Welcome to my blog! Lucky readers, today I am doing an interview with Kansas author Eunice Boeve.

Lori: I understand that most of your books are historical, and most of them are westerns. Is that still true?

Eunice: Actually, only “Ride a Shadowed Trail” are “Crossed Trail” are westerns, but I classify all my books as historical fiction, even the westerns. I love historical fiction, which I define as make believe clothed in truth.

Lori: And how do you clothe your make believe?

Eunice: Like all writers I pick out the material to clothe my make believe from a variety of places, including books, newspapers, the internet, real life stories which sometimes includes overheard remarks a.k.a. eavesdropping, and wherever else a reference to life and/ or past history crossed my path.

Lori: It sounds like you must need research to build a believable “make-believe.” Do you?

Eunice: Yes. Tons. I start my books with a time, a place, and a main character. Then I start my research. The research gives the story the skeleton to build on and adds flesh to the skeleton as the book progresses and the other characters appear and I take them in. They influence the lives of the characters all ready in the story and so of course the story itself. But sometimes I pick a character, a time, and a place and research and research and then I don’t… or can’t…. write the story. It just won’t jell. But the research is never wasted.

Lori: So what do you do with the research that doesn’t fit the story you’re telling, whether it’s a place, a time, a character, or all of these?

Eunice: Well, it’s not always a new time and place, but always it’s a new character. Before I started “Ride a Shadowed Trail,” we were In Texas on a winter vacation, in the area of Port Lavaca, Victoria, and the Bay of Matagorda on the Gulf of Mexico. While there I heard about Margaret Borland, a widowed ranch owner who lived on a ranch near Victoria in the 1870s. She interested me and I thought she would be the subject of my next book. I liked everything about her and I especially liked that she took a herd of longhorns, about 2,500 head from Victoria to Wichita, Kansas and took along four kids: two teenage sons (about 14-16) and a daughter age 10, and a granddaughter age 6. She died after arriving with the herd in Wichita and was taken back to Texas for burial. I did extensive research and then sat down to write the story. But she wouldn’t cooperate, wouldn’t come to life, and finally I gave up.

Lori: My characters do that too — so glad I’m not the only one! So what did you write instead?

Eunice: I wrote “Ride a Shadowed Trail.” Same time, same place, but a different character. Although I didn’t actually pick the character, I think he picked me. That part is now kind of fuzzy in my mind. While in Texas we visited Indianola, a once thriving seaport town on the Gulf destroyed by a couple of hurricanes, the first in 1875, the final one in 1886. But it’s some ten years before the first hurricane when I find eight-year–old Joshua Ryder playing outside his Mexican mother’s adobe in Indianola, watching the man creep stealthy around to the door. Although he doesn’t quite understand the nature of his mother’s job, he knows she entertains men so he is not alarmed. He knows he can’t go into the adobe while a man is there, so after admiring the man’s horse for a time, he goes down to the bay and falls asleep on the sand unaware that the man has come out of his mother’s past to extract a brutal revenge and will leave her body, bloodied and broken, for him to find. And that’s how “Ride A Shadowed Trail” was conceived.

Lori: Does Josh Ryder have a father?

Eunice: His mother has always told him his father was a redheaded (white) man who died when Josh was a baby. After his mom’s death, Pete Waters, an old cowboy takes him in and teaches him the cowboy trade. Josh is 18 when Pete dies and Josh goes to Victoria and hires on to drive a herd of longhorns to Wichita. Ks. Remember my research on Margaret Borland? Well, she surfaces as Martha Rawlins, the widowed ranch owner who accompanies the herd with her son, Lee, who at 18 is Josh’s age, and her daughters, Belle age 16, and Kit age 11.

Lori: Aha! I see what you mean about research not being wasted! Did you add anyone else from your research on Margeret Borland to the story?

Eunice: I did. In the Victoria cemetery where Margaret is buried, I found a stone that read “Mammy, erected by the Borland children” and then her name and age at time of death; Louise Hardy Johnson, 102. She showed up as Lucy, a black cook and housekeeper in the story.

Lori:Do you have trouble choosing names for your characters?

Eunice: Not usually. Most of the time they pop in my head and they fit. But this time I did. At first I named the old black woman Belle and the teen age beauty Lucy. They wouldn’t do a thing for me and then on impulse and exasperated no end, I switched their names around and just like magic they came alive. I always say that I think they made a pact to refuse to divulge anything of themselves until I got their names right. Afterwards when I could see them and feel connected to them, I imagined how they must have waited, arms crossed and grinning at each other.

Lori: That must make for vivid characters! Any other surprises in the story?

Eunice: Not with names, but in other ways for the characters take over and live the lives they are meant to live… in the story… which is not necessarily how or what I think. Margaret Borland died in Wichita of what was called “Trail Fever.” I thought Martha Rawlins would die then too. She didn’t, but someone I’d not expected to did. Something else that came out in the story, unplanned, for I can’t plan a story, it just has to evolve, was how Josh learned to read and write on the cattle drive.

Lori: On a cattle drive? That doesn’t sound like the easiest place to learn, between riding all day and camping — but the did it?

Eunice: Yes they did. This also came out of my Margaret Borland research. A few years after her death, one of her sons hired on to help drive a herd of cattle to Wyoming. One of the hired drovers was an orphan boy name John B. Kendrick. Margaret’s son taught the boy to read and write in off hours during that long drive. The boy grew up to marry the boss’s daughter and later became the governor of Wyoming and its state senator. You can tour his mansion called Trail End at Sheridan. In my story, Mrs. Rawlins teaches Josh to read and write.

