I sat down with Emilee Harris to talk writing, research, and her new release, Her Queen City Ranger!
When did you realize or decide you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve been writing since I was a kid, but I was raised to believe that writing wasn’t a viable career option (neither was the dancing I took up later), so always just considered it a hobby. It wasn’t until I completed my first NaNoWriMo in November of 2016 that I began to think maybe I really could write for a living. I started experimenting with indie publishing in 2017 and decided to take the plunge into a writing career this year.
What has been your best experience as an author so far?
Receiving an email from a reader telling me I’m a talented writer and she hopes I put out lots more books! I was so amazed that someone liked my book enough to tell me that.
What sort of challenges have you faced as a writer? How did you overcome them?
My two biggest challenges so far have been getting myself to keep to a consistent writing schedule and learning how to market myself. As far as the schedule goes, I’ve been trying out different things like set work times vs. a goal of how many writing sprints I complete in a day. Luckily, I’d been working from home for a few years before taking up writing, so I have some experience with this already and knew it would be a challenge. As to marketing, it’s all Greek to me, but I just keep telling myself to work on one thing a day: get that newsletter out, request the promos, eventually I’ll create a system.
How do you research and plan your books? Do you find outlining helps or hinders your process?
I have kind of a sporadic research approach. There are usually a couple of key points I know I’ll need to get the details right for up front, but other things might jump out at me as I go along. Writing historicals, it’s always kind of nerve-wracking trying to make sure all my facts line up, readers notice! It’s really frustrating when I want to say the bells chimed the hour, but neither the clocktower I had in mind nor the church have been constructed yet.
I admit to being an outliner. The more detail I can come up with for what I want ahead of time, the less time gets wasted staring at a blank page. That said, I’ve found that I can’t usually outline everything ahead of time. I get a general idea, then have to start in on it because the fine details won’t come to me until I’m working with the story. Often, there will be a new character or major twist that inserts itself a good while after I thought I had things straight in my head.
Have you learned anything really cool or interesting while researching your books? What’s been the weirdest research you’ve ever had to do?
I have a contemporary piece scheduled to release in the summer set on a southern Colorado reservation. I became interested in the setting while working an internship in the lieutenant governor’s office, which works with the Colorado Commission on Indian Affairs. I gained a lot of interesting knowledge from that stint, but what surprised me was that the Utes were some of the only Native American’s who hadn’t been forced off their land. It sparked my interest.
Weirdest research so far? I had to figure out if it was feasible for my hero to befriend a Chinese man while fighting for the Union in the Civil War. Turns out there were a handful of Chinese soldiers enlisted in various regiments.
What advice would you give to new writers in the field?
Keep writing. No matter what, keep going. The business end of it can and will get overwhelming, but at the end of the day it’s the book that matters, so take the time to find your groove and don’t give up.
And for those who want something more substantial: start making friends with other writers and book bloggers early, they’re going to be the ones with lasting influence and pearls of wisdom that will help you when you get stuck. Appreciate them and don’t forget to do the same for others when you’re a big-time success!
Tell us a little about your writing nook! Favorite tea/coffee/writing snack?
Oh, to have a writing nook! Right now it’s just the desk in my room, but in my imagination it’s my future sunroom surrounded by beautiful flowers. Unfortunately, I can’t usually take my writing out to a café, I need complete silence to concentrate, and I can’t eat because my fingers are too busy. I do love my local coffee though. I move around quite a bit but call Denver home, so my go-to java is Pablo’s Espresso Blend.
Of all of your own characters, who would you most want to date?
I haven’t written a hero yet I haven’t had a crush on, but if I had to pick just one? I’ll go with Friedrich (Rick) from my current series. A little older, elegant, an aristocrat. He’s got that silent strength/self-confident military man air about him, the type who’d never let you down and be fiercely loyal.
What project are you currently working on?
I’m attempting to finish up a story that follows up on this month’s new release Her Queen City Ranger and completes the story started in the prequel novella His Silver City Gold. It’s been kind of rough, because I know the novella set up some definite expectations, but I’m hoping to resolve things in a way that keeps my readers happy.
What’s next for you?
I’m looking forward to finally finishing up and polishing that very first NaNoWriMo project! Yup, it’s that contemporary piece set on the reservation. It’s much more involved than my works have been so far, more characters, more serious themes. I’m a little nervous about it but hoping it will appeal to my readers.
I’ve been a writer as long as I can remember, I just didn’t know it. As a kid, I was constantly making up stories in my head. Sometimes I would write them down, mostly I wrote poetry. In my high school years, I attempted some short stories and started writing what were supposed to be full-length novels, but never finished them. As an adult, of course, I got distracted with trying to find my “real” career and stopped writing anything more significant than a journal entry, but my stories never left me.
Then a nifty thing happened. I heard about NaNoWriMo. In November of 2016, I completed my first full-length novel during that writing challenge. Now, by ‘complete’ I mean I met the word count and was amazed I did it. I’ve been working on and revising that work in spurts ever since (and will hopefully publish it at the end of this year), but the main takeaway from that experience was that I could do it, and maybe I didn’t have to give up my childhood passion after all.
But writing is of course just one facet of life. Others for me include dancing, historical costuming, and hanging with my “Little Mr.”, a very needy, but cuddly, Maltipoo. History was always my favorite subject, so I guess it’s no wonder I’m starting out with historicals, right? I also love to travel and incorporate what I learn from those experiences into my writing.
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About the Book!
Tell us a little about your new release: Her Queen City Ranger!
