I met Erin Gray this past fall, when I had the great honor of attending the Women Writing the West conference in Albuquerque as a finalist for the WILLA Literary Awards for FORGIVEN. Erin, currently serving as president of WWW, is a bubbly young woman who set a fascinating tale of young Lenora fighting corruption and facing danger in 1925 in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. (Erin recently hosted me on her blog.) We share a lot in common - love of the west, love of hiking, love of the 1920s - and I'm delighted to host her today on the blog.
Congratulations on the publication of your novel, MOONSHINE MURDER. It’s a wonderful tale! Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?
Thank you, Janet. Here’s a bit from the novel:
It’s 1925. The small cabin deep in the San Juan Mountains is the only home seventeen-year-old Lenora Giovanni has ever known. But when her father dies from tainted moonshine, leaving her alone, she is forced into a life of danger.
MOONSHINE MURDER is a murder mystery / historical fiction. I was first inspired to write this story on a backpacking trip deep in the San Juan Mountains. I stumbled upon an abandoned miner’s cabin and was instantly intrigued. What kind of person would live here? What kind of life would that be? I started hitting the local museums and historical societies and unearthed some of the biggest secrets in the Four Corners – moonshine in the mountains.
How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first effort?
I’ve been writing before I could even construct a sentence. My older sister was my scribe, and I would dictate the stories oozing from my imagination.
I wrote another historical fiction based on the Irish Immigrants during the Great Potato Famine. I never sought publication for this piece, but the desire to become published certainly started with that story.
Can you describe your path to the publication of MOONSHINE MURDER?
The path to publication for MOONSHINE MURDER is a long one. If you go to my blog, I have posted a picture of my drafts. It’s a very large pile, and I regret having to kill so many lovely trees to get to this point. But it was worth it.
I started writing this tale in 2003 between teaching middle school language arts. I first submitted to a publisher in the spring of 2006, right after the birth of my first son. From there I received several rejections, some kind enough to give me tips. I would edit, and submit again.
My contract offer came in the spring of 2012, and publication in the fall of 2012.
What research tricks or tools did you use while writing the novel?
I start with an idea, a time in history, or simply a curiosity. From there I hit the museums, the historical societies, the library. I try to get leads to primary sources. I’ve been fortunate enough to have interviews from people who experienced what I wrote about, and who remember what Prohibition in Durango was like. Some of my juiciest details are true tales.
Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
I will give the same advice given to me by western writer, Louis L’Amour’s wife – be persistent and never give up. Believe in yourself and your gift. Write every chance you get, and then write even more.
Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?
I have a wonderful family. I live in Southwest Colorado with my husband, two sons (6 and 1), an ole dog and two cats named Slobbers and Sugar. I love to backpack-- to be a part of nature.
Do you have any new writing ventures underway?
Yes. I am writing a historical fiction based on the legend of a preacher’s daughter turned outlaw who used the Cliff dwellings in Southwestern Colorado as her hideout.
That sounds terrific - I can't wait! Do you have a website where readers can learn more about MOONSHINE MURDER and your other books?