Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Why I Write Westerns

Have you ever wondered about why you chose the genre of fiction that you write? I've often wondered about mine. I read across the board-Regencies, Victorians, paranormal, thrillers, even some category romances thrown in. Why don't I write any of those?

I tried Regencies, I found that they didn't suit me. I love to read them, but I simply could not imagine myself whirling around at a ball, following rules that made no sense to me. (Several times, I've found myself yelling at a Regency heroine, Tell them to kiss your butt and go on!) And to write a scene, don't you have to imagine it? Don't you have to want to be there to a certain degree?

The westerns just came to me. That sounds silly and trite, but it's so true. I was embarking on yet another failed Regency, when suddenly, I wanted to tell the story of a girl traveling West to find her aunt. I could imagine this girl, the thrill of a new life mingled with the sadness of leaving all that she had known. The bumpy ride over rutted roads. The men sitting across from her. It was just there in my mind like the ballrooms and fancy houses never were. I could see her trying to bring a little politeness to the uncouth men in the Western town where she settled.

Which brings me to this. I KNOW the feel of westerns. They're about a small settlement, growing from a cow town or coal mining camp or logging camp into a community. I grew up in the mountains of West Virginia. My town is still a coal mining town. I grew up in a company house. Our local pizza place has pictures of this town from 100 years ago, and it still looks the same, it just has paved streets now. Those pictures fascinate me. I always end up staring at them, trying to read their stories from their work worn faces.

This small town isn't perfect, but what place is? It has a lot of draw backs, but it has a lot of benefits, too. When my niece was having her bone marrow transplant-the entire town got behind her, wearing butterflies and posting encouraging words.
Recently, the town lost one of their own in Iraq. The entire county came out for a candlelight memorial and then gave him a funeral procession worthy of a movie. The school brought the kids down and they lined the sidewalk, holding small flags in their hands while the procession went by. A very touching moment, but one full of honest emotion. We'd lost one of our own.

This is what I know. Small towns and small town people. The reason we think the way we do. The reason we do what we do. It's in my blood and soul, I think, and it just comes natural to me when I sit down to write.

I hope that my love of small towns and their eccentricities comes through in my writing. I hope that one person reading a book of mine would come away feeling as if they were dropped into their own hometown and recognized some of the characters, after all, we're all basically the same.

What about you? Why do you write the genre you write? Do you think you might ever switch to another genre?


Gillian Layne said...

Terry Jo, that about brought tears to my eyes. What a sweet sentiment, and it's exactly why I love--and get aggravated by--my own small town. When there is trouble, everyone knows, and is there to help.

And when there is trouble--everyone KNOWS and is there to gossip....sigh. :)

I have adored the entire English nobility thing forever, and you know, I think I'm as infatuated by their countryside as their people, it's so gorgeous there. But yes, I can easily see switching genres. I also love Victorian settings, and Westerns as well, and I've developed a real love for Harlequin American stories. And when I first started reading? All through my teenage years, all I read was science fiction and paranormal.

So switching genres? Yup, I'm sure I will always bounce around. :)

Gillian Layne said...

Oh--the new look is beautiful!! :)

Terry Stone said...

Gillian, how true that is-gossip is the mainstay of a small town.

I love reading about England, but I honestly don't want to write about it. Weird, I know, but there it is.

I could see you writing a western or American romance easily, your voice would work well in either genre, I believe, but I'll always think of you as the modern Jane Austen.

And thanks for the compliment, the season changed so I had to update the blog. Much like my house, when the weather turns, I start rearranging.