Smart Girls Read Romance

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Monday, February 10, 2014

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK - THE INSPIRATION FOR A ROMANCE SERIES

By Guest Author, Peggy L. Henderson

Thank you so much for inviting me to blog at Smart Girls Read Romance, and talk about what has inspired me to write the Yellowstone Romance Series.

Up until four years ago, I was a ravenous romance reader, not a writer. Historical romances are my favorite, especially those set in the American west. While there are plenty of cowboy romances to choose from, I had a hard time finding romances set in the mountains and the wilderness, during a time when fur trappers and mountain men roamed the Rocky Mountains.

One of my favorite places on earth is the Yellowstone and Grand Teton area of Wyoming and Montana, and my husband and I camp there every summer. It is my once-a-year, two-week escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

During the summer of 2009, my husband had another commitment to take a group of boy scouts on a backpacking trip into the California High Sierras, so my Yellowstone trip that year wasn’t going to happen. Or was it? On a whim, I asked my good friend and boss at work if she would want to go on a girls-only camping trip with me to Yellowstone for a week. She had limited camping experience, and I had never gone without my husband. This trip would be a life-changer for me, in more ways than one.

YELLOWSTONE HEART SONG, my debut novel, was born on a lone stretch of Interstate 5, heading home from that camping trip in 2009. Driving through the Utah desert on the 1000 mile journey home, my mind had a lot of time to wander and reflect on the trip.

I had never thought about writing a book, and when the original concept for the story popped into my mind, it came as a complete surprise to me. I didn’t think much of it over the months, but it always stuck with me in the back of my mind. I kept searching for books, hoping to find something that had been published that was similar to what I had in my head, so I could read it. No luck.

The following year, on another trip to Wonderland, I took greater notice of all the places in the park that were part of that story in my head. The day after arriving home, I sat down to write. The story just wouldn’t let me go. I told no one what I was doing. The thought of letting anyone else see what I wrote was laughable. Another year later, 2011, I had a finished story. (Well, a story anyways) Now what? I checked around the internet. I wanted someone to read it, just to get some feedback, but never did I have publishing in mind. I found some RWA contests, and entered one. To my great surprise, I finaled! How shocking was that? My harshest judge said, “find a critique partner.” So I searched the internet again. And I struck gold when Carol Spradling answered my query. She tore through my manuscript with a loaded red pen and fine tooth comb.

Months later, she asked me when I would pursue publishing. What?!?! I basically ignored her. She wanted to know what I would write next. Huh??? Okay, I thought. I love Yellowstone, I can’t think of anything else to write, and I loved the interaction with Carol, so why not write a sequel? That’s how YELLOWSTONE REDEMPTION was born. I flew through that book, and had a first draft done in six weeks.

After that, I was gung ho to write another. YELLOWSTONE AWAKENING was a few chapters from completion before Carol put the brakes on me, and told me I needed to get something published. My husband suggested I self-publish. So, that’s what I ended up pursuing, and I published YELLOWSTONE HEART SONG on January 2nd, 2012. The reader response has been overwhelming, to say the least.

The series, which had started as a stand-alone story that wouldn’t leave my mind, turned into a fictional journey through Yellowstone’s history, and weaving factual events into the books. YELLOWSTONE REDEMPTION contains a scene that was inspired by John Colter’s legendary escape from the Blackfoot Indians. YELLOWSTONE AWAKENING is a fictional account (with true facts and names sprinkled in) of the creation of the nation’s first national park, and YELLOWSTONE DAWN deals with some of the problems the park encountered in its infancy. The final book in the series, YELLOWSTONE DECEPTION, deals with a more current issue the park has faced, and I wrote that book due to overwhelming reader demand for a couple of minor characters from YELLOWSTONE HEART SONG to get their story.

I never in my wildest dreams expected readers to contact me and tell me how much they enjoyed learning about Yellowstone through my books. Many emails I receive are from people who have never been to Yellowstone, and now want to go visit, or the email I received from a reader who was planning a “quick trip to see Old Faithful,” but now wanted to see so much more. I ended up writing up an itinerary for her.

The following message is one of my favorites:

“I read YELLOWSTONE HEART SONG and YELLOWSTONE DECEPTION and I am impressed with how well you know the history and the ecology of that area. Most people don't even think about what the park looked like in the 1800's before they killed off the predators and stopped the fires from burning. I didn't even really think about it until I worked with a vegetation specialist who said the veg in the park was a joke and not how it was supposed to be at all. Good job on knowing your stuff! I hope you realize that most people who live in this area don't even know as much about it as you do.”





The Yellowstone Romance Series

For Aimee Donovan, it started out as an unbelievable journey into the past. Little did she know that her time travel would shape the destiny of the place we know today as Yellowstone.

The Yellowstone Romance Series is an enticing mixture of adventure, love, and danger through the generations as we meet the Osborne and Russell families.
From the dawn of the rugged and untamed wilderness of Yellowstone to the majestic national park we know today, we feel the passion, heartache, and excitement on every page.

YELLOWSTONE HEART SONG Excerpt

For the better part of the morning, Daniel led her through the forest, showing her how to read different tracks, other signs to look out for that an animal had been in the area, where to look for edible roots and plants, and how to watch the skies for changes in the weather. Along with the berries, she filled her backpack with mint, wild onions, licorice, and various other roots and plants.

