Sometimes an author carries a story around in her head for years before she actually has a chance to write it. Such was the case for me with Glorious Montana Sky. I can’t tell you when the idea for the story of Joshua Norton, son of Reverend Norton (the minister in my small Montana town) and his wife Mary, came about. I do know I started formulating the story about three years ago.
The first scene that came to me and I wrote down at the time was between Joshua and his father. In the scene, Joshua, a missionary who’d just returned from Africa after the death of his wife, was telling his father about his feelings of burnout. (But since it’s 1895, I couldn’t use the word “burnout.”)
As I wrote this scene, another character came into being—Joshua’s nine-year-old son, Micah. Joshua told his father how Micah had run wild for the previous year because his mother was dying. The boy bonded with the African natives, whom he considered family, and was grieving and resentful about leaving them. Joshua had been focused on caring for his wife and neglected his son. So his relationship with Micah is strained.
Ah, two hurting men or, rather, a man and a boy. I had to find a partner for Joshua—a woman who’d both challenge him and help him heal, one who’d bond with Micah and help him adjust to living in Sweetwater Springs, Montana.
A definite challenge for I had no character in Sweetwater Springs who would fit for Joshua. Therefore, I had to bring her from somewhere else. So the idea of Delia Fortier, a quadroon woman fleeing New Orleans with her father, came to me. I knew he’d have a heart attack on the train, forcing the two to stay in Sweetwater Springs while he recovered. Delia has a secret that she hides from Joshua—the reason she and her father left New Orleans. This secret will keep her and Joshua apart and may even threaten their lives.
With the idea for the book firmly in my mind, I wrote down my notes. I commissioned Delle Jacobs, my cover designer, to do the cover for Glorious Montana Sky, telling her I wanted a sweeping sky scene with a train in the distance. We played with the size and angle of the train, and I settled on a small barely seen version.
Then I set the story aside and focused on writing Painted Montana Sky and Montana Sky Christmas, both smaller books that I could write quicker than the longer story for Glorious Montana Sky. Then I had the idea for The Mail-Order Brides of the West subseries, and wrote three of those books.
So Glorious Montana Sky had plenty of time to simmer in my mind. In the years since thinking of the story and writing it, I would have ideas or bits of dialogue come to me. Often this happened in church during the sermon. One of the ministers at my church was a missionary and also grew up on a farm in North Dakota. Sometimes he’d tell a story that had me scribbling notes on my bulletins. When it came time to write the book, I had a stack of church bulletins to go through.
A week ago, I received my author copies of Glorious Montana Sky. Holding the book in my hand, with the beautiful cover designed three years ago, I had a huge sense of accomplishment—a dream that was three years old was now a reality. What a wonderful feeling!
YOU’RE INVITED TO MY FACEBOOK LAUNCH PARTY
On Thursday, October 30th, from 3:00-6:00 EST, I’m throwing a Facebook party for the release of Glorious Montana Sky. Joining me will be authors: Julianne Maclean, Laura Drake, Catherine Bybee, Kat Martin, Pat Wright, RJ Sullivan, Sarah Woodbury, Joan Wolf, and Caroline Fyffe. Each author will have his or her own 20 minute segment, but I’ll be there the whole time, and I’ll have other authors dropping in. We’ll have plenty of giveaways—signed books, small gift cards, and the ultimate prize of a Kindle Fire (selected randomly from all the commenters of the day.)
I hope to see you all there! https://www.facebook.com/events/957855357576681/