Unravelling the Threads of the Wild West with K.T. Blakemore

Exploring the Wild-Willed Women of the West and Crafting Historical Fiction with K.T. Blakemore

Discover K.T. Blakemore’s passion for the Wild West, her meticulous research process, and the creation of her dynamic characters in this captivating interview

KT. Blakemore is a name synonymous with weaving tales that breathe life into the untamed spirit of the American West. Known for her Wild-Willed Women of the West series, Blakemore captures the essence of a bygone era with her signature blend of historical accuracy and whimsical storytelling.

With novels like “The Good Time Girls” trilogy and her other works under the pen name Kim Taylor Blakemore, she has garnered acclaim and accolades, including prestigious awards such as the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award and the Willa Award for Best Young Adult Fiction. Hailing from the scenic landscapes of Oregon, Blakemore’s passion for the West infuses every page of her writing.

In an exclusive interview with Reader’s House Magazine, Blakemore delves into the inspirations behind her captivating narratives. From the displacement of Native Americans to the allure of gold rush fever, she shares her fascination with the multifaceted tapestry of the Wild West. Through her characters, Ruby and Pip, Blakemore paints a vibrant portrait of women defying conventions, seeking friendship, survival, and independence amidst the rugged landscapes and societal constraints of their time.

Blakemore’s meticulous research process, steeped in primary sources and consultations with experts, ensures historical authenticity while allowing her characters the freedom to carve their own destinies. From navigating the challenges of writing during a pandemic to drawing inspiration from historical figures like Annie Oakley and Pearl Hart, she reveals the intricacies of crafting narratives that resonate with readers across generations.

Join us as we journey into the heart of the Wild West through the eyes of K.T. Blakemore, where the echoes of the past reverberate with tales of adventure, camaraderie, and the indomitable spirit of the Wild-Willed Women of the West.What inspired you to write about the Wild West and the lives of women during that time period?

I love the American West and the almost infinite stories that can be told about it – the displacement of the Native Americans, the rush for gold, the pioneers, the construction of the transcontinental railroad. There are many terrific books, both fiction and non-fiction about this era (1840s-early 1900s). But there are common threads that seem to run through many westerns: the gunslinger, the stoic pioneer wife, the soiled dove with the heart of gold. I wanted to tell a tale of women who aren’t easily categorized. And I wanted to tell tales that were a bit more light-hearted, of friends that don’t want to be outlaws but find themselves wanted for too many crimes to count, women who are outside the norm of polite society and don’t mind thumbing their nose at it. 

Can you tell us more about your research process for historical accuracy in “The Good Time Girls”?

Once I choose the exact month and year, my research narrows to that time period and locating primary sources – train time tables, newspapers, the Sears Roebuck catalog, letters and diaries, contemporary maps (a marvel at seeing the old stage roads and towns long extinct). I also love to talk to experts, and for the first two books in the series, I spoke to antique automobile clubs, an expert on early silent film who consults on movies to make sure the period is accurate, a train timetable collectors association, a wagon and carriage expert…the list could go on. I’m currently searching for an expert on the evangelical preachers who travelled across the west giving tent sermons in mining towns, farm communities and cities. Of course, Pip and Ruby will find themselves mixed up with this!

How do you develop your characters, Ruby and Pip, and what do you hope readers will take away from their journey?

I don’t do a lot of character work before I start a novel – I have a basic idea of the main characters and some big events that I’d like to include, then I let them roam the stage and surprise me. In this series, I kept the writing very loose and gave them the freedom to make their own often ill-thought out plans. Then I just followed to see what they would do and who they would meet. These two are against the ropes and underdogs – and both face hefty prison sentences. I hope the readers root for them on their madcap journeys.

The novel explores themes of friendship, survival, and independence. Why were these themes important for you to explore?

They are themes of the west, aren’t they? These were tough times and environments – even in the 1905-06 west, that is steamrolling into the modern 20th century. The west is a vast space of high plains, canyons, mountains, and desert. You needed people to help. You needed to help people. Ruby and Pip think need each other. They need each other for survival and to make their way to freedom. That ever elusive freedom, in their case.

What challenges did you face while writing “The Good-Time Girls” and how did you overcome them?

I wrote a portion of the first book during Covid so was not able to get out to Kansas to drive the farm roads and explore where they were traveling. I resorted to Google maps to view the environment, making use of the “walk the roads” feature and the satellite images. I also contacted historical societies in the towns they found themselves to find images from 1905.

Were there any particular historical figures or events that influenced the plot of the book?

Sharp shooter Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show influenced Ruby. She fell in love with the mythic West – and once in the real west, found it to be an entirely different beast.

During the first inklings of the story, Pearl Hart, the last stage robber in the United States, influenced me. That makes her sound grand – but in reality, she bungled her one and only robbery and ended up in Yuma prison. I wanted to write her into the story, but she soon morphed from hard-living, opium-addled, foul-mouthed Pearl into Ruby Calhoun, who is of a much nicer bent and politely requested to replace Pearl. As Ruby would say, “That’s show business.”

Verified by MonsterInsights