is represented by Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary Management.
As a special bonus, Donna is offering a small book of recipes.
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