Are you curious about where stories come from, and what lies behind them? Here are a few answers to some
Frequently Asked Questions about SEARCHING FOR SILVERHEELS.
What inspired you to write the story?
How long did it take to write the book?
Is the legend of Silverheels real?
Who created the cover art?
Here's what it says on the back of the book:
Pearl spends the summers helping run the family café and entertaining tourists with the legend of Silverheels, a beautiful dancer who nursed miners through a smallpox epidemic in 1861 and then mysteriously disappeared.
Pearl believes the tale is true, but she is mocked by Josie, a suffragist who thinks Silverheels was a crook, not a savior. She challenges Pearl to a bet: prove that Silverheels was the kindhearted angel of legend, or help Josie pass out the suffragist pamphlets that drive away the tourists. Not to mention driving away handsome George Crawford.
As Pearl looks for the truth, darker forces are at work in her small town. The United States’s entry into World War I casts suspicion on German immigrants, and anyone who criticizes the president during wartime—including Josie. How do you choose what’s right when it could cost you everything you have?
But there's more to what it's about.
That thought opened up a whole new set of thoughts about the story--about what a good scam it would be to stick around and nurse a bunch of dying miners who loved you. Because when they die, you get their gold.
And just like that, I thought, what a great story--two people with these different views, trying to find the truth. By the time I got home from that trip, I had an idea of the plot and the setting. Within a weeks, I knew I wanted to set the story in World War I and build in the suffragist movement, since I was writing about the power of women.
When the idea for a book comes to me strong and fast, the way SEARCHING FOR SILVERHEELS did, it doesn't take me long to write. The idea came to me in October of 2011, and by March, I had a completed, revised, polished manuscript off to my editor.
I wasn't done then, though. Because my editor came back to me in the fall of 2012 and said she wanted some major changes. Those took another month. All in all, if I put all the time I worked on it together, it probably took about six months. Which is pretty fast for writing and revising a novel. That kind of speed will probably never happen to me again.
Yes! The legend is a Colorado legend, and there really is a mountain named after her (that’s it in the picture above!). The mountain is easily seen from Fairplay, Colorado, as well as the tiny towns of Alma and Como.
The truth of the legend, however, is hard to pin down. A variety of towns around Colorado claim to be the location of the epidemic, and over the years, a number of possible names have been given to Silverheels. There are different versions, and very little historical record to back up any of them. That's how legends are.
The setting of the story is mostly real, but slightly modified. I wanted Pearl to live in a town where the railroad brought tourists and travelers through. The best town in the area for that was Como, so that’s where I set the story. In 1917, Como was a thriving railroad town. Today, it has about 200 residents, mostly there only for the summer. Here’s what Como looks like today:
However, the town of Buckskin Joe, which Pearl visits in the story, is actually near a town on the other side of Mt. Silverheels, the town of Alma, not Como. I moved it to make the story work a little better. The cemetery I describe in the story is a blend of the old cemetery at Como and the one at Buckskin Joe, but I did that for a reason.
Here’s what the Como cemetery looks like today:
And here’s the real Buckskin Joe cemetery:
Today, spruce and fir trees grow between the graves at Buckskin Joe, but in Colorado, in an area where trees have been cut, aspen always grow back in before fir and spruce. So I believe in Pearl’s time, the Buckskin Joe cemetery would have been more like the Como cemetery is today, filled with aspen trees rather than spruce and fir. But the graves in my book, with their old wooden crosses with names scratched into them, are true to what you find at Buckskin Joe today.
Many people ask me if I picked the artist. I did not. The covers are done entirely by my publisher, and I don't see them until they are completed.
This cover image was created by Italian artists Anna and Elena Balbusso. They are identical twins, living and working in Milan, Italy. To see more of their amazing art, click on their names above.