On a bucking bronco in Wyoming

Yes, that’s a photo of me on a bucking bronco, clad in leather boots, lipstick safely in a bag slung over the saddle horn. At my side, sadly just out of the range of the camera, there is a wrangler-rugged, handsome, tanned from a day on the range, deep blue eyes. Not that I noticed any of that-I was too busy watching the horse and the beautiful scenery at the foot of The Rockies.

My performance on the horse was impressive, though I say it myself. And to anyone who looks at the photo and insists that the words ‘bucking bronco’ on the caption be replaced with ‘docile mare’, I say you are mistaken! Prior to the click of the camera, the horse had been rearing, snorting and steaming. It had been all I could do to keep my seat. And that’s the truth. Ahem.

But why the photo, you might be asking. Read on and you will see.

I’ve been a follower of Emma Lee-Potter’s blog, House With No Name,  since I first discovered it a couple of years ago. A journalist, book reviewer and novelist, the lovely Emma covers every aspect of life in her lively blogs, from the books she’s read to living with teenagers to musings about the tumbledown farmhouse she bought in the South of France – alias the House With No Name. Her blogs are always fun to read. If you haven’t yet encountered them, you have a treat in store.

In addition to meeting Emma through her blogs, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her in person on a number of occasions; for example, at the monthly RNA Oxford lunches.

Nothing is more blissful for an author than to be asked to answer a series of questions about their next novel, which is what My Next Big Thing is all about, and I was delighted when Emma asked if she could nominate me for the Next Big Thing, and agreed with alacrity. So, thank you, Emma, for tagging me – and here goes.

What is the working title of your book?

A Bargain Struck. It comes from a 1979 quote: In popular opinion a good marriage was a bargain struck between two strong-willed characters for an equitable and advantageous division of labour.

 Where did the idea come from for the book?

Listening to the radio as I was driving to meet a friend for lunch, I heard about something that was happening in Russia today. By the time that I’d met up with my friend, I’d taken the idea, transferred it to Wyoming, a state that had always fascinated me, and had moved it back in time. All the way back to 1887, in fact.

What genre does your book fall under?

Historical fiction.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Difficult, that, as I never draw upon actors for inspiration. Perhaps a young Daniel Craig as Conn Maguire; definitely Richard Armitage as Niall; Ellen Page, who played Juno, as Ellen O’Sullivan; Sarah Michelle Geller – her dyed black – as Oonagh Quinn. I’m prepared to put myself out, though, and be in on the auditioning, since no one knows my characters better than I. Emphatically, for no other reason than that.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

When a man and a woman arrange by mail to marry, they’d both disclose in advance all relevant information, wouldn’t they?

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Seven months. I’d done the bulk of the research before I began the novel, though.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I can’t think of any. I’ve never read a book set in Wyoming at that period, and that treats the subject that I’ve chosen in the way that I have.

What else about your blog post might pique the reader’s interest?

A bemused reader might still be asking why I started this blog with the photo. The answer is that I wanted to begin by taking the reader to Wyoming, just as I went there.

I had thought that A Bargain Struck, set in the 1880s, in a part of the US that had been the subject of so many books and films, would be easier to research than my novel, The Road Back, which was set in Ladakh, north of the Himalayas, in a region about which little is known to anyone who isn’t a keen trekker. Not so. Finding out how a second generation homesteader would live was so difficult that I ended up by dragging my husband, who hates the heat, to Wyoming in August in search for those elusive answers.

Finding out about sanitary arrangements was on my list for Wyoming

And now I’m going to nominate an excellent writer to tell us about her next big thing: Amanda James

The debut novel of Amanda James (@akjames61), A Stitch in Time,  is to be published by Choc Lit in April 2013. Amanda’s blog is called Mandy’s Musings, and if you visit her next Monday, you will find out about her Next Big Thing.

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