Every once in a while though, a book just clicks. You finish and you feel good about it. That was the case with FORSAKEN, released yesterday.
But even then, you wait to see if you’re right that this one works. First my editor said she “love, love”d it. She’s never “love, love”d a book before. Then my agent. Then RT reviewer Terri Dukes compared it to TV and book series, Longmire.
As the reviews started to come in, I breathed a sigh of relief. When a book is close to your heart, you realize you might be wrong about it. You might be too close to it to be the best judge. You start second guessing yourself. Or at least I do.I write by the seat of my pants, never knowing where I’m going or how it will end. So that leaves a lot of room for self-doubt.
I had the idea for FORSAKEN in the back of my mind for years. When I was a newspaper reporter I met one of the real-life sheepherders who used to take a flock of two thousand sheep back into the Beartooth wilderness, a trek of over 150 miles, and three long summer months without seeing another soul other than his “tender,” the young man who took care of the camp.
That’s all I had for an idea. I loved the remoteness of the area where sheepherders had taken their flock for decades. There are no roads, no houses, nothing but rugged high mountains, rocky cliffs and beautiful wild meadows. There is some cell phone coverage but only if you are on one of the highest peaks and even then reception is sketchy. The only way to get back into this country is on foot or horseback.
So it was the land and the lifestyle that gave me the idea for FORSAKEN. Like in most of my books, Montana is a character – one that pushes my hero and heroine to their limits. Madison “Maddie” Conner has weathered a lot of losses in her life. Now all she has left is a struggling sheep ranch and an old sheepherder who is more like her grandfather than hired help.
Then the worst happens. The “tender,” the young man she sent to help the sheepherder comes racing out of the wilderness, terrified and covered with blood. Her faithful sheepherder is missing and Deputy Sheriff Bentley Jamison is at the door. One look at the tender and Jamison is convinced he had a murder on his hands.
Maddie is an amazing woman who I fell in love with the first time I met her. She’s strong and determined and capable. She’s been running the sheep ranch by herself for years with only the help of Branch Murdock, her sheepherder.
But now she must pull on her boots and ride back into the unforgiving Beartooth mountains to find out what has happened. Worse, Deputy Jamison refuses to let her go alone because he suspects what they will find when they reach the sheep camp is a murder scene.
What made this book fun for me to write was that Jamison is a greenhorn from back East. He doesn’t know anything about the wilds of Montana let alone sheep. But he does know about murder since his former job was as a homicide detective in New York.
Trapped together in a late summer snowstorm high in the mountains miles from civilization with a killer, the two have to work together to survive.
I love writing about strong women but Maddie is my favorite. She has accepted her life, one that only includes hard work. But the greenhorn deputy reminds her that it is okay to accept help. Also that she is a woman and still desirable. Maddie is as beautiful and as wild as this country she loves. But she has no idea what is waiting for her back in the mountains or what it will cost her.
So together we all headed up into the Beartooths with me typing as I rode along with them. Like Jamison, I didn’t know anything about sheep either. We both had a lot to learn. I couldn’t help but enjoy the ride. For me, this book just clicked.