It’s about mountain man John Colter and his solo journey into the wilderness during the winter of 1806-7.
Actually, that’s not quite true – Colter headed upriver from the Knife River on August 23, 1806, with two other men, Joseph Dixon and Forest Hancock. After that not much is known.
I’ve written several historical novels already, and I’m pretty good at it now. The problem I run into with this book is that there are large swaths of time I don’t know about. What’s more, to cover that up, I’m making up a few things…though at least they involved historical characters.
For instance, who is my antagonist here? While the weather and the elements can be one, that doesn’t make for a very exciting novel.
No, I need a real antagonist, someone that can go into the other novels, or at least bring forth an idea of conflict. And that’s why I need an Indian.
We know that the Arikara lived along the Grande River in the 1700s from European explorers. We know that by the 1790s they were up to the Cannonball River and by 1804-6 were around the Knife River, which was the same general area the Mandan villages were at, which had about 3,000 Indians in them at the time.
Something else that we know is that Colter and Hancock left Dixon in a cave somewhere on the Yellowstone River over the winter, when the snows came.
But what about that bad guy? Imagine a Wes Studi-type that feels he’s been wronged by these men, and that will stop at nothing to get them. Imagine something setting up our later encounters between Colter and the Blackfeet, which he’s most known for.
That’s what I’m doing with this book, and it starts out a bit slow, the tension builds and builds, and then when the dam breaks the excitement does not stop, like water rushing downriver that needs a release and won’t get it until it comes flooding into it’s grand finale and conclusion.
And what happens after that? I mean, we’re not even up to Colter’s run yet.
It was a long journey after that winter spent out in the wild alone, and Colter never kept a journal and we just don’t know what happened on that stretch of the river. With this new John Colter novel, however, we’ll have one fun ride speculating.
I hope you’ll enjoy “Colter’s Winter” when I put it out next month – sign up to my email list to hear about it first.