These days I mostly focus on writing books that have a proven track record.
For instance, last year I put out just two books – Rose’s Rage and Dulce Truths.
The first sold 189 copies, the second just 17.
So I focus on the mountain man novels, and the next one I’m working on takes us up into 1820-21.
This is a tough period of American history, mainly because so few know about it. Despite that, I have a good list of books that I’ve already read, and will check out at the library again to get additional information on this period. They are:
- Fort Clark and its Indian Neighbors
- The Arikara War
- William Clark and the Shaping of the West
- The American Fur Trade of the Far West
- The First Choteaus
- Fur, Fortune and Empire
- Before Lewis and Clark
- The Fur Trade of the American West
Like I said, I’ve read ‘em all before. Skimmed through ‘em several more times after that.
When you actually sit down to write historical fiction, you need to have facts and details.
- What are your characters supposed to talk about?
- Which events were happening that affect your story?
- What were prices like for goods and services?
- What kind of trees were growing in certain areas?
- What was the temperament of the various tribes at that time?
- How many people lived in certain cities, or in forts or villages?
- Which companies were operating and what did they pay?
- What were the antagonisms of the day?
- How did people view those back in Washington?
- Why on earth would people choose fur trapping as a job?
One of the main things I’m trying to nail-down is which characters were in the fur trapping businesses before William Henry Ashley put out his call for 100 men to join him?
For instance, Hugh Glass was one of these men, and you’ve surely seen the film The Revenant by now.
He got his main start with Ashley and then kicked around for another 10 years on the rivers. Mostly, I need enough characters to get me through another three volumes of the series. That’s usually how I do it – three-volume story arcs.
I already know that a lot of people will die in this book, as they always do in my books. Mostly, we’re talking about Jones and Immel and their party, which was ambushed near present-day Billings in May 1823.
Yep, it was the Blackfeet…again.
You might remember that it was the Blackfeet that drove Americans out of what would become Montana way back in 1810-11.
The whites came back in 1821 to start Fort Benton on the Yellowstone, which lasted until 1823. That same year, the whites were massacred, and didn’t try again until 1831 when Fort Piegan was built on the Marias. The Indians burned it down the following year.
By that time Fort Union was going strong, and had been since 1828. It proved a good starting-off point for many trappers to come into Montana, avoiding the hostiles as much as they could.
Fort Cass came along in 1832 on the Yellowstone. Fort Jackson would come along in 1833, near today’s Poplar. Samuel Tulloch built the former for the American Fur Company, while C.S. Chardon put up the latter for the same outfit.
Then there’s the Arikara War of 1823, the establishment of Fort Atkinson, and the increasing military presence out west.
Business interests had to be protected, especially with more western territories becoming states, and more tax money flowing into government coffers. A war had just been fought five years earlier, and a serious financial panic had happened the year before.
1820-21 was an interesting time in America and in Montana, and I hope to show you that in a fun and entertaining way when this novel is finally finished.
Until then, check out some of those books at the library…or read my own history of the period in a book called Tribes and Trappers: A History of Montana, Volume I.