Q. Your newest book, A Heart for Any Fate, tells the story of your great-great-great-great grandmother, Hannah Cole’s, journey from Virginia to frontier Missouri. Did you grow up hearing about her?

A. When we’d visit my relatives in Missouri we would sometimes stop at the roadside cemetery where Hannah is buried. I was vaguely aware that she had some historic significance, but I didn’t know the details. It wasn’t until I started my book that I realized what an amazing woman she was.

Q. What prompted you to delve into her story?

A. Credit for that goes to my uncle, Bill Lyon, who was a professor of history at Northern Arizona University. For fifty years he’d been tracking down Hannah and Stephen Cole’s story, and that culminated in an article he wrote for a local historical society publication. When I became a writer, he suggested that Hannah would make a terrific subject for one of my books. Frankly, I ignored him for a while—after all, everyone thinks their own family history makes for good reading when the reality is usually quite different. But he persisted, sending me his files on the subject. I read through them and got hooked!

Q. What kind of research did you do to ferret out the story?

A. Bill had already documented most of the historical details, to the extent possible. I followed up on all of his sources, and added quite a bit of my own research into what life was like back in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. I tried to follow in Hannah’s footsteps, visiting the area of southwest Virginia where she was raised, going over the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky, scouting out Boonville, Missouri, where she finally settled.

Q. You've written two books about outlaw Butch Cassidy. What interested you in his story?

A. I remember going to see the famous movie about him starring Paul Newman when I was just a kid. I loved the way Newman portrayed Butch as having 1960's-era sensitivities: gentle with the ladies, introspective, funny, non-violent. Years later, I watched the movie again, and wondered if this portrayal was even close to accurate. So I read everything I could find about him and got hooked! From his beginnings in a hardscrabble but honest Mormon family, to his mysterious end in a South American backwater (perhaps!), his life was an enigma. I wanted to write his story, keeping as close to the known version of events as possible, but filling in the blanks with my own imagination.

Q. What are you working on now?

A. Talk about switching gears! My current project is a contemporary mystery series set at a glamorous ski resort in the Rocky Mountains. The protagonist, Winslow Arizona (yes, you read that right!), is a rookie ski patroller who lands smack dab in the middle of a murder plot. Stay tuned...



Last update October 2005
Contact the Web Witch
Web Witch Design