Monday, August 26, 2013

Day 6: Meet Lauraine Snelling, author of The Cowboy's Angel

Today's Pioneer author, Lauraine, answers our 12 questions and gives us a behind-the-scenes glimpse of her novella The Cowboy's Angel. (You can read a brief synopsis of The Cowboy's Angel in last Monday's post.)

1. What made you write about your period in time?

The guidelines said pioneer and I love writing pioneer stories, 1880-1900 is my favorite but I moved  A Cowboy’s Angel a bit earlier due to where I wanted to put the story.

2. How is Christmas celebrated in your family and what effect did it have on your writing this story?

I have loved angel stories forever and have wanted to do one for some time. Christmas is an ideal time since the entire Christ story is one miracle after another. God uses so many ways to take care of us and get through to us. We also incorporated some Norwegian traditions, especially in the baking, because that is the way I was reared.

Placing the angel on top of the tree always makes me pause, both because our angel has been in our family for many years and because of the significance. Angels came to announce not only Christ’s birth but deliver many messages. Since God is the same today as forever, why would He stop sending angels in our time?

3. What research did you do to authenticate Christmas celebrations in your story?

I have read many family histories and talked with people around the country asking what they remembered of their family stories. So often God uses an unlikely person to be blessed by His emissaries---angels. Voices soften when the one I’m talking with decides to share an angel story from their family. The wonder of it makes my heart leap.

4. When you dreamed up your story idea, what came first, the time period, the story, the location?

The time period and my dream to write about an angel. Setting it in Dakota Territory was natural since I’ve written so many stories set in that area.

5. What was the "germ" of your story idea and how did you flesh it out?

A baby born, father missing, out on the prairie.  I set that in the thinking hopper and started the “what if” game, my first line of defense in creating a new story. What if a young, pregnant woman with a little boy, is keeping the homestead while her husband drove off to get winter supplies in their only wagon drawn by their only mule? What if he has not returned? Hmm.  So who is the hero? A cowboy traveling from a spread in Texas to save his boss’s ranch in western Dakota Territory? How does he find the family in distress? The rest flowed after I understood the skeleton.

6. Would you like to have been there?

I felt like I was. God has given me a powerful imagination. We have an authentic sod house built in Drayton, ND for my emigrant stories set in Blessing, ND. The thought of living in that confined space makes me shudder. Also, I really do not like to be cold. I admit I am a wuss. But living my stories is part and parcel of what I do to write them.

7. What aspects of your characters are reflected in yours?

Dogged determination to finish something one has started, especially when a new life dream is to own free land that cost lives, blood, tears and faith. My cowboy’s quandary to help someone in distress when already on a mission for his boss. He is a problem solver and a true hero, willing to sacrifice for others. Besides that baby wrapped her little fingers around his heart and would not let go.

8. Have you been to the locations in which your story is set?

Not the exact location but the general area west of I 29 and south of Fargo, out of the Red River valley. Farmers and ranchers had to work incredibly hard to make a life there.

9. What surprised you the most about your story?

My cowboy’s solution to the dilemma. I had planned a different ending. I love it when stories take on a life of their own and go on their own way in spit of the author’s supposed plans.

10. Would you have made a good pioneer?

Yes, because I come from a line of hard working, adventuresome people. And I love living close to the land, just not as close as they were forced to do. But I am extremely grateful to live today. I love hot running water, electricity and I have a love/hate relationship with my computer. I’ve never been a really good typist and the idea of hand writing novels? Hmm, rather not.

11. Were any of your ancestors pioneers? If so, where and when?

Both sides of my family are of Norwegian heritage and my mother’s immediate family came to help on a relative’s farm in 1910, near Park River, ND. Sons of the Pioneers is a title to fit them, and that included the daughters. Uncle’s farm was on the western edge of the Red River Valley. The Pleasant Valley Lutheran Church honored those settlers every year until the last ones passed away. My Uncle Gilbert died at 99 and a half, I think the last of that generation in that area. Farming is indeed in my blood and so I write about farmers every chance I get.

12. What spiritual themes did you deliberately incorporate into your story? Which ones did you discover later?

Two spiritual themes seem to be present in many of the novels I write; trusting God in spite of what is happening and forgiveness, the latter of forgiving both oneself and those around you. The theme I did not intentionally put in The Cowboy’s Angel was our inherent questioning of “why did God do what He did” but that is also part of trust because if you believe there is no God, how can you blame Him for what happens? But we try to do both when times are the hardest. Fear is another symptom of lack of trust, but how can one not be fearful out on the prairie when left alone, pregnant and with a small son who depends on his ma alone now that his pa is gone? Only God can heal that kind of fear. 

You can find Lauraine at:

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