Where did your inspiration for the book come from?
I don’t know that I was inspired by the story so much as by the characters. This book was something I started years ago and let fall by the wayside. In the blog section of my website I gave each main character their own post about what inspired their personalities and characteristics, but for the larger story, I think I was just trying to find a way to combine some of my own familial background with the history of my home state of Colorado.
Did you outline the story, or dive right in?
I initially dove in, but as said, the story sat for a long time. That time wound up making some major changes to secondary characters and the overall plot, but the personalities and histories of my main characters stayed the same. Once I decided to dust off this story, I did sit and put together a basic outline to find the best route for piecing together the scenes I decided I wanted to keep.
How did your characters come to life?
Literally on their own through interaction. I had some scenes where I knew the characters needed to interact in a certain way or argue about something, but I had no clue about the details as I went into it. The minute I started typing they took over and put together some dialogue and interaction I never would have dreamed of. It was great, like watching a movie.
For my part, I did my best to know these characters inside and out, their entire life stories. Especially Cleigh, I mapped out a detailed timeline of his life so I would know exactly how he got his emotional scars and life experiences.
Did you do any cool or interesting research for this story? What did you learn?
I learned so much while writing this story! Most of it will probably never get picked up on, but I researched every little detail to try and be as historically accurate as possible. I had to figure out property rights for Prussian women in the late 19th century, what year vestibuled trains started running, when the Denver capitol building was completed and when the dome swapped from copper to gold, and the fact that Colorado even had Rangers (who knew?) just to name a few tidbits.
My proudest additions, though, were the underground tunnels and the investor at the Oxford Hotel, who was based off an actual owner who lost everything in the Silver Crash and subsequent panic of ’93.
What was your favorite part of working on this story? What was the most challenging?
My favorite part of working on this story was probably the research. I’m a history nerd and used to docent for one of the local museums, so I’ve developed a big interest in Denver history. I also loved seeing how my characters grew and changed through the evolution of the story. Most challenging? Also the research. 1893 was a massive year for Denver, and Colorado in general (the fallout continues in the next story). Trying to get my story to mesh with the places and events of the time proved very difficult at times.
What’s next for this story – is it part of a series? When does it come out?
This book is part of a series, though I don’t have it specifically labeled as such (should probably do that). Basically, if you see the word “City” in the title, the books go together. There was a novella prequel, this one comes out April 14th, and a follow up that continues the story of the prequel is slated for release in June. I’m toying with adding another book to the mix, but that won’t happen for a little while since I already have the rest of my year scheduled.
“Colorado Ranger, ma’am. You’re under arrest for murder. Stand up and turn around slowly, keeping your hands where I can see them.”
The woman lowered the branch she’d been using to tend the fire and raised both arms out beside her as she began to stand.
“I expected you earlier. Your dinner’s gotten a bit cold.”
As she turned, Cleigh saw a scrawny rabbit on a spit just off to the side of the fire. He tried not to show his shock. As he looked back again from the spit to the woman in front of him, he was even more astonished. She was pretty. In fact, she was beautiful. Although he couldn’t decipher the exact color of her hair or eyes in the wavering firelight, he could see that her eyes were almond shaped, her hair was dark, she had high cheekbones, full lips, and smooth skin. She tilted her head at him, and he realized he’d been staring.
“I’m sorry you went through the trouble, ma’am, but we haven’t got time for dinner, I’m taking you to the authorities in Denver.” Cleigh took a step toward her, but she retreated back and to the side, away from him and closer to the shadows.
“I’m afraid you misunderstand me Mr…”
Cleigh squinted a bit, refocusing on her new position. What was she up to?
“Palmer, Cleighton.” Cleigh wasn’t sure what made him give his full name, he chalked it up to the entire situation throwing him off.
“Mr. Palmer. You see, I allowed you to catch up to me because I’d like your help in getting safely to Denver. I’ll not travel there as your captive.”
She had a faint accent that Cleigh couldn’t place. He took one more step closer to her.
“It’s not common practice for Rangers to play travel companion to known murderers, Miss…”
“Sofie is sufficient for the moment. And I’m not a known murderer, I’m an accused murderer. On that note, I am a wrongly accused murderer.”
Cleigh rolled his eyes, but she continued. “I’m being followed by my accusers. I have connections in Denver who will vouch for my character and offer their protection until this can all be sorted out, but I must make it to Denver first. I’ve come to the unfortunate realization that I have neither the knowledge of the land nor the resources to outrun my pursuers alone.”
Cleigh stared for a moment, trying to decide if she were truly insane or just hysterical.
“So, you decided cutting a bargain with your arresting officer was a good option?”
“Under the circumstances, Mr. Palmer, I believe it to be my only option.”
“And if I don’t go along with your plan?”
“Unfortunately, I’ll have to try and make a go of it alone, and I’m afraid that may necessitate temporarily incapacitating you to ensure my escape, for which I hope you’ll forgive me.”
Definitely insane, Cleigh thought, that figures. What a waste of a pretty face. He gave a small, resigned sigh and advanced toward her. In the blink of an eye, Sofie kicked out her right foot up and across her body, connecting with Cleigh’s wrist, knocking his arm wide and his colt into the shrubs. Cleigh was too shocked to respond and realized too late that as Sofie replaced her foot on the ground, temporarily turning her back toward him, her left foot was already continuing the spin back around. Her boot caught him hard against the temple, and the last thing he saw as he hit the ground was Sofie’s look of regret.
Read more on Amazon!