Author Interview: Lynda J. Cox

(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Lynda was written by Lynda J. Cox.)

Not sure if Kelly was at the ranch house already, Lynda pushed the dually faster than safety would deem prudent on the slick, muddy approach to the old homestead. Just the past weekend, this part of Wyoming had been buried under a foot of heavy, spring snow. A week of sixty degree or better temperatures and most of the snow had retreated to shaded outcrops, the grasses were turning a deep shade of green, but the melting snow made the dirt roads treacherous. The last pasture gate before reaching the house was shut and there were no fresh tire tracks scoring the yellow/brown path through the sage and grasses. Lynda realized she hadn’t seen any tire marks since she turned off Old Gilchrist Road onto the five mile long road leading to the homestead.

She got out of the pickup, opened the gate, and drove over the cattle grate, a chill brushing her with the shade cast by the massive arching wrought iron sign that declared she was on Lazy L property. Getting out of the truck again to close the gate, she paused and tilted her head back, letting the noonday April sun wash over her face. The silence here wasn’t silence. A meadowlark trilled somewhere behind her, the notes like liquid gold. Far off in the distance, high overhead, a hawk’s scream was a muffled “kee-kee.”. Shading her eyes, she scanned the cloudless expanse for the winged predator. It was little more than a small black dot against the azure dome. The wind was a constant voice in this open space…today it was a hoarse whisper through the sages. On the shaded side of the drainage ditch cut along the edge of the “road” the melting snowbanks hissed as they rotted in the bright sunlight.

This empty, seemingly desolate landscape was home. And, less than a mile away was the house she desperately needed to see. Lynda climbed into the cab of the truck, clutched down, and dropped it into gear. When the road swung into a wide arcing turn over an eon’s old, eroded hogback, the ranch house came into view in the small valley below. It was exactly as she remembered it—wide veranda wrapping completely around the home, the massive bay window on the second floor so the home’s occupants could start and end the day with the view of Tableau Mesa supporting the western horizon—the flag pole in the front of the house was a new addition but somehow it didn’t seem out of place to see Old Glory snapping in the stiff breeze with the state flag of Wyoming mounted directly below the American flag. Daffodils bobbed their yellow heads from the confines of flower beds, their only neighbors seeming to be a myriad of white rose cones, protecting the still dormant plants from the unreliability of Wyoming’s weather. That roses could be grown in this semi-arid land still amazed her.

She climbed the wide flight of steps onto the porch and opened the screened back door. Nothing here had changed, either. Though the house now had electricity, provided by a bank of solar panels built directly into the roof and a wind generator which doubled as a water pump for the large trough by the barn, the massive Hoosier stove still dominated one wall of the kitchen. A neatly stacked grouping of wood filled the box next to the black monster. Pine cabinets appeared to have been painted and then a crackling medium had been applied, giving them a very aged look. The counter tops were still pine, multiple coats of resin and knife marks testament to how often they were still utilized. Hard wood floors were grooved and scored by decades of tread and it seemed more than a few pairs of spurs that had been neglected to be removed before entering the house.

“Hello! I’m here,” Lynda called.

Kelly sat at the piano playing it a bit. She stopped when she heard someone approaching the house, and when Lynda announced her presence, Kelly turned on the bench to greet her. “Hey, Lynda!

“Kelly. How the heck did you beat me here?” The sense of deja-vu was overwhelming. The piano dominating the front parlor, the cut crystal tumblers on the side board… “I didn’t see any tire tracks.”

Kelly smirked. “I’m the Muse, remember? I can appear wherever I want whenever I wait. Besides, I knew there was a piano here, and I wanted to play a little.” She motioned to the piano then turned her attention back at Lynda as she rose to her feet. “Shall we take a seat and get started?” They went to sit down, and Kelly smiled at Lynda. “So, tell me a bit about yourself. Other than writing, I’ve heard you work with dogs? How exactly?”

“I show them—on the beauty pageant side. They’re judged on how closely they conform—in that day’s judge’s opinion–to a standard of perfection written by the Collie Club of America and approved by the American Kennel Club. I’m also a western historical writer. I grew up with westerns and John Wayne. And, I have a master’s degree in English.”

Kelly smiled when she heard John Wayne. It’d been a long time since she’d watched those films, but they were always good. “So, I’ve got to ask, do dogs ever show up in your story since you work so slowly with them?”

“Amazingly, not yet. Because each dog has such a unique (and sometimes very quirky) personality, adding a dog to my stories would be the same as introducing a total character. Not fair to the dog to make him/her cardboard and only window dressing.”

Kelly nodded when she heard this. “That makes sense. I’ve always wanted to add my Doberman into a story but felt it unjust that she’d be sidelined.” Kelly sat back in her chair. “When did you first become serious about writing?”

Lynda crossed the room, and stared out the window at the flat roof of Tableau Mesa dominating the western horizon. “Serious about it? I’ve been serious about it since my first marriage when writing was my lifeline to sanity. I got serious about publication when I started work on my master’s.”

Kelly tilted her head to a side when she heard this. “And you said you write westerns…why westerns? I think they’re pretty cool, but why did they speak to you?”

“I grew up in the west, figuratively speaking.” Lynda hadn’t turned from the window. “I had a steady diet of the old syndicated westerns, my dad was a huge John Wayne fan, and my Grandfather Harris would read me bedtime stories of the Knights of the Round Table.” Lynda turned to the Muse and leaned back against the window sill. “Extrapolating those Knights to the Knights of the Plains wasn’t a long stretch. There was (and still is) a code of honor among the cowboy: Keep your word. Treat women and children as you’d want your Momma or young’uns treated. Listen a whole lot more than you speak.”

