One of the challenges when trying to describe a complicated story like Round the Bend is to tell the potential reader enough to get them interested but not go into aspects that might ruin the unfolding of it. There is much, in any book, where the reader should discover it as they go-- right along with the characters.
One of the things I like to do in my writing is put in what might be called red herrings. Real life is full of them. We meet someone. They are very interesting to us. They could be a potential friend. We never meet them again. That's what life is all about. Readers, however, get to expecting that anything interesting in a story must be a clue to what is coming. I don't write that way. I prefer the reader to learn along with the characters what is going to happen.
I do though always want the characters' actions to come out of their personalities. It should be believable even if it was not predictable. This is a goal with all my books whether they are epic or not. I don't think there is a way to tell the story of the westward migration without it becoming epic-- but I didn't want it to overpower the human side of the story.
Round the Bend has always been a tough book for me to categorize. It is definitely a romance but also the story of the Oregon Trail, healing, growing into adulthood, dysfunctional families, and what love is really about.
There are a core group of characters, some of whom go on to appear in the next three books. But when I am describing this one, I can't get caught up in the next three. I've thought about putting together a character list and might when I get to the next book.
The secondary characters in Round the Bend were (as they usually are) fun to write. Four proceed to their own romances. Yep, even though there are only three more books in the series, there are four characters in Round the Bend who do end up with a romance.
To me, one of the powerful parts of the story West, well actually of any of my books, has to be nature. What these people saw was a critical part of their experiences.
They faced a lot of problems as they went west, and it wasn't so much Indians. They traveled generally 14 to 15 miles a day. Some of the way was boring. Some of it miserable.
"Dreary times, wet and muddy, and crowded into the tent, cold and wet and uncomfortable in the wagon no place for the poor children. I have been busy cooking, roasting coffe & c today, and have came into the wagon to write this and make our bed--" Amelia Stewart KnightKnowing that the pioneers kept these journals, reading so many of them, gave me an idea for sharing transitional information through my heroine keeping a journal. One thing you don't really want to do as a writer is throw information at the reader, but some of it is an important part of what this journey really meant to those making it.
There were a lot of books I used as references; but for anyone interested in the personal side of the story, I recommend Women's Voices from the Oregon Trail by Susan G. Butruille. It gives a very personal look at what the women experienced and how they felt even once they got to Oregon. Remember, their work was not done once they reached Oregon Territory. In some ways, it had just begun.
Where I was setting all of that into a romance, the story of my young couple was paramount. I chose secondary characters for how they enriched understanding of the hero and heroine. A writer cannot fill their story with grace notes or they lose the melody. They do, however, serve a valuable purpose as the main characters bounce off them.
Although this book has a long history with me, when I edited it for the last time the first of March, I had more faith in it than I ever had. I don't think it's exactly a traditional romance but for those who enjoy character driven dramas that end up making them feel good, I think it will be a good read. I know I enjoyed my time with this hero and heroine-- and have for the 57 or so years since I first came across them. Maybe letting them go is why it's been so hard to actually publish the book.
When I do a book, I like to create a discussion that kind of gets into aspects I won't put into a blurb. Finally, this week, I got that together for Round the Bend. It's really a discussion about writing an historical romance set in something that has become almost mythic for my part of the United States-- if not other places. It is about three and a half minutes-- stop it when it's finished, as I don't know why that play all is there-- but I am suspicious about Youtube!