She had listened attentively as she tried to absorb everything Daniel told her. Some things she already knew, others were completely new to her. The subtle animal signs he picked up on astounded her. Silently, he had pointed out a black bear sow and her twin cubs in the distance, a moose in the thickets that she would have completely overlooked, and countless other smaller animals. He knew which critter made every track they came upon. He read the forest for information as someone in her time would read a newspaper. It was most refreshing to get a glimpse of this wilderness that she loved so much in her time from this man who carved out a living here.

Aimee savored the beauty of her surroundings. Aspen trees grew in abundance. Beaver lodges could be seen all along the streams, and countless otters played in the waters. With the coming of the fur trappers to these mountains within a decade of this time, the beaver would be trapped to near extinction. Wolves would be hunted until none remained, and without this predator, the elk would take over, causing the destruction of the aspen from overgrazing. This was a Yellowstone unfamiliar to her, but it was as nature had intended before the encroachment of man.


Peggy L. Henderson, author,
with lower falls in background

Peggy L Henderson is a laboratory technologist by night, and writes during the day. She has been happily married to her high school sweetheart for many years. Along with her husband and two sons, she makes her home in Southern California. They dream of moving to Montana some day.

Find her and her books (and audiobooks) at the following links!





23 comments:

  1. Peggy, I've always wanted to visit Yellowstone. Thanks for your vicarious trips there. Best wishes for continued success with your books..

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  2. Thank you, Caroline, for inviting me to be your guest today! Yellowstone is a great place to visit. Once you've seen it, you'll never forget it.

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  3. Living in Montana for 24 years, I never had seen the inside of Yellowstone National Park. I loved Peggy's book of Yellowstone Heart Song! It has so many details of the Yellowstone and the adventure and romance all put together. It made me want to go to the park and see all the wonders and places in the book. I did last summer and was honored to meet the author of this wonderful exciting series. Thank you for writing stories that make us want to see the real places.

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    1. Shirl, my jaw dropped the first time you told me you'd never been to Yellowstone! (You live in Montana, woman! How could you not!) It was such a great pleasure to meet you last summer. I wish we could have had more time.

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  4. Hi, Peggy...I lived in Idaho for a long time and I've been to Yellowstone several times, in both summer and winter. Every visit was an incredible experience I'll never forget. My DH and even traveled once over that breathtaking road between Yellowstone and Red Lodge, Montana. (I think that's the name of the town, although it's been a while and I could have forgotten.) I now live in Texas, but I think about life in the mountains every day. Unfortunately, I don't know if I could do winter up there now. I'll be sure to read your books.
    Anna Jeffrey

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    1. Hi Anna,
      Yellowstone in winter is at the top of my bucket list - just as soon as I can afford the clothes! Living in southern California, I don't have the wardrobe for that kind of weather. I think the Beartooth Highway is what you're referring to from Yellowstone to Red Lodge. I've been on it once - spectacular scenery!

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  5. Peggy, I enjoyed learning how your Yellowstone series came about. I remember the first time you mentioned it on our favorite Amazon forum discussion. Doesn't seem very long ago, and look how far you've come. Amazing! Keep it up.

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    1. Hi Lyn,
      It was two years ago when I stuck my very nervous head in the door on the western forum. I was scared to death! Maggie and you and everyone else there were so nice to me. Such a great group of ladies. And now, we've written an anthology together!

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  6. Peggy, nothing like riding through Yellowstone on a Harley which hubby and I have done twice! Congratulations on writing a wonderful series (haven't read them all yet) with such a beautiful setting.

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    1. It must be great to be on a cycle, traveling through the park. I might be scared of the bison on the road, though. I feel just slightly more secure in a car.

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  7. Love Yellowstone and your Yellowstone series.

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    1. Hi Char,
      You're so lucky to live close to the park. Almost a day trip for you.

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  8. You're so kind. The best part of writing has been finding a friend in you. :)

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    1. Carol,
      I blame you for everything, lol. Thank you for believing in me from the beginning. You are a great friend.

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  9. Peggy,

    I loved Yellowstone Heart Song, and hope to move on to Yellowstone Redemption soon.

    I enjoyed reading how the series came about. You are such an inspiration to a newbie author working on her first MS.

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    1. Hi Alisa,
      Congrats on the MS! What an awesome feeling, right? Pretty soon you'll have ten books under your belt.

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  10. Hi Peggy,

    That's really neat, how your first book and the series came into being. My family visited Yellowstone when I was only 10, and I would really like to go back again some day!

    Chad

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    1. Hey Chad,
      Thanks for stopping by. I was never lucky enough to see the park when I was a kid, but it's great to see it through the eyes of my own kids. It looks a bit different as an adult. I hope you get to go back someday.

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  12. Hi Peggy-
    I find it so fascinating how you can draw a story from your surroundings and then bring it to life with your words. The first time I read your books, I was in Red Lodge, MT, and as I was reading, I paused and looked up to see the exact scenery that you were describing (but I was able to imagine it even without looking up because you paint such a beautiful picture). Please continue to share your talents with us. Your books have literally changed my world!

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  13. Your love of the area comes through in your books. Welcome to Smart Girls.

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  14. Peggy, what a fabulous setting for your writing. You really make it come alive. I enjoyed your post and the pics.

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  15. Beautiful covers and such a wonderful location to set your novels. Doing the happy dance because I've added another book to my TBR mountain. *g*

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