Nearly 20 years ago my first novel was published. This June my fifty-second novel will be released. One thing is different about #1 and #52–the author’s name. I published fifty novels under my own name, Lori Handeland, and the very first one was a western. I’ve come full circle with number fifty-two, which is a western as well, but the name on the cover this time around is Lori Austin.
I grew up watching John Wayne on Saturday afternoons. I graduated to Clint Eastwood, which meant one of the first historical romances I ever read was Rosemary Rogers’ SWEET SAVAGE LOVE. I love westerns! To me they were, and are, the quintessential American genre.
In between that first western (SECOND CHANCE) and the newest (AN OUTLAW IN WONDERLAND, Book #2 in my Once Upon a Time in the West series w/a Lori Austin) I wrote suspense, Americana, paranormal—both historical and contemporary—category, Urban Fantasy and historical fantasy, all under the name Handeland. However, when I was once again able to write westerns (and I’d written them at 3 different periods during the 50 books) I decided to publish them under the name Lori Austin.
I’m most often asked two questions about the new westerns. Number one, why did I change my name? That’s a long story that involves contracts and reader expectations and sales figures and the new state of publishing, and I fall asleep while I tell it, so let’s never mind that one.
The second question I’m asked is what are the differences you find between writing paranormal and western historical romance? To be honest, not much. I always write an action packed novel, with deep emotion and a little humor. That’s my choice and my voice, regardless of the name on the cover or the time period or world in which they are set.
Some would think there would be a difference in the amount of research for the westerns, but that wouldn’t be true. The research I do for my Nightcreature Novels is extensive. Just because the Nightcreature world comes from my imagination doesn’t mean I don’t have to research the Native American myths the creatures are based on. And for the 3 books set in New Orleans, I learned enough about voodoo to write 5 more.
My urban fantasy series, The Phoenix Chronicles, reveals our world in the midst of the end of times predicted in Revelation. When I wrote these books, I was up to my eyeballs in prophecy and theology, not to mention the origins of the creatures discussed in the Bible. There’s a reason Goliath was a giant. What happened to the angels that were on earth when the rest of them fell?
For my historical fantasy series, Shakespeare Undead, I needed to research Shakespeare’s life, his works, the myths surrounding him (how could one man write so many brilliant plays—some people think because more than one man wrote them, but I have a different theory) as well as the time period in which he lived. By the time I turned to the post-Civil War period of the Once Upon a Time in the West series, I was ready, and very able, to research anything.
I’d have to say the biggest difference in writing westerns to writing anything else is the clothing, the weapons and the vocabulary. What do women wear in 1870? A lot. What kind of weapons did people use? Very different ones from the ones used today. If you’re talking Union guns, you’re talking different guns from the ones used by the South. When did the Indians start to use firearms? Depends on which tribe you’re discussing. As for conversations and descriptions, I had to make certain my characters were using words coined by the late 1860s or how would they know them?
Whether I’m writing as Handeland or Austin, I write in the same way. Pantser not a plotter—I like to discover what happens to my characters as it happens, not as I decided it should happen before I got to know them. General research before I begin, light research while I’m writing, heavy research once I have my very rough first draft written. How do I know what I need to know until I need to know it?
I’ve discovered that when I read books written by the same author, regardless of the name on the cover, their voice and style shines through. While the books of Nora Roberts and JD Robb are very different kinds of books, the reason I enjoy them is because I love her voice. The same goes for Stephen King and Richard Bachman, Jayne Ann Krentz and Amanda Quick, Sherrilyn Kenyon and Kinley MacGregor.
Do you choose the books you read by author, genre, reviews, recommendations or something else? Will you read everything by a favorite author regardless of what genre it is, or do you prefer to read one thing and one thing only from an author? Leave a comment for a chance to win an autographed copy of my first Once Upon a Time in the West romance, Beauty and the Bounty Hunter.