Today I’m sharing Part Two of the making of my historical western romance, Love, Lies and Redemption. In the first blog, I talked about how the book came to be and discussed the research involved in writing a historical romance. Today, I’ll explore the characters and touch on another subject—realism.
The book opens with Sam, the hero, bleeding from gunshot wounds and stumbling across the prairie. He’s wondering if he is already dead and suffering in hell for what he has done in the past.
This gives readers initial insight into Sam. Right from the start, we know he has done something that he feels guilty about, and he is harboring secrets. We also learn that Sam is stubborn and not the type of man to give up easily.
When readers meet Cassie in her store, they see that she works hard trying to make her store successful. But they also watch her going through the motions and wondering why she bothers.
Each character is at a crossroads, and everything is about to change for them. As the book progresses, we learn that Cassie is headstrong, independent, and not the type to take guff from Sam, or the people in town. She’s running a store all by herself and doesn’t like to accept help or rely on anyone.
I contrasted Cassie’s independent nature with a secret vulnerability. The consequences of a failed relationship left Cassie emotionally fragile and broken. She says she’s not afraid of anything, but later we learn that’s not true. Deep down, she fears losing the store. She’s also afraid of falling in love with Sam, only to lose him. Cassie has experienced many losses in her life, and she is hesitant to open her heart and trust anyone.
Sam is a noble man who feels he has a debt to pay and a duty to watch over Cassie, and this leads to conflict between them. She doesn’t want to admit that she needs his help, and he is being overprotective of her (or so she thinks…).
Although Sam comes across as honest and open, readers quickly discover that Sam is keeping his past a secret and is hiding his true identity—and much more—from everyone. Sam is a troubled soul who has also experienced a lot of loss in his life. Without giving too much away, readers learn that Sam lost someone very important to him through an act of violence, and he’s set on getting his revenge—and that’s not pretty.
This leads me to my next topic—realism. Before I sat down to write, I did a lot of research about general stores, what life was like in the 1870s, etc., and I learned that life back then was very difficult and much different from how we live today.
People died of infections, diseases, and all sorts of other ailments, and there was the threat of violence to consider. The west was known for being “lawless” and some people took advantage of the fact that you practically could do whatever you wanted.
Life for anyone in the “wild” west was tough. Combine that with the fact that women virtually were the property of their husbands and had no rights, and you have the makings for pretty rough times for women.
I incorporated a few of these elements into the book. How could I not? The setting and time period have to be realistically represented in a historical romance. Although readers might take issue with including violence in a romance, it has a place in the story (to a degree). If everything was too perfect or too pretty, the book would lose the richness in details that bring it—and the characters—to life.
Having Sam face the threat of a potentially lethal infection, Cassie trying to help a woman escape a violent marriage, and Sam admitting the horrific truth of his past, all work together to give the book an authentic feel.
And part of an author’s job (especially when writing historical romances) is to let readers live the story through the eyes and experiences of the characters. One thing authors are told is to make life difficult for your hero and heroine. If there is no conflict or drama, the story becomes dull, and the characters have nothing to strive for and don’t grow.
Yes, I may have put Sam and Cassie (and a few other characters) through an emotional wringer, and yes, they had to face violent situations, but they’re strong and their challenges built up their resilience.
And of course, as in any romance, it all worked out happily-ever-after.
Here’s the book summary:
Love, Lies and Redemption
Shot and left for dead, Sam Hixton stumbles into a general store on the Nebraska prairie and collapses into the arms of Cassie Wilcox.
Cassie’s world is turned upside down when the handsome stranger drops into her life. Sam is another complication she doesn’t need: her business is dying and her trouble with the townspeople is escalating. Yet she’s determined to keep the store open — no matter what the cost.
As Sam recovers from his injuries, he hides the truth about his identity and convinces Cassie to let him work in the store. He’s attracted to her and admires her independent nature, but quickly realizes Cassie’s in way over her head. They fight their growing attraction, and Cassie questions whether she can trust her fragile heart to a mysterious stranger. Will he accept her once he knows about her troubled past?
Cassie resists Sam’s advances and represses her feelings until one fateful night when they give in to their fiery passion. Together, they work out a plan to save the store, but find their efforts are thwarted — and their lives endangered — by the locals.
Sam’s secret returns to haunt him and pulls him away just when Cassie needs him the most. Will he regain her trust when she learns the truth?
Cassie has everything invested in the store — can she save it and find true love with Sam before it’s too late?
