1) Tell us a little bit about Moses Lake and the West Ranch, and why you chose this as the setting for your novel.While the town of Moses Lake in the novel is fictional, it is based on a little lakeside community in Central Texas. The area is beautiful and filled with enduring legends about towns, vehicles, and Native American graveyards hidden beneath the water. It is also home to a wide range of residents, ranging from low-income families living on hardscrabble pieces of land in the hills, to tourists visiting upscale waterside resorts, to wealthy vacationers, to nearby Mennonite communities, to ranchers whose ranches border the lake, like the West Ranch in the story. Central Texas is still remote enough that some landowners maintain vast tracts of land. Jim West’s ten thousand acre ranch in the story is large, but not out of line for the region.Despite the differences among the residents of the lake area, communities are generally friendly and close knit. When you’re isolated and living miles from town — like Mallory in the story — you have no choice but to get to know your neighbors. Over time, the life on the ranch takes on the rhythm of the seasons – planting seeds and birthing babies in the spring, harvesting and weaning in the fall, hunkering down in the winter, and looking for a shady spot in summer. It’s a life with a very visceral connection to the beauty and complexity of God’s creation.2). Parts of Firefly Island are based on real experience. Can you share a bit about that?Mallory’s life takes a sudden right turn when her love-at-first sight flame, Daniel Everson, is offered a job on a remote ranch in far-away Texas. Some years ago, my life took a similar turn when, through a series of family connections, my husband was offered the chance to leave his corporate job and operate a ten thousand acre ranch in the Texas Hill Country. Like Daniel in the story, he really did walk out of the bedroom after a phone call (looking quite peaked and somewhat terrified) and say, “I… ummm… think I’ve just been offered a… ummm… job in… Texas.”That was the beginning of wild adventure that would last several years. We knew we’d never get the chance to do something like this again, so we sold our home and went for it. We were scared to death. We had a three and a half year old son at the time (the age of Daniel’s son Nick in the story). Like Mallory, we worried about what the schools would be like that far out in the country, how we would find playmates for our son, and whether he would be lonely, living miles from other families. It never occurred to me to wonder whether I would be lonely. I figured that part out after we started our new life ;o)3). Firefly Island is a story that begins with a love at first sight. Do you think love at first sight is still possible in this busy, modern world?I think it is, although perhaps, living in this media-frenzied culture, we’re more jaded than we were two generations ago when my grandparents met at a dance. My grandfather went home that night and told his mother he’d met the girl he was going to marry. He just knew it, and he was right.I don’t think my grandfather and grandmother questioned it nearly as much as Mallory does in the story, and I think that’s where modern culture comes in. Mallory has a hard time trusting herself, and as a career girl devoted to a life on the political scene, she has a hard time losing the image of herself that she has created. She’s worried about what her family, friends, and co-workers will think. These days, women feel so much pressure to have it all and do it all. Falling unexpectedly in love, getting married, and giving up a career is sometimes looked upon as a failure. While Mallory’s heart knows that Daniel is the one, she dreads the idea of trying to explain things to the people around her.4). Ranch life and modern-day cowboys are often inaccurately represented in fiction. Can you share a few of the common cowboy myths and the reality of modern cowboy life, based on your experiences?In fiction, modern-day ranches are often represented as family-owned outfits, where multiple adult family members live in close proximity, raise horses, compete in rodeos, and are banking on that one special horse to win a major competition (show, rodeo, race, etc.) and save the ranch. While many ranches are family owned and run, it’s much more likely these days that many of the family members will live and/or work elsewhere. Supporting multiple households on ranching income is difficult, unless the place is very large and quite successful.Many larger ranches these days, like the one where we enjoyed our real-life adventure, are owned by investors whose income stream is provided by other business interests. Any number of families may live and work on the ranch, but in general they are employees, not family members. Most ranches have a foreman and various hired hands. Hired hands work long, hard hours and are dedicated to their work because they love the ranching lifestyle. While some may have a history in rodeo, their lives are generally very tied to the ranch and the care of livestock. A work week is usually six days, with rotating days off on Sundays, or feeding duties only on Sundays.In general, cowboys are just more likely to be found riding a tractor or a truck than riding a horse. When the day does call for horseback work, such as moving cattle from one location to another, or sorting off calves at weaning time, it’s often an event that hired hands and families look forward to, and family members frequently come out to participate. Cowboys seldom ride stallions while doing horseback work – that’s a common misnomer in fiction. Stallions tend to be difficult to handle in a working situation, and cowboys can’t risk distractions when there’s a job to be done. Ranch work is long, difficult, and sometimes dangerous. On horseback days, a reliable mount (usually a gelding) is essential, but on most days, a cowboy’s sidekick is his dog, who can usually be found riding in the back of his pickup or in the passenger seat, always ready for the next challenge. A working dog can be a cowboy’s best asset and closest friend. A good cowboy dog knows more than just how to help gather the cattle—he knows a few entertaining tricks that can be shown off in town, and he knows enough to always keep an eye on his best buddy’s pickup truck, so he never gets left behind.5) Mallory’s story has been likened to a modern-day mail-order bride tale.” Do you think this fits? In what way?Mallory in many ways experiences the life of a mail-order bride. Because she and Daniel have only known each other a short time when the job move forces a huge leap of faith in their relationship, she finds herself married to a man she adores, but barely knows. Like any newly-married couple, they have much to learn about each other, but Mallory is also facing the sudden step-parenthood of three-year-old Nick, and the trials of leaving behind her family, her career, her friends, her identity, and all that is familiar. The challenges of life on a ranch are completely foreign to her.In days of old, mail-order brides faced many of the same challenges. Our great-great grandmothers attempted to solve the problem by writing letters home, joining in sewing circles and ladies’ societies in their new locations, and sometimes by documenting their experiences in journals. Mallory finds herself unwillingly drawn into the tradition of journaling, but in a much more modern way, when she stumbles into the blogging life. As the blog draws fans, she becomes The Frontier Woman, and her world expands in ways she could never have dreamed.
Hard to believe it started out like this!