Inspiration. In my experience it can strike anywhere, anytime. I got the idea for one story from a song that was being piped into a restaurant. Another one came from the tourist information room in a highway rest area, still another from a nightmare. As I said, anywhere, anytime. I’ve explained a bit about the background to the Texas Dreams books on my website (www.amandacabot.com), so today I thought we’d talk about the inspiration for the book I’m currently writing, my 2012 release from Revell.
Those of you who’ve read my bio know that I’m an avid traveler, and so you probably won’t be surprised to learn that this book, which is tentatively titled When Summer Ends, was inspired by a trip. When my husband and I moved to Wyoming, one of our first trips was to Fort Laramie. It had the advantage of being close enough to Cheyenne that we could make it a day trip, and it was a place that had intrigued me for years. As someone who watched westerns as a child (yes, I know that’s dating me), I’ve always been interested in the pioneers who traveled west in covered wagons. What you may not know is that although there were a number of routes, Fort Laramie was a key stop on all of them. It was there that travelers rested and stocked up on supplies before crossing the Rockies.
At the time that we planned the trip, I had no intention of setting a book there. It was simply a chance to escape the seemingly unending work associated with moving into a new house. But inspiration strikes when you least expect it.
When we arrived at the fort, I was struck by several things. First of all, it didn’t look like my image of a western fort. There was no stockade surrounding the garrison. Instead, it’s open and seemingly unprotected.
The second surprise was that the buildings didn’t fit my picture of army construction. The barracks and the officers’ housing were constructed of a variety of materials and, combined with the central parade ground, made the fort look like a New England village. The third surprise was that, although this was once a military installation, it felt peaceful. In other words, it wasn’t what I had expected.
Prior to that day, if someone had asked me to write a book set at Fort Laramie, I would have assumed that it would take place during the great migration and that the heroine would be part of a wagon train. But as I walked around the fort and learned more about its history, I became fascinated with its final days. During its last decade of existence (the 1880s), Fort Laramie saw no wars, and not even much in the way of conflict. Instead, it was a place where officers lived in relative luxury, where their wives held teas and balls, and where the parade ground boasted gaslights and birdbaths. Yes, birdbaths.
I was intrigued. I could picture my heroine strolling around the parade ground, her parasol unfurled to keep the bright Wyoming sun from spoiling her complexion. I could envision my hero being frustrated with the number of men who deserted the army and the sheer boredom of military routine during peacetime. I could see them both adapting to a land that can appear harsh as well as breathtakingly beautiful. And so, in the space of an afternoon, when all I had expected was a little recreation, I had the beginning of a story. Anywhere, anytime.