Order Love, Lies and Redemption here:
All other platforms: https://books2read.com/u/mdzL6W
Want more romance? Visit my site: www.KelliWilkins.com and follow my Facebook pages:
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKelliWilkins
Facebook Historical Romances: https://www.facebook.com/Historical-Romances-by-Kelli-A-Wilkins-1703805359922371/
I hope you enjoyed this look at the making of Love, Lies and Redemption. I had a great time creating the characters and I think readers will fall in love with them as much as I have.
I welcome comments and questions from other authors and readers. Be sure to follow my blog for the latest updates and visit me on social media.
Kelli A. Wilkins
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 100 short stories, 20 romance novels, 6 non-fiction books, and 2 online writing courses. Her romances span many genres and heat levels, and she’s also been known to scare readers with her horror stories.
In January 2020, Kelli published Love, Lies & Redemption, a western romance set in 1877 Nebraska. This novel blends a sensual love story with mystery and danger.
She released Romance Every Weekend: 104 Fun Ways to Express Your Love, a non-fiction guide to romance in November 2019. The book features 104 fun and easy ways you can express your love to that special someone in your life. Perfect for men or women, it focuses on tender, everyday gestures that let your partner know how much you love him or her.
Kelli published Extraterrestrial Encounters, a collection of 18 sci-fi stories, in August 2019. If you like horror fiction, don’t miss her disturbing novella, Nightmare in the North.
Earlier in 2019 she released The Viking’s Witch, a paranormal/historical romance, and Dangerous Indenture, a historical mystery romance set in Colonial Pennsylvania.
Kelli has authored two online writing courses: Fiction Basics: Finding Ideas and Fiction Writing for Beginners. These courses are perfect for anyone who wants to learn how to write. Visit: https://kelliwilkins.teachable.com/ for more details.
Visit her website/blog www.KelliWilkins.com to learn more about all of her writings.
In Los Alamos, over Christmas break, Eddie and I soon fell into the habit of stepping out of the house and smoking a bowl after supper, and I started using that time to think out loud, to process things.
“One difference between being fourteen and being twenty is that virginity is different,” I began.
Eddie nodded. “Not so many people are virgins by the time they’re twenty. Could be you start to worry that you’ll be virgin forever, that it will be permanent.”
“Yeah, and becoming increasingly obsessed about it and feeling more and more left out while everyone around you is having sex. But I mean the virginity thing keeps you blocked if you aren’t like other boys, like me.” I sat back against the cast iron porch railing and faced him. “Way back in third grade I had girls who liked me, and they liked me as one of them.”
“It’s easier for girls and boys to be friends before sex and sexual appetite get in the way.” He nodded.
“Well, most of them were just friends, you know, but I also had a girlfriend back then, and we were in love. We held hands and kissed and wrote love letters in class. We were two of the same. And that’s how I like it. But the virginity thing gradually gets in the way of that. If you want to be heterosexual, sooner or later you have to go there. It’s like a gate, you know—THIS IS SEX—and it’s set up so it only works, it only happens, if someone is the boy, doing the boy thing. Not two of the same. I mean, maybe it isn’t sexy for girls unless the other person is doing that, pressuring, making sex happen. Or they just don’t have to, as long as the boys will. Either way, it’s how it’s set up. So it’s a gate with a gatekeeper. Keeping boys like me out.”
“Or maybe it’s just how we’re taught to think it’s set up, and when you are virgin you don’t know if it is true or not.”
“Well, if nothing happens and nothing happens…and you start to think the reason is that you aren’t doing the boy part…and then you try it, you find out that for you it is true because you just made it true.” I knocked the ashes out of the pot pipe and put it back in my coat pocket. “Anyway, it’s always there, and it gets in the way, I mean it looms bigger and bigger the older you get: You’re the BOY; you have to make things happen. And it seems so absolute when you’re a virgin: You’ve never had sex with a girl because you’ve never made it happen, and you never will until you do.”
“Maybe it doesn’t seem so much a big thing after you do that. And then you can find ways to be with girls more like what you’re looking for. Just get it out of the way and move on.”
