Even as her twenty-fourth title is about to be published, award-winning historical western romance author Linda Broday isn't slowing down. In our conversation, she told me, "I don’t want to waste any time goofing off. This is my second chance. I won’t get a third." Disciplined and hungry to write, Linda doesn't let any of life's curve balls stand in her way and has plenty in store for her readers.
LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE: This coming week (January 29th, to be precise), your new series and twenty-fourth title, The Outlaw's Mail Order Bride, will be launched. How does that feel?
LINDA BRODAY: I’m always happy (and greatly relieved) to have another book under my belt. It seems the older I get, the more grateful I am that I can continue to put them out. But I have such a love for this craft that drives me. I’m sure I’ll go to my grave with unfulfilled dreams and stories churning in my head. Ha!
Is there anything about The Outlaw Mail Order Bride series that gives you a different set of feels from when you published your other series?
This Outlaw Mail Order Bride series is very different from my others in that I incorporated so much more historical fact into each story -- and it’s set here in the Texas Panhandle where I live. I’ve never set a book here -- much less a series -- where I have personal knowledge of the landscape, plants, wildlife, and weather. When an author doesn’t have to rely on books and online articles, I think it makes a story seem more authentic.
Let’s go back to the “historical fact” part of what you just said; was there much research involved for The Outlaw’s Mail Order Bride?
Writers must research, and that’s a fact. I had to study quite a bit for this first book in the series. For example, my female protagonist Tally wears a diamond-shaped tattoo on one cheek that declares her the property of the Creedmore Lunatic Asylum. I had to find out if it was possible to remove a tattoo back then and was surprised to find that the Egyptians created a process in 4000 B.C. that made it possible to remove one from slaves when they obtained freedom. It was a painful procedure and often left scarring; however, Tally does have hers removed.
In the The Outlaw's Mail Order Bride, Tally and some of the other characters have escaped from the Creedmore Lunatic Asylum – that must have been some interesting research.
Lunatic asylums had no oversight or laws to govern them until around 1950. If a husband wanted to get rid of a wife, or a family member wanted to make someone disappear, they could stick them into an asylum. Here are some actual reasons people gave for putting someone in West Virginia’s Hospital for the Insane from 1864-1889: Political Excitement, Immoral Life, Female Trouble, Blindness, Epileptic Seizures, Bad Company, Religious Enthusiasm, and my favorite—Novel Reading. This fit in with the reasons why Tally Shannon and her group of escapees were hiding out in Deliverance Canyon.
Let’s talk about the leading men in your books. Tell me what character qualities are essential?
I want my men to be tough yet gentle, to treat everyone fairly, to show kindness to the poor and downtrodden. He lives with honor and respect for women, never condescending or showing dominance over her. He’s a man who lives by a code he set down for himself and personal rules he’ll never break, no matter what. My heroes also love animals and have reverence for the land.
And the leading women?
My ladies are smart, caring, and compassionate, and take care of themselves. She’s not going to stand around waiting for a man to come along and rescue her. She’ll do what she can to get out of a situation before accepting help. She’s strong and independent, knows when to speak and when to hold her tongue. She and my hero respect people of all nationalities.
On your website, you unapologetically say you come from “a long line of poor but prideful people.” Would you say this influenced your writing?
I think every event in my past has influenced my stories. The fact that my family was homeless for part of my life is the reason I really love writing about poor people. I know how they think, how they feel, their hopes and dreams, and the things that keep them awake at night because I lived it. I was born in a tent in 1948 and didn’t move into a house until I was about three years old. My daddy was a bootlegger and Mom took in washing and ironing. I can still picture her standing over a rub board then iron for hours and hours, making fifty cents per dozen pieces. That was a hard way to make money.
The challenges didn’t end after your childhood, did they?
No, they didn’t. An event that had a huge impact on me was the large tornado that tore through my husband’s and my home in Wichita Falls in 1979. I faced certain death as I lay on top of my three small children in a hallway; I didn’t see how we’d survive. The tornado was huge and terrifying, and yet it was the aftermath that tested me most. We were left homeless for a year until the government brought in trailer houses for the survivors. To say that was a difficult year is an understatement. At times we didn’t know where we’d sleep or get food. That devastates you when you have little children looking to you for answers.
To have survived all that you had to that point is miraculous and more than most have to handle in a lifetime. Did things level out after that?
They didn't. On another deeply personal level, I discovered I had MS in 1998. It was one more trial that God sent my way. Some days it’s hard to manage even simple tasks, but I try not to dwell on what I can’t do and focus instead on what I can. I want to live each day to the fullest and have no regrets that I didn’t try.
How in the world do you move forward and learn from all that’s happened?
I discovered that life is full of tests and to fail wasn’t the end; it simply meant that I had to start over. I learned that we’re human and to forgive myself when I mess up. I also found that I have a deep well inside me that contains more strength than I ever thought possible. We all do, and knowing when to tap into it is something we each must figure out.
Linda, you are one of those people that my husband would call Velcro for friends. From the time we were introduced via email a couple of years ago, I felt your warmth and energy and approachability from all the way across the state. I know your readers feel the same way. Can you share a little bit about how you make time for them in the midst of everything else?
Writing does take up so much of my days, but I love my readers (and friends) and I know I wouldn’t be here without them. I can’t do this alone. I try to let them know how important they are and how much I value them by commenting on their Facebook and Twitter posts and keeping up on what’s happening in their lives. When I can, I send birthday wishes, congratulations, and sympathy—not only online but actual cards in the mail. I’ve driven many miles to meet a reader who couldn’t come all the way. Those who do wind up in Amarillo, I meet for a meal or coffee. I like to make them feel special because they are very appreciated.
Saving the Mail Order Bride, the second book in your OMOB series, comes out in April. Can you give us a peek at what’s after that? (more books? Naps? Vacation?)
A nap? Ha! Sounds perfect if only… Seriously, I have a novella in a Christmas anthology coming out in October, and book three in the Outlaw Mail Order Brides in early 2020. Then I’ll publish the fourth and last book in this series, probably mid-2020, after which I’ll start a new, already contracted series that’s set around the turn of the century.
And because your plate isn’t full enough with all your contractual commitments, you self-published Gunsmoke & Lace? Is this one of those it-seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time things?
I self-pubbed Gunsmoke and Lace, my first indie book, in June 2018. It’s a collection of short stories I’d written over the years. The first one, “The Telegraph Tree,” won third place in Women Writing the West’s short story competition and also an award from Wyoming Writers, Inc. For years, I had just stuck the stories in a file on my computer, doing no one any good. I wanted to make them available to readers, so I went through the process of finding a cover and finding people to edit, format, and put it into book form. I have to say that it was very tedious, and I didn’t enjoy it at all – but it’s out, and I’m happy about that.
Favorite book? Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Number of books on your nightstand? 8
Interesting writing ritual? I have to have colored pens laid out to the left of my computer.
Favorite quote? “She stood in the storm, and when the wind didn’t blow her away, she adjusted her sails.” -- Elizabeth Edwards
Team Oxford comma? This is a work in progress. My publisher insists on using it.