David A. Bowles - A Thrilling and Thought-Provoking Read Set in the Old West
David A. Bowles is the fifth generation of his family to be born in Austin Texas. Both parents were from pioneer settlers. His great-grandmother, Elnora Van Cleve was the first child born in Austin on April 14, 1841. His award-winning series, the Westward Sagas is based on her family and their one-hundred-year journey from Pennsylvania to Texas. David and his dog Becka, enjoy Texas from October-May. When the last bluebonnet has lost its bloom, they pack up the RV and head for cooler weather telling and writing stories. As our Author of the Day, he tells us about Sheriff of Starr County.
Please give us a short introduction to what Sheriff of Starr County is about.
The Sheriff of Starr County is the story of Will a Texas Ranger appointed the first sheriff of the new County of Starr after the Mexican-American War. His job was to keep the tenuous peace in the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas.
What inspired you to write this story? Was there anything in particular that made you want to tackle this?
In my research for the previous book Comanche Trace I discovered a disbursement of $328.01 on December 9, 1851, for delivering Starr County Prisoners to the state prison in Huntsville. The amount paid was twenty times that paid the other Texas Sheriffs. I had to know why!
Tell us more about Texas Ranger Will Smith. What makes him tick?
Twenty-year-old William “Will” Smith arrived in Texas in 1837 with eleven members of his family. Five brothers, a sister, parents and the family of oldest brother James and their parents. Three generations in all arrived on the banks of the lower Colorado River in the spring of 1839. The town of Austin was incorporated December of 1839. It would be the first permanent Capitol of the Republic of Texas and the county seat of a new county. Will’s father would be the first County Treasurer of Travis County, his brother James the County Judge. Both appointed by President Lamar. Neither would live out their terms of office. Both killed by Indians in separate attacks. His nephew, Fayette, abducted by Comanche Indians and tortured. It was Will a Texas Ranger who set out alone to find his nephew, Fayette. A hard life made for a hard heart.
Why did you pick Starr County as the backdrop for your story?
The new county of Starr on the Nueces Strip of the Rio Grande was where he went after being a scout for General Zachary Taylor during the war with Mexico. It is where the factual story took place. The county seat of Starr County is Rio Grande City.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I have toured the U.S. and Canada by Motorcycle and lately by RV. I’ve ranched, trained animals, showed and judged champion livestock. I played roller hockey as we had few ice rinks in my day.
Interesting cover. Please tell us more about how it came about.
My editor Jan McClintock in Pennsylvania recommended Cynthia Lee. I assumed she was far away like my her. After several emails trying to explain what I wanted to Cynthia, I asked Jan for her phone number. It turned out she lived in San Antonio. We met for lunch and got it done. The lawman on the main street of Rio Grande City is Will. His home and office inside the Rio Hotel shown. The Rio Grande River can be seen in the distance. The mountains in the distance beyond the river is Mexico.
How much research did this book require from you to make the history part of it ring true? What was the most interesting aspect of this research?
I started researching Will in 1984 after receiving my grandparent’s records, papers, and Great Grandmother Elnora Van Cleve-Brown’s Bible. The most interesting research was reading Volume I of the Travis County records written in the hand of my ancestors. The picture I send has me holding Volume I in new leather cover. The inside pages are the original cursive writings which stopped on August 7, 1841, the day my three great grandfather was killed by Comanche Indians.
This is Book 5 of the Westward Sagas. Can it be read as a standalone? How does it tie in with the other books in the series?
Each book is written with enough backstory to stand alone, a reader can start with any book. The Westward Sagas® series is written in chronological order starting a decade before the American Revolution. Most of my backroom sales are the entire set. I give an incentive to those that buy all five books.
What did you have the most fun with when writing this book?
Researching the events leading up to the conclusion of the 1850 Texas Border dispute, part of the Compromise of 1850. My timeline made me realize Will could have been in Philadelphia in September of 1850. The great Philadelphia explosion and fire of July 1850 destroyed the Vine Street Wharf and the DuPont warehouse. Possibly preventing a civil war in 1850 between Texas and the United States. The fire was a great tragedy that actually happened and I wrote Will into it. I enjoyed that!
What did you have the most fun with when writing this book?
Writing factual historical fiction is always a challenge. That’s why it takes me years to write a novel vs months. Looking for information on an ancestor named William Smith was difficult. Fortunately, the first names of Fayette and Fenwick, Will’s nephew and brother helped me to discover much about Will.
When starting on a new book, what is the first thing you do?
I start a hard copy file with years of research for each book in the series. I usually have a full file box of scribbled notes and documents before I start a book. I print out monthly calendars of the year my first chapter starts. I find the calendar online that has the days of the week, holidays, moons, etc. I note on the calendar family births, marriages and deaths. Then I research what epic historical events transpired during that time. I choose a month and day to start. Then an epic event to end the story. The fun begins intertwining the real and created characters into the factual history between.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I start writing early after my morning walk with my dog Becka. I write until noon and self-edit in the afternoon. Writing around known history must be accurate. I do about two pages a day. My hats off to those that can do more. Sometimes I think of something during my sleep and must get up to write.
What are you working on right now?
I have started my pre-civil war research for the next book in the series. The last book stopped at the Compromise of 1850. The next book will take up where the Sheriff of Starr County ended.