I ask myself why I’m interested in writing historical fiction. My personal library was not especially top heavy with histories. It all began while leafing through a book given to me one Chanukah called Pioneer Jews by Harriet and Fred Rochlin.
Here were photographs of adventurous men and women that by their looks could have been my great-grandparents. The women interested me most. These were not simply appendages to their husbands and fathers; they were industrious, determined, vital women inventing themselves and their lives in a world with few rules and small expectations.
I was fascinated by Adah Issac Menkin. In the 1860’s she was a famous entertainer in the West and an outrageous personality: rebellious, successful, infamous. Mark Twain, when he was a cub reporter Sam Clemens wrote:
“About this time a magnificent spectacle dazzled my vision-the whole constellation of the Great Menken came flaming out of the heavens like a vast spray of gas-jets, and shed a glory abroad over the universe as it fell! I have used the term “Great Menken” because I regard it as a more modest expression than the Great Bear….”. I believe he was describing one of her shows in which she rode across the stage on a white stead wearing a flesh colored leotard. (Madonna and Lady Gaga have nothing on her!).
But, the larger point impressed upon me was the realization that flesh and blood women from the Wild West were absent from the textbooks and TV Westerns that formed my thoughts about what represented the life of 19th century America.
I began a quest to right a wrong and to have lots of fun along the way.