lovely author, E.E. Burke. She’s a talented writer and has worked hard to build
her career. A finalist and winner of many contests including a Maggie Award, a
Daphne Award and RWA’s most prestigious Golden Heart, Elisabeth has certainly earned the
right to publish her wonderful story, Kate’s Outlaw.
with three award-winning authors whose fascination with the TV series “Hell on
Wheels” led to a historical romance anthology they wrote together. E.E. Burke, author of the novella Kate’s Outlaw, which is featured in
the anthology Passion’s Prize is sharing her story with us today.
Thank you, Mimi, for hosting us and letting us share
about our stories. Mine is the third of three interlinked novellas revolving
around a historic railroad race through southern Kansas in 1870. We mentioned
that we came up with this idea after watching the AMC television series, Hell
On Wheels. Let me explain a little as to why this series inspired me.
Like Jennifer and Jacqui, I’m a huge fan of
Westerns. There are so few anymore with truly legendary characters (think Clint
Eastwood and Sam Elliott). Hell On Wheels has those kinds of characters: larger
than life, complex and deeply flawed, a mix of good and bad. I love that about
the show, and those are the kind of characters I like to write about.
There is an interview with Anson Mount (who plays
Cullen Bohannon) on TV.com where he says he’d rather play the role of a “weak”
man, versus the stereotypical strong man. I think what he’s saying is a flawed
character makes a much more interesting character, and one we can more readily
identify with. I couldn’t agree more.
Beyond the appeal of writing these kinds of
characters, the fact that this show has been a big enough hit to warrant three
seasons indicates people are hungry for great Westerns.
Jennifer, Jacqui and I made the Golden Heart finals
in 2010 with Western historical romances. The idea of writing something
together seemed natural, and using the expansion of the railroads as a backdrop
was very appealing. Even before I started watching Hell On Wheels, I wanted to
set a book in this era because it captures the passions and ambitions that
drove America to ultimately become what it is today.
I’d done quite a bit of research on two railroads in
Kansas that engaged in a cutthroat construction race in 1870. When I mentioned
this to Jennifer and Jacqui, they were excited about using the race as the
backdrop for the book we’d write together. Honestly, we couldn’t come up with
better ideas than what really happened: spies, outlaws, saboteurs, fraud,
settler riots…gosh, that’s like great movie stuff.
We decided to write three novellas interlinked by an
underlying plot (racing for riches) and a cast of characters drawn from life.
We brainstormed the characters, and then each of us took the couple we wanted
to write about. I chose the heiress and the outlaw.
Kate Parsons is the heir to the railroad and the
fortune that comes with it. She also happens to be a free-spirited crusader for
equal rights. She comes west to prove to her father that she can run the
railroad as well as any man.
Jake Colson is an outlaw, and he happens to be
Cherokee. Why make the outlaw a Native American? Historically, the railroad
faced significant opposition from the Cherokee (and other tribes in what was
then Indian Territory, now modern day Oklahoma), who didn’t want the “smoking
dragon” to cross their lands.
This set up a perfect conflict. Add to that, Kate is
wealthy and white and Jake is poor and he’s Cherokee. They face all kinds of
obstacles before they can get to their happy ending. And that leads us into my
story, which I think will speak for itself.
The Katy Railroad may have won a contentious race
against their rival, but construction comes to screeching stop six miles inside
Indian Territory—halted by the Cherokee, who refuse to let the “smoking
dragon” pass. With bankruptcy looming, railroad heiress Kate Parsons takes
negotiations into her own hands. Her plans go awry when she’s abducted, and
worse, finds herself attracted to one of her Cherokee captors, a man so
sinfully handsome he could steal more than her fortune if she doesn’t escape.
Jake Colson, known among his people as Wa-ya, “the
Wolf,” didn’t intend to kidnap anyone, but now he’s stuck with a white woman
whose personality is as bold as her fiery curls. When his partner threatens to
kill her before she can expose their scheme to save their land, Jake takes off
with his beautiful captive. Now, he must protect the woman he’s named Redbird,
and at the same time prevent her father’s railroad from steaming ahead.
(Excerpt from Kate’s Outlaw)
Uk-tena crouched on metal rails with its nose
pointed south, directly at the heart of the Tsa-la-gi Nation. Tonight, it
didn’t hiss or spew smoke, as usual, but lay silent as a predator anticipating
which his people had named after a mythical serpent. Not because they believed
it had special powers. Everyone knew it was just a machine. But like its
namesake, the “smoking dragon” had been created as a tool of domination. Its
owners were the real monsters—and they had to be stopped.
struck the engine’s iron skin, turning it silver. Jake crouched lower, trying
to make himself small. An impossible task when he was taller than most men,
including the one in front of him. He stood out when he’d rather fit in.
on the other side. Orange flames leapt above the heads of dancers, their
writhing silhouettes casting eerie shadows over a patch of ground cleared for
the celebration. Strains of fiddle music mixed with shouts of drunken revelry.
sunset and wouldn’t end anytime soon. Members of the Tribal Council hadn’t
attended, even though they were the honored guests, and they’d warned their
people to stay away. But there were always those happy to take advantage of
to steal the payroll.
side of the train.
concealed him from view, but Jake was close enough to see his cousin’s fingers
curl around the handle of his revolver. The gun slithered out of the holster.
started shooting with all these armed workers around, they’d both get killed.
