Authors go about their work in different ways. My first novel (WRANGLE) was inspired by my uncle’s quarter horse ranch in Texas. My second novel (unpublished) grew out of my West Coast experience with migrant farm workers. My third novel (in progress) comes from my family’s Scots-Irish roots.
KATE’S PRAIRIE is the working title for the current novel, also set in South-Central Texas, and centered on the McElrea family, whose Century-long trek took them from North Ireland to Kentucky, Oklahoma and Texas. The clan seems destined to failure as they outgrow their land, disperse, and disappear into a modern metropolis.
This is not simply a turgid plot line created on my laptop – but the actual trajectory for so many farming families (including my own McAmis clan). Yet there are survivors among these people who cling to the land and a way of life against all odds.
KATE’S PRAIRIE is set in Washington County, Texas, in 1989, and follows the two sons of patriarch John David McElrea who jointly inherit their father’s 4000 acre working cattle ranch. J. D., Jr., younger brother Dade, and their wives attempt to set aside long-simmering differences and meet the challenges of modern ranching.
If co-ownership of a ranch isn’t a sufficient challenge, the opposing personalities and world-views of the brothers should be enough to keep readers engaged, and if not, my collaborator and I can always throw in a drought or some modern cattle rustling or a bare knuckle brawl.
When I wrote WRANGLE, my cousin Sharon McAmis was a resource, particularly in regard to the finer points of branding cattle or racing quarter horses. To some extent I patterned ranch manager Shannon Murphy after Sharon’s own experience in running Rio Ranch for her father.
This time Sharon is more involved in KATE’S PRAIRIE – in fact is a collaborator as to every detail of the book. You will see Sharon’s love of animals surface in the title character (KATE). In August, Sharon and I drove the north eastern corner of Washington County, absorbing the landscape that will soon welcome the McElreas.
Before long, Chapter I will begin to take shape, but the process is a long one — 2 or more years. So stay tuned as we periodically update readers as KATE’S PRAIRIE takes on life.
— Jonnie Martin