“Well, the problem there is that it’s not just set up so that the boy has to take the initiative. That’s bad enough but that’s not all there is to it. While he’s getting ready to try that, he’s hearing girls say all boys are like this and only care about sex, and boys are selfish, and it means the boy isn’t interested in her as a person. All that stuff is already written on the wall. So it’s not like he can just walk over to a girl he likes and say, ‘I like you; sure, what the hell, let’s have sex’ and that’s it. She wants sex but she wants it to be meaningful and special, or at least supposed to pretend she does or she’ll be called names like ‘slut’ and all that. And she’s been taught she has to slow the boy down and make him get to know her better first if she wants a relationship.
“See, he’s supposed to keep trying. So it’s not just ‘do this one thing once that’s specifically a boy thing, then you can be equals.’ The whole process is like that. And it keeps out boys like me.
I want to feel special and valued before I share sex with someone too. I want to feel like…well, wanted, not like I’m pushing myself on someone. And I want a girlfriend, I want to be in love and have a relationship. That’s just as important to me as it is to them.”
Eddie nodded again. Was I making sense to him? Did he understand what I was trying to say?
Eddie turned and stared out across the snowbanks covering our front lawn. After a moment he said, “You’re saying it’s like a Catch-22. You can’t qualify to be in the relationship you want except by starting a relationship that is not the way you want instead, with someone who won’t see you for how you are.”
Make that a yes. Someone on this planet thinks I make sense. So I should make sense to others as well.
The next thing that fell into place for me was the women’s liberation movement. Feminism. I was standing there on the front porch talking with Eddie and it hit me, this vivid image of an intense woman at the podium, her voice snapping like a whip, talking about the unfairness of sex role expectations, that when men do it it’s assertive, taking charge, showing initiative, oh but when women do it, oh, now it’s pushy, she’s being domineering, she’s a bitch. “Well fuck that shit,” she says, and the audience of feminist women cheer and raise their clenched fists in a salute.
Oh yeah, feminists! Sure, they had talked about the double standard. How, if it was okay for men to be sexually assertive and be admired for their sexual activities and proficiencies, then it should be okay for women to be sexually assertive about their interests and appetites. If sexually active men are admirable, sexually active women should be similarly admired instead of demeaned as “sluts,” and so forth.
And I realized that the very existence of such women punched holes in the notion that only males who did the man-role thing could be heterosexual. Because as long as women exist who aren’t playing by those rules, I could interact with them and things could happen differently.
Excited, I outlined all this to Eddie. “See? This is important. This changes things. The gatekeeper can be bypassed!” Eddie grinned and patted my shoulder and said this was a good thing.
At first, it felt like solving an equation, or a technicality, almost like a legal point or recognizing a good argument to use in a debate. But a few days later I thought about it from a different angle. The feminist movement had provided a kind of home for a certain kind of woman: tomboyish non-feminine females who were more like boys in a lot of ways than they were like the other girls. Some people liked to claim that all feminist women were like that, which wasn’t at all true, but there were such women and the women’s liberation movement, with its attack on the unfairness of different expectations according to sex, obviously would have a direct and personal appeal to them. Some of them were lesbians, of course, but not all of them.
Maybe I would find that I liked feminist women not just because I could interact with them outside of the regular rules but because of their, well, tomboyishness, you know, butch characteristics. I might like that a lot. Meanwhile, yeah, it also meant I had natural allies of a sort. I needed to go meet some feminist women.
A couple nights later I stood on my front porch feeling militantly angry, ecstatically joyous, triumphant, determined, furiously vindictive, and free. Standing at my own damn podium. Yeah, fuck this shit!
So…I stand here a virgin because I don’t want to be the boy and take sexual initiative? Then by god, I will damn well die a virgin before I’ll take responsibility for any more than 49 percent of it! I’ve never known any girl who wanted to feel like she was pushing sex onto someone who didn’t properly appreciate it. Why should I?
I’m supposed to let the world paint me as only interested in sex, like I don’t fall in love or get emotionally invested and vulnerable to hurt when I’m in relationships? So it’s somehow okay for girls to only want me for sex in a way that it would not be okay the other way around? No! Double standard!
When girls are uncertain and ambivalent about their sexual feelings and appetites, people understand, it’s portrayed that way in movies and songs. But males are just supposed to be enthusiastically ready, like there’s no risk or reason to be hesitant? Fuck that shit too!
Girls have to put up with being seen as sex objects, and yeah I can see it’s no good being treated like that’s all you’re there for, but dammit I never get to feel desirable, cute, attractive in any kind of reciprocal way, that’s part of it too, and fuck that!
