Thursday, March 11, 2010

Why do I love to write about the West? by Kaki Warner

Because it’s born into me and is as elemental as taking the next breath, and because it will always be the best of my past.

I spent my early childhood in a small Texas town, playing to the drone of cicadas in the mesquite trees on lazy summer days, and sleeping to the tick-tick-tick-whrrr of the big hayfield sprinklers. I ate persimmons off the tree, and dodged tarantulas and sticker burrs, and rode a fat pony on army maneuvers and Indian war party raids. I caught lightning bugs and ran barefoot in warm rain and lived among people who loved the land because it was forever and it would never let them down.

Then I moved to the city.

The yodel of coyotes changed to the distant wail of sirens and honking horns, and the sweet smell of fresh cut alfalfa became the sharp scent of cool raindrops on hot asphalt. The sky shrank. Stars dimmed to pale pinholes in a sooty sky that never seemed to grow dark, and the heat-shimmered horizon ended at the brick wall of the building next door. I remember pushing my bed up against the window and putting my pillow on the sill so I could feel the breeze on my face and see a patch of moon as I drifted to sleep. And I dreamed of going back. But I never did.

So when I sat down to write Pieces of Sky, and all those sights and sounds and smells from my childhood returned in a flood of memories—hawks silhouetted against lint ball clouds, cattle dotting rolling grasslands, people struggling stoically to hold on to a way of life and a patch of ground so they would have something to leave behind for the generations to come—I knew I had to write about a place like that, and people who never gave up, and a sky so vast it made your soul soar.

And then there’s that whole myth of the West thing that Zane Grey described in his 1934 novel, The Code of The West. How can your heart not resonate with ideals like integrity, self-reliance, accountability? How can you not respect those stoic settlers to whom loyalty, hospitality, fair play and respect for the land was a way of life? Romanticized in music, books and film, the cowboy era still and forever remains an enduring symbol of American culture.

Never shoot a woman, no matter what.
Always remove your guns before sitting at the table.
Never try out another man’s horse, hat or wife.
Don’t inquire into a person’s past—measure people by what they are today.

Words to live by. Still.

As a sub-genre, western historical romance has had its ups and downs. Since the release of Pieces of Sky, I’ve heard from many readers who are coming back to it after an absence of many years. Why? What’s pulling you back? And to those die-hard western romance readers who never left, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you like best about the genre? And what turns you off?


Kaki Warner is the award-winning author of the Blood Rose Trilogy (Berkley Trade, Pieces of Sky, January 2010, Open Country,June 2010, Chasing the Wind, 2011), a historical series about the unpredictable West and the men and women who brought it to life against all odds. Although Kaki now lives on the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains in Washington State, she actually grew up in the Southwest. Her years spent riding horses and enjoying the expansive views of Texas became the inspiration for the backdrop of her novels – the wide open spaces of historic New Mexico Territory. Kaki spends her time gardening, hiking, reading, writing, and soaking in the view from the deck of her hilltop cabin with her husband and floppy-eared hound dog.

For more information, please visit Kaki's website at


  1. The cover of that book just glows with color, and the description of Texas is really evocative to me, since that's what my writing is about also. Kaki really sounds like she knows this land!

  2. Lovely post Kaki. Thanks so much for guest posting for us.

    And another gorgeous button Alex!

  3. Thanks for the kind welcome, Marg, I'm delighted to be here. And Shelley--I just read some of your Dust Bowl poetry and it's amazing! You have such a gift--thanks for alerting me to your website.

  4. Kaki, thanks for such wonderful guest post!
    The series Young Riders and the famous Dance with Wolves have probably something to do with my fascination about the American West. But I confess I have read very little western historical romance, mostly because I simply don't know what to read. There's Lorraine Heath Texas trilogy that I loved and a few I got to over the years who are in every must-read list. Otherwise, I'm a little bit lost... Do you have any recommendations?:)

  5. Alex, there are many excellent Western Historical Romance authors out there, and I'm sure I'm forgetting some...but Jodi Thomas has several great books out, Linda Lael Miller has the McKitterick series, Catherine Anderson always tells a great story, Lavyrle Spencer had some wonderful reads...who am I forgetting?

  6. How could I forget Catherine Anderson?! I cried buckets when I read Annie's Song and Keegan's Lady. I heard lots of good things about Lavyrle Spencer, I'll have to check her impressive backlist with more attention. If my memory is good, I have two Jodi Thomas and one McKitterick book in my TBR. They are now in my weekly reading pile!
    I also have wonderful memories of the Rocky Mountains trilogy by Nicole Jordan (still waiting for Wolf's story) and Kathleen Eagle's books.
    Thanks for the recommendations, Kaki!

  7. You're welcome, Alex. Happy reading!