So, I took Josie Marcus Earp, Adah Issac Menken, Mary Jane Magguire and seasoned them with images, ideas, personalities from other dauntless women; I then mixed in my own experiences from when I left my safe Jewish neighborhood for college at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1969, and the wandering years afterwards. From all these parts Lena Benjamin, a 19 year old woman who marries and travels overland to the California Gold Rush, was born. We were on our way!
The people and worlds that Lena encountered stepped out of my imagination which had been feasting on fiction (Cather, Updike, L’Amour, Zane Grey, RLStevenson, Rick Bass), real tales (Frontier Women, Marie Sandoz, A Yankee Trader, The World Rushed In), histories of the time, including the Industrial Revolution, European revolutions, Panama Canal, ship building, Jewish Cooking, Gunn’s Domestic Medicine, The Voyage of the Frolic…. and the list goes on and on.
The research trail I followed took dozens of detours. All of them inform the writing, even if never directly referred to in the book. The writer’s mind lives and breaths an atmosphere of another time, another place where everyday activities create world views that determine the choices made by the characters.
Creating these characters and this book was one of the most satisfying times of my life and has set me on a course for historical fiction I could never have predicted. Serendipity Rules!