Kelly paused for a second, contemplating her next question. Finally, she leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees. “Okay, I have a question to ask, but before I can ask that one I need to first ask you to tell me about your story.” She smiled at Lynda. “Who are the characters? their conflicts? And such?”

Lynda laughed before she answered. “Which story? Which characters? There are times I feel like I have an insane asylum in my head with all these characters shouting at me to tell their stories. But, let’s go with the story that I’m working on…” She trailed off and took the time to sit on the leather couch. “Harrison and Rachel. They actually have appeared in all three of my published works. Harrison is a deputy federal marshal and the Harrison we see in those three books is mellowed by age and more importantly by his marriage to Rachel. Before Rachel, he viewed the world strictly in black and white, right and wrong. Rachel, on the other hand, knows that the world is filled with more shades of grey than in absolutes. That doesn’t mean she’s without a conscience or morality.”

Lynda traced the stitching in the arm of the couch. “Their conflicts…That’s a bit tougher. Rachel’s terrified of losing two things—her ranch and her autonomy. Harrison wants nothing more than to convince her she won’t lose either if she trusts him.”

Kelly nodded when she heard all this. “Okay, but what’s the main conflict? Is it between them or other people or what exactly?”

“It’s between them.” There was no hesitation in Lynda’s answer. “Rachel can’t trust Harrison and he is at a total loss on how to win her trust.”

Kelly chuckled when she heard this. “Hey, can’t make it easy on a guy. That’s totally unfair.” She watched Lynda. “So what inspired this story?”

“A dream.” She shook her head, bemused. “I know, sounds silly, but all I could remember about that dream was a scene that comes midway in the novel. Harrison is a little bit toasted and he’s trying to convince Rachel that with him “no” really means “no.” He has her backed up to the piano, she’s terrified…and when he doesn’t do anything other than draw a length of her hair through his fingers before he leaves the room, she finally starts to realize she might be able to trust him.” Lynda looked out the window again, without moving from the couch. “I woke up with that scene so vivid in my memory and had to write it down immediately. And, the story grew from there…asking myself the usual questions…who the heck were they? Why was she so afraid of that drop dead gorgeous guy?”

“Wow! That’s an awesome dream!” Kelly grinned widely. “Okay, so the question I wanted to ask you earlier but can do so now that I know your story a bit better, how’s this story different than all the other western stories out there? How does it stand out?”

“It’s standard trope.” Lynda shrugged. “But, what makes it different is how I take those standard tropes and add to it. This book is going to be a little darker, I think, than my first three. My last one dealt with spousal abuse, and it’s gotten some good reviews for the manner it was dealt with. Because of Rachel’s past, the issue of rape and the repercussions must be dealt with. It is a tightrope to walk across.”

“It is quite a tightrope indeed, and those are dark topics, but I’m glad you’ve addressed them because I’m confident you would handle it well.” Kelly eased back in her chair. “What has been your most difficult thing to write in this story?”

Lynda stood and walked to the sideboard. She moved a tumbler and then set it back. “Dancing around the rape. I have to tread very carefully or my publisher will reject it. And, because they are established characters in my previous novels, I can’t self-publish their story.” She drew a long breath. “And, that’s not exactly the truth, either. The hardest thing to write has been Rachel’s recollection of her rape. It was as if I was ripping open old, but less than healed wounds.”

Kelly frowned when she heard this. “That sounds very difficult indeed.” Then she shifted to a lighter topic. “And what’s been your favorite thing about writing it?” She smiled when she asked this.

“I honestly don’t have a favorite thing about writing.” Lynda smiled as well. “I love researching–one of the perks of being a history geek. I love creating. I love sharing my adoration for the Old West and for the places that thought process still survives, such as Wyoming with such an independent, pioneering spirit. I love connecting with readers. I love it when a character stops shouting at me to get it right, because I did get it right.”

“Not about writing in general but rather this story. Was there a moment that sticks out at you and still makes you smile?” Kelly raised her brows.

“Nope, because I’m not completely finished with the story. There might be a new favorite moment. As it is, my favorite moment in the rough draft is that moment in the parlor with Harrison and Rachel and he’s just about turning himself inside out to convince Rachel she can trust him to never hurt her.”

“I’m sure that’s a touching moment.” Kelly smiled but then had to sigh and rise to her feet. “Our time’s almost up, but I really do appreciate this time to chat with you, Lynda. Remind me again, do you title for your story?”

“The working title is ‘West of Forgotten’.”

Kelly considered this for a moment but then had to smile at Lynda. “That’s a good title. I really like it! Keep me posted on how it goes, okay? Because I’m sure my readers would be interested in a western for sure! Now though, I guess I should see myself out.” She gestured to the door. “But thanks again for agreeing to meet with me. It was great meeting you.”

“Likewise.” Lynda paused. “I think I’m just going to stay here for a few more minutes.”

“All right. You take care! Tell your characters I said ‘hi’.” With one final wave and a smile, Kelly headed out.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Lynda J. Cox’s novel, ‘West of Forgotten’ is not yet published, but her other books are! Also you can follow her on social media for more updates!

Smolder on a Slow Burn: https://www.amazon.com/Smolder-Slow-Burn-Lynda-Cox-ebook/dp/B013RJVDQU

The Devil’s Own Desperado: https://www.amazon.com/Devils-Own-Desperado-Lynda-Cox-ebook/dp/B0153Q7NIM

Seize the Flame: https://www.amazon.com/Seize-Flame-Lynda-J-Cox-ebook/dp/B0165X2M6K

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LyndaCox

FB: https://www.facebook.com/lyndajcox

e-mail: lynda.cox@aol.com

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