Eunice Boeve, a Kansas resident, grew up in Montana and Idaho, influenced by a story-telling cowboy father and a reading, poetry-loving mother. Her first submission for publication—and subsequent rejection—was a poem her sixth grade teacher encouraged her to send to the Weekly Reader. Besides a few short children’s stories and as many articles, she is the author of four middle grade historical novels, an adult historical fiction/western novel, Ride a Shadowed Trail, and its sequel, Crossed Trails, soon to be released by Whiskey Creek Press. Before retiring, she worked as a speech para in a school for special needs children and as a bookkeeper/secretary in her family-owned funeral home. Eunie and I are both members of the organization Women Writing the West and we’ve had a lively correspondence for well over a year now. I’m thrilled to have her with me today.
- So Eunie, with two parents who loved stories and reading, what books and authors influenced you?
As a child I grew up with stories about the west and about cowboys, like Will James’ Smoky the Cowhorse, and Zane Grey’s stories, but also the Bobbsey Twins, Heidi, and Little Women. I never liked the Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys stories. Actually, I could fill your whole blog with books I’ve loved and why
- You’ve got this new book coming out, a sequel to Ride A Shadowed Trail—what research did you have to do? Did you, for instance, go to Texas?
I did. For Ride a Shadowed Trail I spent some time in Texas in Victoria and along Matagorda Bay. I intended to write about a real woman, named Margaret Borland, who took a herd of cattle to Wichita in 1873. Instead, I wrote a novel about Joshua Ryder from age 8 to 19 who also lived in Texas in the 1870s and who went on a trail drive to Wichita. The research I did on Margaret Borland, I ended up using in Josh’s story. I’ve researched the areas of my other books as well, from West Virginia in A Window to the World to the Sierra Mountains where Virginia Reed of my story Trapped! spent an awful winter. Also researched for Maggie Rose and Sass and for the Summer of the Crow, but did not have to travel far for both settings are in Kansas. My new book, Crossed Trails, to be released in July, took me to Virginia City, MT. I’d been there before, but this time as a setting for my story, I saw it through different eyes.
- What made you choose this setting and time period?
Because Crossed Trails is a sequel to Ride a Shadowed Trail, I had to stick to that time, but in Montana rather than Texas. Why Montana? Well I grew up there so that’s probably a part of it, but I think the protagonist Joshua Ryder (Josh) decided it himself. At the end of Ride a Shadowed Trail, feeling footloose and with no definite plan in mind, he thinks he’ll hire on with a cattle drive headed for Montana in the spring.
- Was the idea for this second book in your mind when you wrote the first or did it come to you later?
Actually, when I finished Ride a Shadowed Trail, I had no idea I’d carry Josh on into another story. But my readers kept hassling me about it with various questions all in the form of “so what happened next.” Finally, I decided to see what happened next and the result is Crossed Trails.
- We’ve mentioned your parents and their love of stories and reading—but how did your upbringing influence your writing?
In several ways, including the time and place where I was raised, where the old west was/is still revered and the influence of a father who was the last of those old time cowboys who hated sheep, farming, fences, and the encroachment of so called civilization. Two other factors that influence my writing are, first my dad’s death when I was five which tore a very large hole in our family, a hole never really mended, and secondly because Dad wrote a book about his cowboy days in Wyoming and a horse that was special to him. He died shortly afterwards so the manuscript was never published and was lost some years later. (My stories often have a missing or deceased father as if I’m still trying to come to terms with that loss)
- Your character/hero is not the usual romanticized hero–Joshua has a slightly ‘unsavory’ background perhaps. Was this a problem in writing or did you specifically set out to make him more complex?
My characters seem to be who they are. I have no designs on them, they come into a place and grow from there. As in Ride a Shadowed Trail, Josh shows up as an 8-year-old boy who’s father was white, his mother, Mexican. His mother, who earns their living by prostitution, is murdered, and I did know why, so I went back and wrote a couple of chapters introducing her and her story. And then I flashed forward to Josh the night his mother is killed. My three daughters are my first readers and one of them said, “Mom, you don’t need those first three chapters, just get rid of them.” Her sisters agreed and so I did. The mother’s life is never fully explained as the story moves on, but enough so that the reader understands the “what and why and wherefore” of her being in Texas and specifically in Indianola.
- You also write YA and children’s stories: is there a big difference in your style, story or character development for the 2, or even for research?
Obviously one doesn’t use adult themes or cuss words. Otherwise, I don’t think so.
- In your stories, as in Ride a Shadowed Trail, someone dies, someone whose death seems out of line or even cruel and heartless on your part. Was it a difficult decision and have you had readers give you any flack about it?
First of all, both times it happened—the other time was in my book Summer of the Crow—it’s unexpected and I’m crying as I’m typing those words and usually I have to quit writing for a while. I actually mourn the loss of that character whom I’d grown to know, who seemed to live and breathe in my mind. I am also sad for the other characters who will grieve their loss. Sure, I could have snatched them from the jaws of death, but to be true to the story that is unfolding as I go, I’d then have thrown the proverbial “monkey wrench” into the works. In other words I’d have taken control and the story would no longer be theirs but mine and I’d not be surprised if the whole thing would grind to a halt.
- Would you say your writing is plot driven or character driven? Do you find your characters suddenly do things you hadn’t expected?
Definitely character driven. They tell the story, not the other way around, so yes, often I’m surprised. The other day a woman asked me how I plot a story. I told her I don’t do plots. The plot/theme develops as the story unfolds.
- So what’s next? You know I’d like you to write a memoir, any chance of that?
I’m not sure. The last two years I’ve done a kids’ serial story for a group of Kansas newspapers for a program called Newspapers in Education and am scheduled to do another one, so I’ll start on that in the fall. Of the other two serials, I added ten more chapters to the first one, a time travel story and it’s in the process of being published. Now I need to write ten more chapters for the last one, a WWII story and work on getting it published. Plus I now have three out of print books I need to do something with. But for another western, I’m looking at a little half Chinese, half white girl in Crossed Trails and wondering what she’ll be like when she’s grown up.
A memoir? Well, I just finished writing a short one about when I was five-years-old. What I’ll do with it, if anything, remains to be seen.
Well, thanks so much for stopping by, Eunie. I’ve really enjoyed our visit. Let’s just remind folks that Crossed Trails will be out this month from Whiskey Creek Press. You can purchase this at http://www.whiskeycreekpress.com/store/ For more info on Eunice, please take time to visit her website at http://www.euniceboeve.net