Questions from readers

I’ve written about how much I enjoy talking with readers at book fairs and signings. Readers ask great questions and have insights about the books I didn’t even consider. For instance:

Q. Do you get ideas while you’re sleeping?

A. The answer is yes and no. I used to get ideas in dreams, but now I practice more conscious brainstorming. I keep a small notebook at home to record ideas, research information, and just for random thoughts. I take a “mini notebook” with me wherever I go. While traveling, I recently pulled out the mini notebook and jotted down an idea. My travel partner said, “Did you just get an idea for your next book?”

Yes. Yes, I did.

Q. Do you have a daily writing schedule?

A. I started writing Proving Her Claim because I enjoyed the break from “work” writing. I’ve continued that “recreational writing” philosophy in retirement. Writing isn’t a job for me – I write when the mood hits me. But I’ve found that I’m “ready to write” around noon or 1 pm after finishing my other tasks, whether it’s writing a blog or doing laundry. Once I get into a rhythm with the story, I write for three or four hours. On a good day, I’ll write 2000 to 2500 words. On other days, I might manage only 900 or 1000 words – probably because I’m also working on the plot lines or doing impromptu research. A good example was the research I did with Godey’s Lady’s Book or what pioneers would pack in their wagons.

Q. How long did it take to write each book?

A. I wrote Proving Her Claim about 25 years ago. Then, my partner and I opened an advertising agency. I tucked away the Proving manuscript to run the business. I published the first book after I retired. Lone Tree Claim took about a year to concept, write, and publish. Medicine Creek Claim was written and published in five months.

Q. How did you decide where the claims would be located?

A. Great question. While doing research, I found a territorial plat map that recorded where townships were surveyed by year. It was a good indicator of when claims were platted. Research is key for details like that.

Q. Do you outline your books before writing?

A. Sort of. There are two schools of thought for plotting a novel. Some writers create a detailed outline for each chapter and closely follow that outline. Not surprisingly, they’re the “outliners.” Other authors use a more organic, free-form method – they’re called “pantsers” (for “seat of their pants”). I use both methods. Each book starts with a sketchy outline that includes some plot points needed to move the story forward. But once I get into writing, I often go “off road,” changing that roadmap as needed. In fact, my characters occasionally surprise me by doing or saying something I didn’t expect.

That’s fun. And that’s why I’ve continued to write about the surprising, strong women On the Dakota Frontier.