There are so many ways of thinking and behaving associated with girls that people don’t comprehend the same way if you’re a boy. I have been yelled at for being smilingly cheerful, ridiculed and despised for trying to play within the rules and get some protection, considered weak and cowardly for not valuing fighting and violence. Well, I’m claiming all that back as my own and I’ll be damned if I’ll be shunted shamed or ridiculed away from it ever again.
I was…OUT. The door was open and I was out of the closet now.
Hey, not my fault that when I come out it’s different from what everyone expected! Not straight. Not gay. Not transsexual, even. Something entirely other. It’s something else. What am I going to call it? I’ll think of something.
There had been something wary and guarded and furtive inside me that wasn’t there anymore. I no longer worried that someone would tease or harass me for being too much like a girl or not right for a guy. Now I didn’t care if they noticed!
This is who I am, how I am. Get used to it! I will never again tolerate people being mean and nasty to me and acting like I deserve it because I don’t act like a guy. From now on being all worried about that is their problem.
Have you fed your reader today? What are you waiting for?
GoddessFish Promotions organized the Feed Your Reader event featuring some great authors and their books that are #99c or #FREE!
Find your next great read or fill your reader! Books are separated by genre for easy browsing, and there’s even a Rafflecopter and a chance to win a $25 Amazon or Barnes & Noble GC!
This event runs through April 3rd, but why wait? Your reader’s hungry! Time to feed it! 😀
~ R A F F L E C O P T E R ~
I’m chatting with Jo Johnson today about her debut novel, Surviving Me, a unique work of fiction focusing on mental health from a man’s perspective.
Thank you for stopping by Nesie’s Place today, Jo!
Thank you for having me.
Your latest release, Surviving Me, covers some timely issues including mental illness. What inspired the story?
I’m a clinical psychologist so I spend a lot of time thinking about people’s business. I spend even more time in cafes. Over the road from my office there is a traditional tea room called the Vintage Rose. On one occasion, I noticed a middle-aged man, by himself, staring out of the window. I wondered about him and his story. In my head, his name was Tom. This observation inspired the first line of my novel.
‘At this point in time, I can accurately be described as unemployed, impotent, and a liar. It still puzzles me that, just a few weeks after my first wedding anniversary, I am sitting alone in a café for misfits, miles from my home’.
Did writing Surviving Me change or enlighten you in any way?
The key theme in my book is mind health, a subject I know very well.
The enlightenment was to do with the writing and publishing process. I hadn’t planned to write a novel, it just happened. I started writing as Tom and couldn’t stop until his story was finished. This was all a surprise to me.
I realised how much a gifted editor can do. I thought my book was finished but the editorial process was so enlightening. One of my characters had been pregnant for fourteen months! Lots of beta readers hadn’t noticed. As a result, my advice to authors would be, you can’t edit your own work!!
Do you have a favorite character in the story?
My favorite is probably the main character, Tom. He is a lot like me, he’s an over thinker who has a loud inner voice shouting at him. I wrote from his perspective and with each chapter, my affection for him grew. I even cried proper tears when his life took a terrible turn. My husband was very unsympathetic. Tom is kind and loyal and always does his best. I notice a few readers on Goodreads have confessed to a crush on him!!
What’s your favorite genre to read?
Commercial or women’s fiction.
What are you reading now?
Little White Lies, a novel written by another clinical psychologist.
Where are you from?
Are you self-published, traditional, or hybrid?
I think I’m a hybrid. I published with unbound digital who I think are the only publisher who let you sell books before they produce them.
Do you write full time, or do you also work outside the home?
I work as a clinical psychologist and as a resilience trainer.
Where do you get the most writing done?
At the vintage rose tea rooms. Surviving Me starts in the tea room. My office is over the road but I go there for breaks and that’s when I write.
Do you have pets who “help” or inspire you?
Yep! You have your hands full!
Totally addicted to social media or could you live without it?
I can live without it which is probably why no one knows about my novel despite its good reviews.
What’s your next project?
I’ve just finished a sequel to Surviving Me called Surviving Us. I’m also writing a chapter for a text book.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Write what flows from you, don’t try and write like someone else or what’s fashionable. Get your work professionally edited.
Jo, is there anything else you like our blog visitors to take with them today?
Let’s learn to talk about suicide.
In my debut novel, Surviving Me, the main character, Tom Cleary becomes suicidal. There has been a lot of recent talk in the media about what makes people take their own lives.
However, people are often reticent to talk about suicide with friends or family. Suicide is still a social taboo.
