Mary Lou Stewart is a teacher/counselor and writer living in Texas with her family. She spends her spare time doing family history and writing about her interesting ancestors.
What is your writing process?
In writing historical fiction, I gather all of the hard facts that I can, and then I write down all of the oral stories about individuals. I weave the facts and the oral stories into a credible manuscript. I am concerned with the reasons that people do the things they do, and the reason is seldom plain in viewing just the facts. I use my knowledge of human behavior and my experience as a teacher/counselor to figure out why they did what they did.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
No, I don't remember the first story that I ever read, but I remember Mother reading The Ugly Duckling to me long before I could read. It was my favorite story, and I would have her read it to me many times every night for a very long time.
Life in Keechi was peaceful until Charlie Willheit discovered that it was Billy who had taken his wife home to her parents. Charlie began to spread licentious stories about "his" Betsy and Billy. When the gossip did not discredit Billy, Charlie began to lay-in-wait for Betsy. His hatred escalated to attempts to kill Betsy and everyone around her. Billy took drastic measures to protect his family
While searching for a home, Billy and his family stopped at the Bohannan's farm to pick cotton. There two of his children found future spouses and they rescued a young woman whose husband frequently beat her. Bus and Jess, two of Billy's children, took her home to her parents in Keechi where they found a hundred-and-eighty acre farm for sale that was perfect for them and their future families.
When his mother deeded him 640 acres and built him a house, Billy moved his growing family home to the plantation near Palestine. Dealing with his step-father, keeping the plantation running, and working with the Rangers was stressful for Billy. Thinking that he could keep his drinking secret from Rhoda and his growing family, Billy drank heavily until his sister Mandy intervened.
"Is Rhoda with us?" Billy yelled over the roar of the banshee wind. "What? What about Rhoda?" John Cupps yelled getting his mouth full of ice and snow. Again, Billy heard Rhoda call his name and this time into his mind's eye came an image of Rhoda struggling in freezing, waist-deep water in the creek near her house. "I'm coming, Rhoda!" Billy screamed into the wind and spurred Ginger into...