Recently a reader asked me why and how I wrote The Iron Horse Chronicles. I decided to share my answer with all the readers of this website.
The idea for The Iron Horse Chronicles first came to me in 2006 when I was reading Stephen A. Ambrose’s book, Nothing Like It In The World, which is a narrative history of the building of the first transcontinental railroad. I have been a railroad aficionado since I was a boy and built a model railroad, and I have always been a history buff. It occurred to me that this important historical event would appeal more to younger readers if it were fictionalized. I particularly had my own grandchildren in mind as readers. My original idea was to write a single, middle-grade novel. It became apparent from my original outline that I could not cram everything into one book—a student wouldn’t be able to lift it. Therefore, the trilogy was chosen as the best vehicle. Over several years, I traveled the route of the railroad from Omaha, Nebraska, to Sacramento, California. I visited all the museums and historical sites along the way. I made sure to stop at the locations about which I planned to write so the scenes I composed would accurately reflect those sites. In the process of doing research, I read over 150 books and perused 300 websites about the railroad, the exploration of the West, the plight of the Indians, contemporary weapons’ technology, and mid-nineteenth century life in general. Basic research was completed before I started writing, but it continued through all of the years of writing the three books. I developed an accurate timeline and decided my characters had to be present at the more significant events involved in building the railroad. My characters evolved as I outlined the books from 2006 to 2008. The outline for Eagle Talons is 10,000 words, for example. I developed what is known as a “Writer’s Bible” containing timelines, maps, calendars, historical notes, character rosters, historical character biographies, backstory biographies for fictional characters, and other matters I needed to reference quickly while writing. I decided to use the omniscient third-person point of view so I could reveal the thoughts and actions of the three principal characters. I selected fictional character names that are familiar today, but were also common in the nineteenth century. I purposely made the antagonist an Irishman so no one could accuse me of prejudice. My characters were firmly in mind before I put the first words to paper in 2009. By the end of that year, I had finished book one. From 2010 through 2012, 33 agents and publishers rejected the book. In 2013, Five Star Publishing acquired the rights to book one. Five Star specializes in western and frontier fiction, and they are a major provider of books to libraries–public and educational institutions. While marketing book one, I proceeded to write the other two books. Subsequently, Five Star also acquired and published books two and three.
This was such a good question, I have added the answer to the FAQ section of this website.