Lori: Does Josh ever find out anything about his father?

Eunice: Yes, he does. But that is best left for the reader to discover.

Lori: Titles often prove to be a problem for me; trying to show what’s in the story without saying too much. How did you come up with the title “Ride a Shadowed Trail?”

Eunice: When Josh is about 13 or so, I forgot exactly, he learns from a couple of hard-edged prostitutes about his mother’s occupation. He is embarrassed and angry. Pete, who is raising him, tells him in essence that a lot of folks have shadows back along their trail and until he knows those shadows he has no right to judge.

Lori: I understand you have a sequel to “Ride a Shadowed Trail” called “Crossed Trails” to be released in June. Can you tell us something about it and how you came to write it?

Eunice: I didn’t plan a sequel, but so many readers of “Ride a Shadowed Trail” wanted to know what happened next. I told them I didn’t know. That when I left him, he was thinking about going to Montana. Some speculated, asking do you think this or do you think that? And finally I began to wonder too, so I set out to find out. It took me a while. It was hard to get back into Josh’s skin and it’s hard when one needs to reveal some of the past story, but not too much. Several times I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it. And then it suddenly just clicked.

Lori: So did he go to Montana, and if so, why?

Eunice: I sent the following to the publisher for the back of the book. They may use it, or they may ask me to rewrite it, but basically this is the story.
“Joshua Ryder ashamed of his lineage and convinced he carries bad blood, leaves Texas in the spring of 1876 with a trail herd of longhorns bound for Montana. The following spring he heads west with plans to settle near the Pacific Ocean and live in solitude with just his books and his horses for company. But a Nez Perce woman and her baby change his plans and he ends up in Virginia City, Montana. There an old washerwoman, a small girl of white and Chinese blood, and a young woman with red curls further complicate his life. When he is framed for murder Josh weighs his options. If he runs far enough and fast enough he can probably shake the law. If he stays and tries to clear his name, undoubtedly he’ll hang. Either way, he will lose the respect of those he’s come to love.”

Lori: Sounds like a great storyline! I understand you do other types of writing; in fact, I heard you currently have a children’s serial story running in several Kansas newspapers.

Eunice: Yes. There are five Kansas newspapers in a program called Newspapers in Education aimed at the grade school classroom. The program features a story set in the past, accompanied by a teacher’s guide with questions and exercises for the kids to further understand the time period. Last year I wrote a time travel story for the program in which twins traveled back into Kansas history. I’ve since expanded that story, adding 10 more chapters and I’m currently working with a small Kansas publisher to get it in print as a children’s book. I plan to do the same for this year’s story. This new story titled Wishing You Home is set in the last months of WWII. Bobby, age 10, fears for his father who is fighting in Germany, especially when his best friend’s dad, who was also in Germany, is killed. The story deals with grief, bullying, German and Japanese Americans, and family love. Although I’m sure jokes (suitable for children) are hard to come by in the midst of war, Bobby’s dad sends a joke in each letter. Bobby gets a book of jokes from the library and sends one back in each of his letters. The jokes bring some levity to the seriousness of the story. Artist Michelle Meade who lives in Salina, KS illustrated both the time travel and the WWII stories.
I have also written four middle-grade historical fiction. My first book Trapped! (a girl with the Donner Party) is still in print. I’m working at getting the others back in print. They are: The Summer of the Crow (Depression era), A Window to the World ( 1850s Virginia, now West Virginia) and Maggie Rose and Sass, a fictional account of Nicodemus, an all black town in Kansas.

Lori: All those stories sound good! I hope you can get those three back in print. I would also love to read your WWII story. Will any of the newspapers carry it on line?

Eunice: It doesn’t appear so. The Salina Journal on line gives the NIE (Newspapers in Education) editor’s e-mail to contact her, but it appears one has to buy the newspaper to get the story. There is also information about the NIE, the Teacher’s Guide, and my bio. (One has to scroll down a ways to find the information.)

Lori: It seems there are all kinds of writers. Fiction, non-fiction, biographical, and so on. Do you see something similar in all genres, a common thread in those who write?

Eunice: The thread is emotion. Writers are emotional vampires. They seek the emotions of humankind and infuse that emotion into their story people, whether fictional or real. All writers want their readers to identify with their characters and they want the reader to feel that emotional tug. Otherwise the story fails. They want the reader to feel, to remember, to identify, and to understand why the character feels whatever he/she is feeling and why they then act as they do. Sometimes it’s a first love. Sometimes it’s the visceral angst of hate, but it is all emotions we as humans can relate to in one way or another. I love a story where the characters come alive and live so much like real people that I suspend belief and for that time my own world ceases to exist. Story telling is as old as time and if ever stories cease to be, it will be when the planet is devoid of human life.

Lori: I don’t see that happening any time soon, Eunice. My three-year-old niece is already a story teller — with characters, story-lines, and all! I’ll be looking forward to the sequel to “Ride a Shadowed Trail,” which is a wonderful book filled with the kind of detail that pulls the reader right into that place, the landscape, the scents, the food — so real, and it’s all there. Thank you SO much for visiting my blog, Eunice! I’d urge my readers to check out Ride A Shadowed Trail — if you like westerns, or just great characters, you’ll love it!

Eunice: Thank you, Lori. I appreciate your interest in my writing. I love sharing my stories and how those stories came to be. I’m so glad I found this wonderful world of writing. As most writers know (at least those of us who haven’t “yet” made the big-time) writing is not exactly a lucrative business and editors and publishers can make one crazy, but I love it and almost every day that a story awaits me inside my computer and in my head, I feel as rich as old King Midas.