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Friday, March 20, 2015

Behind Redbuds and Bullets

I read Great Expectations for the first time when I was a freshman in high school. My English teacher, Nancy Brooks, who routinely channeled Eve Arden (Our Miss Brooks) in fictional name and temperament did a great job bringing the characters to life for us, and the weird relationship between Pip, Estella, and Miss Havisham haunts me to this day.

Jo Harper read Great Expectations in 1911, and this fact was the only thing I had to go on when I started writing her sixth adventure. I didn't know it would involve uprooting Jo for the first time, flinging her across the midwest on a tumultuous train ride, pitting her against dangerous adversaries in a gritty urban environment, and ultimately involving an old character who just wouldn’t stay out of the picture. It was exactly the kind of writing experience a writer dreams about --sitting down without a clue and letting the story tell itself.

Redbuds have always been sort of symbolic to Missouri. I had never seen the small trees before visiting Gina there in 1986. Blossoming purple in spring, they are ubiquitous and one of the few flowering trees that doesn't cause my son to immediately start sneezing. Not so for everybody. Like the bullets in the title, the little flowers look innocent enough but can pack quite a punch for some.

So after putting the Dickens novel in her hands, I knew Jo had to end up in Missouri. But what could make a headstrong girl, one tied firmly to her Wyoming roots, leave her friends?  In Jo's case, only a sense of family duty.

And with that, I was off and typing.

Redbuds and Bullets takes a few chances that previous Jo Harper adventures don't take. The story puts Jo more alone than ever before. It tests her metal away from the humorous distractions of Frog or the tough security of Abby Drake. Not only that, but the fate of strangers is directly under Jo's control. It's not a responsibility she takes lightly.

Finally, if you're familiar with Great Expectations, I'll invite you to compare and contrast it with Redbuds and Bullets. Find the similarities, the differences, and see if you can recognize a couple Dickensian Easter eggs. Some were intentional, but some surprised me even as they poured into the keyboard.

That's the kind of fun that keeps writing Jo Harper stories fresh for me. I'd like you to come along for the ride!

After growing up on a Nebraska farm, Richard Prosch worked as a professional writer, artist, and teacher in Wyoming, South Carolina, and Missouri. His western crime fiction captures the fleeting history and lonely frontier stories of his youth where characters aren’t always what they seem, and the windburned landscapes are filled with swift, deadly danger. Read more at

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