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Author Update 2023: Pamela Nowak

Author Pamela Nowak writes historical women’s fiction and award-winning historical romance set in the American West. Necessary Deceptions: The Women of Wyatt Earp (Five Star Publishing, 2022) is her second historical fiction release that explores the forgotten stories of real women. You’ll find Pam on her website at and on Facebook. Read more about her writing in SWW’s 2022 interview, and look for Necessary Deceptions at Barnes & Noble and on her Amazon author page.

What would you like readers to know about the story you tell in Necessary Deceptions?
I think what I want readers to know right up front is that this is the story of Mattie Blaylock and Josie Marcus rather than a story about Wyatt Earp. Certainly, how Wyatt impacted their lives is important (because he certainly did), but this is about the women forgotten by history and hidden behind Earp’s legend. Neither of these women have been given their own voice until recently and neither have been treated fairly in the books and movies about Wyatt. They were both complex women, dealing with the harsh realities of life and were so much more than the cardboard cut-out characters typically portrayed.

What sparked the story idea, and how did the book come together after that?
A few years ago, I read an excellent nonfiction book about all the Earp women, Mrs. Earp: The Wives And Lovers Of The Earp Brothers by Sherry Monahan. I instantly knew there was a novel there and I began researching several of the women…looking for story lines. I loved Virgil’s wife Allie, but Mattie and Josie had such complicated stories and overlapping stories. There wasn’t much information on Mattie, though. When I found Mattie by E.C. (Ted) Meyers, I realized there were enough threads for me to follow.

Tell us about your main characters. What was it about them that fascinated you so much that you wrote a novel about their lives?
Josie fascinated me in that she seemed to have spent her entire life crafting false narratives about her life. I wanted to dig into her motives for that and sifting through her personal narratives was a research challenge that appealed to me. Her lies contained small pieces of truth and once I found support in the historical record for those, I could pick apart the embellishments and alterations she created. Largely, the legend of Wyatt Earp was created by Josie. She buried almost all of his past lawlessness. Research into Mattie revealed arrest records, court documents, and threads that knit a whole different picture of his past. There were large holes in Mattie’s history but there were family “stories” that allowed me to fill those holes with plausible fiction.

How does the historical setting — that particular moment in history — impact the story and the characters?
The 1850s through 1880s in the West was a time of opportunity for many and some of that opportunity was based in manipulation of legal systems that were in their formative stages. For women, the West was a place of stark reality and few avenues of support. This collision often brought them together within the prostitution trade, whether working it from the inside or “on the payroll” as a lawman. Of course, this didn’t occur solely in the West but in this era, the West was rampant with it. The mix of prostitution, gambling, opportunity, and politics in that place at that time made for tons of conflict.

Is there a scene in your book you’d love to see play out in a movie?
Am I allowed to say “all of it?”  I guess I’d love to see the early parts of both Josie and Mattie’s life make the big screen because the world has never really seen those parts of their stories…life before Wyatt. I guess I’m also particularly fond of the scenes when each woman makes the decision to pursue prostitution. Josie, for all her assumed worldliness, likely didn’t have a clue what that life was really like. Mattie, I think, took the only choice available in a time of desperation. I think the essences of who they were really comes through in those scenes.

What was the process like for choosing Necessary Deceptions as the book’s title?
The title was born from the theme which was evident from the start. My titles usually are representative of the theme of the book. From there it’s playing around with synonyms and looking at what’s intriguing, not an echo of anything currently popular, and what rolls off the tongue. I create multiple variations and let them rest, then settle on one as the writing progresses. I usually ask for input from critique partners as well. For this book, my early variations included deception, lies, manipulation, etc. “Necessary” was added late in the process as something that would make potential readers wonder about the motives for the deceptions.

What did you like most, and what did you like least, about putting this project together?
The hardest part of this novel was staying true to Josie’s lifelong deceit of people. Most people didn’t like her, but I had to craft her as a protagonist readers would like and sympathize with. I think I most enjoyed developing Mattie as someone who was so much more than the laudanum addict portrayed in the movies.

Do you feel your writing style has changed since you wrote your first novel?
Absolutely! My first books were historical romances and there is a certain expectation readers have of romances that limits the plot and character development. Writing historicals gives me more freedom to experiment. Then, there’s the fact that I’ve grown in my craft. Some of the elements of fiction I had to work so hard on during the writing of my first books are now easier, so I can work on more advanced techniques.

What are the challenges of writing for the historical fiction market?
I typically do not write to the market (i.e. what’s hot right now). I like to write about real people and real events. If those people and events are recognizable, the book has greater marketing potential. A novel about a small-town teacher will have a smaller audience than one about Lizzie Borden. There are sometimes stories out there that appeal to me but I know it’s a better strategy to focus on those that may have a broader audience.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kat has a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

2022 New Releases for SWW Authors #2

Sue Houser, Evelyn Neil, Pamela Nowak, Angus Robb, and Edith Tarbescu represent the diverse membership of SouthWest Writers (SWW) with books published in a variety of genres in 2022. Their new releases couldn’t fit in this year’s interview schedule, but look for 2023 interviews or updates for many of these authors.

