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Friday, May 22, 2015

An Interview with Cheryl Pierson

by Richard Prosch

Along with her award-winning western romance and contemporary fiction,
Oklahoma native Cheryl Pierson wrote a slam-bang young reader western
trilogy. Red Eagle's War, Red Eagle's Revenge and Texas Forever make up
the Texas Legacy trilogy, now available from Painted Pony Books. Having
just finished the first book, and with the next two waiting on my
Kindle, I thought I'd take some time and visit with Cheryl about Will
Green's story.

Early in the first book, Jacobi Kane rescues Will Green from Red Eagle's
Apaches.  Did you do any historical research for those scenes? 
Being born and raised in Oklahoma, I have grown up with the different tribes—museums, artifacts, stories, legends, and so on. One of the greatest Apaches ever, Geronimo, is buried here in Oklahoma at Ft. Sill—which is down in the southwestern part of the state in the Wichita Mountains. Going down into that part of the country, which is (ironically) in Comanche County, has proven to be a great source of knowledge for me just for the terrain of the land—which is quite different than the part of Oklahoma I grew up in (central) and where my relatives were from in the southeastern part of the state, as well. Apaches were not considered one of the five “civilized” tribes…there’s a reason for that, as Will discovered.

Why Texas?

Everything I write is set in Oklahoma or Texas. This story starts out in Indian Territory, not far from the region I was telling you about. Red Eagle is headed back to his “home” territory, closer to the border of Texas and present-day Oklahoma when Jacobi rescues Will. Jacobi heads back to Texas with Will, to try to get to Fort Worth, a town of some size—where he might be able to find a place for Will or contact any family he might have left somewhere.  Texas is a natural setting for me, as well, since many of my ancestors came from there.

What can you tell us about the change in titles?
Those titles were changed when we brought the trilogy over to Painted Pony Books from another publishing company and made some revisions in the text. Also, I discovered that those “Kane” titles weren’t working to draw in younger readers—most everyone who bought those books seemed to be adults—which I was very happy about—but wanted the younger readers to be drawn to them as well.

Even though they're killed off-screen, before the story begins, Will's
father, Robert Green becomes a character unto himself with the many
words of wisdom he imparts to Will.  How much does Will's family reflect
your own?

Will’s father is a very harsh man. He has some regrets, which we discover through Will’s thoughts as the books progress, until his final understanding, or at least the fact that he is beginning to come to terms with it in TEXAS FOREVER. My dad and I were very close—not at all like Will and his father—but there were a lot of things I didn’t understand until I got older, and matured a little bit.

While not as violent as some books, there are a couple of tough scenes in
the first book. Did you have any second thoughts about how far to go or
did you follow the story where it necessarily led?
You know, I tried to write those books with the idea that, like most of my writing, I wanted it to be realistic—but not TOO graphic for that age group. I wanted the reader to know that Will (and Jacobi) both suffered, and that has to be shown—not just told about. Will is as real as I could make him—he uses some rough language for his age in a place or two, but who wouldn’t, after what he’d been through? And the violence—that’s how the west was in those days—but I don’t think it’s too much for YA readers, especially by today’s standards.

What would you like to see more of (or less of) in young reader/young
adult westerns?

Encouragement by teachers and parents. When you think about it, today’s kids that would fall into this age bracket were not even alive when 9/11 happened. If parents and teachers don’t try to interest their kids in reading historical fiction, eventually it will all become a thing of the past. Love of history has to be encouraged when kids are young. 
I think Painted Pony Books has gotten a great start on this by providing some excellent stories for young readers of all ages—your Jo Harper series, Jim Griffin’s “Ranger” series,  Sara Barnard’s “Indian Em’ly” series for middle grade readers, and some excellent books that aren’t series at all, such as Frank Roderus’s “Duster” and Livia and James Reasoner’s story Mockingbird and Big Earl.
Will there be more books about Will Green?
I’d love to write more stories about Will! I can’t say too much since you haven’t finished the 3rd one, but there are tons of unresolved issues that he can do nothing about until he’s a little older. So I’m hoping that I will be able to sit down and write “the rest of the story” soon!

Thanks so much for this interview, Rich! I appreciate it. During this Memorial Day weekend, I would like to give away one complete set of the TEXAS LEGACY trilogy to one lucky commenter. Just leave a comment for me and your e-mail address!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Whitman Authorized TV Editions

I can honestly report that without the genius of the Whitman Publishing Company's authorized editions, and specifically the TV tie-ins, there wouldn't be a Jo Harper series of stories.

As I wrote here and here, many of the Jo's adventures find their origins in the life of my grandpa's Aunt Rose, and my own great-grandma. But those stories wouldn't be in the short, fast-paced adventure format they are without the Whitman influence.

For the folks in Racine, it started in the '40s when the authorized editions broke new ground in presenting stories to young people. As harbingers for the media savvy publishers today, Whitman realized they could cash in on the popularity of radio and movie stars by leasing the rights to them and assigning new, original stories to experienced authors. Second, they were one of the first publishers to recognize the market potentialof properties aimed at a young female audience.

Both trends continued and by the 1960s, a new line of nearly 100 titles based on TV shows was underway. Stories from The Beverly Hillbillies, Bewitched, and The Mod Squad were available next to Annie Oakley, Gunsmoke, and Have Gun Will Travel.

The first western book I ever read was Annie Oakley in the Ghost Town Secret.  Originally belonging to my aunt, I remember it being on the shelf at my grandma's house for several years before I pulled it down and read it in an afternoon. 

I've collected quite a few of the westerns and read them as an adult. I'm happy to report that the books stand up well. In no small part, this is due to Racine's wisdom in signing top notch writers to the tie-in books. 

Many of the westerns were penned by proven scribes in the field: 

Cheyenne and the Lost Gold of Lion Park and Bonanza: Killer Lion, both by Steve Frazee.

Bonanza: Treachery Trail by Harry Whittington.

The Rebel by H.A. DeRosso

Roy Rogers and the Brasada Bandits by Cole Fanin. 

And many more.

These square bound hardbacks were ubiquitous and lmost any antique store in America will have a few copies available for reasonable prices. Along with those shows mentioned above, The Rifleman, Maverick, Rin-Tin-Tin, Tales of the Wells Fargo and Wagon Train also have fine entires.

For a fascinating look at the golden era of western television, licensing, and just plain good reads, give 'em a try! 

Meanwhile, I'll be giving away a copy of the latest Jo Harper adventure, Redbuds and Bullets to a commenter. Just leave a comment for me here or at Facebook (and please message me your email address).

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