Of course, if they were caught stealing, they’d be hung from the nearest tree.
Denim-clad legs scissored past. As the footfalls faded, he released a slow breath.
By Thunder, this job would be his last. After tonight, they ought to have
adequate funds to defend their land from those who wanted to take it.
whispered. “I wager the owner brought the payroll with him.”
taking care not to tread loudly, and eased the door open. The compartment was
pulled down tasseled curtains, which were rolled up on brass rods. A match
rasped, followed by a sulfurous smell, then a soft glow filled the compartment.
features, making the scar more noticeable. During the war, he’d been struck in
the face with a saber and the injury pulled his mouth down in a permanent
grimace. The worse scars, however, couldn’t be seen. They were the ones on his
like a fancy office than a railcar. There was a sitting area, a table spread
with papers and maps, a large desk positioned in front of bookcases that were
pushed up against a partial wall, and beyond that, probably sleeping quarters.
Last time, the money had been in a safe, something they’d been able to easily
discover. But if there was no safe…
drawers—locked—then ran his hands underneath, feeling for a release that might
trigger a secret compartment. “Nothing. I’ll bet he keeps the key on him.
We’ll have to pry it open.”
to work on the top drawer.
and stuffed the contents inside his coat. He threw a frowning glance over his
shoulder. “Hurry up. I hear something.”
pressed his back against the wall to the left of the door and pulled a knife
from a sheath in his boot.
That was the deal.
hair as bright as a sunset.
only seen her from afar, there was no mistaking her fiery crown. It was the
same woman who’d been following the railroad for months, mostly on the arm of
screaming, she raised her chin and leveled a stern look. “What are you
doing in here? This is a private office.”
with grim intent. Surely, he wouldn’t harm a woman.
before Charley clapped one hand over her mouth and jerked her back against him,
putting the razor-sharp blade to her throat.
leap over and grab the knife. But he checked himself. If he startled her, she
might bolt, and the glint in Charley’s eyes made it clear she wouldn’t get
“See if someone followed.”
lingered by the car and the only sounds were the strains of music and drunken
laughter. He shut the door.
smart enough to keep her wits about her. Now he had to calm Charley down.
long enough to find the money. Let’s tie her up and get out of here.”
in his arms. “She’s seen us. It’ll ruin our cover.”
her brow knitted with confusion. Better she didn’t understand.
will be the wiser.” Charley made the remark as casually as if he were
discussing the weather.
protectiveness, he moved closer. Charley might be right about the danger of
letting her go, but killing her was out of the question. “I’ve got a
better idea. Give her to me.”
About the author:
E.E. Burke writes sexy, suspenseful historical
romance set in the American west. Her writing has earned accolades in regional
and national contests, including the prestigious Golden Heart®. Over the years,
she’s been a disc jockey, a journalist and an advertising executive, before
finally getting around to pursuing her dream of writing novels. Her stories are
as deeply rooted in American soil as her family, which she can trace back to
the earliest colonists and through both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. She
lives in Kansas City with her husband and three daughters, the greatest
inspiration of all.
Jacqui Nelson says
Elisabeth, I agree with you and Anson — a "flawed character makes a much more interesting character, and one we can more readily identify with." It's been wonderful seeing our project progress through the creation stages and now it's amazing to see it all together. I never get tired of looking are our book covers 🙂
It's always more fun to share doing what we love with friends. Thanks for making the journey with me. And yes, I stare at my cover with just about every day. Rick Mora makes a mighty fine outlaw, don't you think?
Jacqui Nelson says
Yes Rick does make a "mighty fine" outlaw! For those of you who don't know who Rick Mora is — think Twilight, and check his website http://www.rickmora.com/
Jodie Esch says
Super excerpt. What a writing journey for all of you. I'm sure you learned lots along the way. All the best with this adventure!
Jennifer Jakes says
Great interview. Very well put! I guess we should have thanked the cast and crew of HOW for bringing to life the genre we all love. LOL And yes, Rick makes an awesome outlaw.
Jennifer McAndrews says
oh, what a great excerpt! And I love the "Hell on Wheels" inspiration. heading over to Amazon to purchase now. So glad I saw this! : )
Katy Madison says
I love a flawed character and Jake is a great one!
Ellie Anne says
Can't wait to sink into your story. 🙂
Thanks Jennifer! Thanks Ellie Anne. Appreciate your support. And Katy, you know Jake wouldn't be nearly so swoon-worthy if not for your expert critiquing. Speaking of flawed characters, you write wonderfully flawed characters! Can't wait for the next one to make his debut.
Jodie, thanks for visiting. Appreciate your encouragement!
Thank you, Mimi, for hosting me. Appreciate everyone's comments. I'll be sending a book out to one of you just as soon as I can track down the email. All the best!