Sci-fi junkie, video game nerd, and wannabe manga artist, Erin Hayes writes a lot of things. Sometimes she writes books. She works as an advertising copywriter during the day, and is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author by night. She has lived in New Zealand, Texas, Alabama, and now San Francisco with her husband, cat, and a growing collection of geek paraphernalia. Here’s her take on moving from writing paranormal romance to a western historical setting.
I’ve been publishing my writing since October 2011. In that time, I’ve released over a dozen titles, collaborated and networked with authors and readers who I now consider friends, hit the New York Times and USA Today bestsellers’ lists, and am constantly trying to see how I can push myself as a writer. I normally write paranormal romance, but I’m up for anything. I love a challenge and I love finding new genres.
And then I got invited to take part in a paranormal western boxed set.
I know I can write the paranormal part of that mashup. Most of my published work could be considered paranormal romance and it’s what I read in my spare time.
A western, though? I’ve enjoyed movies such as True Grit and Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns. I’ve picked up Louis L’Amour’s books and my grandfather watches Bonanza whenever it’s on. But I’ve never written one before, much less ever had to worry about historical accuracy to a T in my novels. Not to mention that my favorite writing style is present tense in the first person, meaning that all of my character’s thoughts, narrations, and dialogue needed to be historically accurate at all times as well.
It was a mind melt, let me tell you. I wanted to be as respectful to the new genre as much as possible while maintaining my own style and voice. It would be a challenge unlike any other, one that I didn’t want to fail at.
Margo Bond Collins and Blaire Edens signed up for The Good, The Bad, and The Ghostly at the same time I did. I’ve worked with them on boxed sets before, so we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They assured me that I’d be able to do it.
So I joined.
When I write, I usually start with a theme and a character. Hattie Hart came quickly to me, a headstrong, smart woman who was very much reminiscent of characters in my present-day paranormal work. I knew her backstory and her love interest and where she’d be going.
And then I hit a brick wall with research.
Every avenue I went down presented its own challenges. “How would people say this?” or “What spices were available in Nevada in 1887?” or “Where did the railroads run?”. Even down to “How do telegraphs work?” as an interrupted telegram is a critical point in my story. Every few paragraphs or so, I’d have a question and have to look it up. It felt like I’d bitten off more than I can chew, and I nearly stopped a few times to start over.
I kept going. This book was going to be historically accurate, even if it killed me.
Thankfully, it didn’t and the first draft of How the Ghost Was Won was completed. It was edited by two different editors for accuracy, three different beta readers, and a proofreader to make sure that I had dotted all my i’s and crossed all my t’s.
So far, the feedback has been great, along with all of the other stories in The Good, The Bad, and The Ghostly. I’m so honored to have taken part in such a wonderful, different boxed set. Each story fits together and reflects the time period accurately. And I’m considering revisiting Hattie in a later story.
It goes to prove that stepping outside of your comfort zone can make you work harder. And it can make you tell one of your most favorite stories ever.
I hope you enjoy all of our research and stories!
How the Ghost Was Won:
There are ghost stories. And there are ghost legends.
From orphan to saloon girl to ghost whisperer, Hattie Hart has been and seen a lot of things in her time. Her new job as a detective with the Tremayne Psychic Specters Investigations Agency takes her out to the remote town of Carolina City, Nevada, on a vague assignment to investigate the disappearance of a US Marshal.
Except, when she arrives, she meets the devilishly handsome Grant Madsen, a US Marshal who is alive and well. Certainly not missing, but certainly the man of her dreams. So why did her boss send her out to this small boomtown when there’s nothing for her to investigate?
She soon discovers that in Carolina City, there are strange happenings from the afterlife that threaten to kill her or worse. She’ll have to race against time to save her life, the town, and the US Marshal she was sent to find—and maybe, if she’s lucky, her heart.
In my dream, there’s a man.
I can’t see his face or any other distinguishing features on him other than the fact that he is tall and dark, and I can sense that he is handsome. My dreams don’t allow for me to get close enough to see who he is.
But I know him. He has captivated my heart and welded my soul to his. Something inside me intrinsically calls out to him, aching that he’s not close to me, skin to skin, pulse against pulse.
We’re meant to be together, in this life and in others.
I know this, and he knows this.
In my dream, we’re standing about ten yards apart on a desert landscape, me in my corset and him in his dust jacket and hat that shades his face. I don’t recognize the place, but it feels alien, like nothing could ever survive in these harsh elements.
We’re both dead.
I see the glint of his smile as he looks at me. My heart breaks and I want to help him, but something keeps me rooted to my spot.
“Find me, Hattie,” he says, his voice in my head. “Save me.”
“How?” I ask. “From what?”
But he keeps repeating those two words, echoing on and on in my mind.
“Save me. Save me.”
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