Often people fear they’ll say the wrong thing or make things worse. I can assure you that if you are concerned, most likely you won’t say the wrong thing.
We need to get better at talking about emotional pain and how it impacts all of us. If everyone felt comfortable to do this, it would save lives. In the UK, suicide remains the top killer of men between 30 and 50. We need to do something.
Most people who kill themselves have told at least one person they don’t feel life is worth living or that they want to die. Listen carefully to people and ask about how you can help.
1 in 5 people have thought about suicide at one point in their life. It’s actually common to have fleeting thoughts of suicide. Even if someone is actively suicidal, it’s often only temporary. Supporting someone to get help at the time they feel suicidal can save a life.
There is no such thing as them and us, there is just US. You don’t have to be mentally ill to feel suicidal. Many people who don’t seem depressed take their own lives. In my novel, Tom appeared to be ok, but on the inside, he was becoming increasingly distressed and isolated. Look out for subtle changes in people. Signs of distress can include drinking more alcohol, withdrawing from usual routines or avoiding social contact.
Most people who feel suicidal don’t want to die. They don’t want the life they have and the emotional pain feels unbearable, talking can really help. Once someone starts talking they’ve got a better chance of discovering options that aren’t suicide.
Many people who feel suicidal don’t mention it for fear of upsetting or worrying others. But, by asking someone directly about suicide, you give them permission to tell you how they feel. People who have felt suicidal often say it’s a relief to talk about what they are experiencing.
If someone tells you they are feeling low or suicidal, it’s you they want to talk to, they trust you and you have sufficient skills to be with them and ask the right starting questions.
Ask this question if someone is feeling low or talks of not wanting to live.
“Have you thought of killing yourself?” If they say yes, ask them to talk about those thoughts and if they have a plan.
Research makes it clear that these direct conversations can reduce someone’s risk of suicide. After you’ve had a conversation about suicide, support the person to get professional help. Go them to their GP or if out of hours or they already have a suicide plan, go with them to A and E.
Follow this link to read the reviews on Surviving Me or to purchase the book on Amazon:
Jo Johnson is a clinical psychologist specializing in neurological disorders and mind health. She is the author of nine nonfiction publications but best known for a mind health workbook called ‘shrinking the smirch’. This is an innovative resource on how to better manage your mind using principles from the ACT model of psychological therapy.
10% of the royalties from my novel will go to The Beachy Head chaplains.
Many thanks to Jo Johnson for such an enlightening and informative chat today!
Keep scrolling to learn more about Surviving Me and enter Jo’s international giveaway!
Deceit has a certain allure when your life doesn’t match up to the ideal of what it means to be a modern man.
Tom’s lost his job and now he’s been labelled ‘spermless’. He doesn’t exactly feel like a modern man, although his double life helps. Yet when his secret identity threatens to unravel, he starts to lose the plot and comes perilously close to the edge.
All the while Adam has his own duplicity, albeit for very different reasons, reasons which will blow the family’s future out of the water.
If they can’t be honest with themselves, and everyone else, then things are going to get a whole lot more complicated.
This book tackles hard issues such as male depression, dysfunctional families and degenerative diseases in an honest, life-affirming and often humorous way. It focuses particularly on the challenges of being male in today’s world and explores how our silence on these big issues can help push men to the brink.
I’m very excited that my debut novel Surviving Me is due to be published on the 14 November. The novel is about male minds and what pushes a regular man to the edge. The novel combines all the themes I can write about with authenticity.
I qualified as a clinical psychologist in 1992 and initially worked with people with learning disabilities before moving into the field of neurology in 1996. I worked in the NHS until 2008 when i left to write and explore new projects.
I now work as an independent clinical psychologist in West Sussex.
Jo speaks and writes for several national neurology charities including Headway and the MS Trust. Client and family related publications include, “Talking to your kids about MS”, “My mum makes the best cakes” and “Shrinking the Smirch”.
In the last few years Jo has been offering psychological intervention using the acceptance and commitment therapeutic model (ACT) which is the most up to date version of CBT. She is now using THE ACT model in a range of organisations such as the police to help employees protect their minds in order to avoid symptoms of stress and work related burnout.
Social Media Links
G I V E A W A Y
Win two signed copies of Surviving Me & five Surviving Me fridge magnets
1st Prize – 2 winners each winning a signed copy of Surviving Me
5 Runners Up – each winning a Surviving Me Fridge Magnet
*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days, then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfillment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for dispatch or delivery of the prize.