A list of interviewed SWW authors with 2022 releases is included at the end of this post.

Amelia and the Magic Ponies (Irie Books, August 2022) by Sue Houser. Los Caballitos has come to town! Amelia gets in line to ride the carousel, but when a thunderstorm blows in, the wooden ponies are hurriedly stashed in an old barn—and forgotten. The following year, Amelia goes in search of the enchanting little merry-go-round. Can she convince her grandfather to restore the damaged horses? This book, written for 4-8 years old, parallels the story of Tio Vivo, an antique carousel found abandoned in Peñasco, New Mexico and restored by the Lions Club of Taos. This charming carousel continues to take children on magical rides during Fiestas de Santiago y Santa Ana in Taos, New Mexico.

Visit Sue on her website at and go to her Amazon author page for all of her books.

Dancing to the End of Our Rainbow (March 2022) by Evelyn Neil. Married following a three-month courtship, soul-mates Don and Evelyn dance off to begin a fifty-eight-year adventure of traveling both the high road and the low road. Constant companions, they build a successful business while imparting strong ethical values to their two sons and each of their four grandchildren. This tale of devotion and hard work follows the couple on their heart-wrenching journey through uncharted territory while coping with Don’s unwelcome health diagnosis and slow physical decline.  When they reach the end of their rainbow, Evelyn is left to grapple with the day-to-day challenges of widowhood and to wonder who she is without Don. With resilience and determination, she strives to accept what has happened and to reinvent her life.

Dancing to the End of Our Rainbow is available on Amazon.

Necessary Deceptions: The Women of Wyatt Earp (Five Star Publishing, February 2022) by Pamela Nowak. Deception defined Wyatt Earp and the two women who were married to him longest. Their stories remained elusive, buried by the legend that emerged around Wyatt. Mattie Blaylock lived with him during the years when prostitution and corruption ran their lives, clinging to the lies she told herself and fighting to remain her own woman. Josephine Marcus deceived others her entire life, hiding her less-than-desirable past and opening doors to the role she craved. When Josie met Wyatt, it was easy enough to reinvent him as well. The myth that emerged from her fabrications created a history that destroyed Mattie and left Josie struggling to keep her stories straight.

You’ll find Pam on her website at Look for Necessary Deceptions at Barnes & Noble and her Amazon author page.

African Indaba (August 2022) by Angus Robb. Rory Mackenzie, son of a Scots refugee and a Boer mother, achieves manhood during political and cultural upheaval on the Dark Continent, all the while under the threat of Chola, a deadly bull elephant. As a child, he watches the beast slay his grandfather, and as a youth sees his father meet the same fate, but both times Chola mysteriously spares Rory’s life. Perhaps the natives are right: The monster has mtagate, magical powers enabling him to tell the difference between friend and foe. Spanning decades before, during, and after World War II, the tale unfolds during the dying years of colonial domination in Africa. At its core this is the story of a boy and a rogue beast, each fighting for his place in a vicious world, but neither craving to kill the other for it.

Visit Angus at You’ll find African Indaba on Amazon.

Beyond Brooklyn: A memoir (August 2022) by Edith Tarbescu. “In Beyond Brooklyn Edith Tarbescu tells her own story, but many readers will also recognize themselves in her compelling life-scenes and mini-play scripts. The daughter of immigrant Jews, transplanted with her New York roots largely intact first to Connecticut and then to New Mexico, Tarbescu keeps sane by making witty habitats out of words. Every visitor to her constructs is in for a treat.” — Ann Z. Leventhal, author of Life-Lines, Among the Survivors and The Makings of a Nobody.

Visit Edith at and go to Amazon for Beyond Brooklyn.

SWW Author Interviews: 2022 Releases

E. Joe Brown
A Cowboy’s Destiny (Artemesia Publishing, August 2022)

Chuck Greaves
The Chimera Club (Tallow Lane Books, May 2022)

Melody Groves
Trail to Tin Town (Five Star Publishing, June 2022)
Before Billy the Kid: The Boy Behind the Legendary Outlaw (Two Dot Publishing, August 2022)

Joyce Hertzoff
Winds of Change (August 2022)

Ed Lehner
Grandpa’s Horse and Other Tales (AIA Publishing, March 2022)

Cassie Sanchez
Embracing the Darkness (October 2022)

Avraham “Avi” Shama
Cyberwars — David Knight Goes To Moscow (3rd Coast Books, May 2022)

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kat posts to a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

An Interview with Author Pamela Nowak

Pamela Nowak is an award-winning author of historical romance set in the American West. In 2021, Five Star Publishing released Never Let Go: Survival of the Lake Shetek Women, Pam’s debut in women’s historical fiction. The novel has been described as “[a] tale of bravery, sacrifice, and determination…rich with historical detail and a cast of unforgettable women who refused to accept their fate.” You’ll find Pam on her website, on Facebook, Twitter, and her Amazon author page.

When readers turn the last page of Never Let Go, what do you hope they’ll take away from it?
I’m hopeful readers will feel a connection to the women who were involved in the incidents at Lake Shetek and recognize that each of them was uniquely empowered to navigate through all that happened to her. Too often, the raw facts of history fail to reveal what drove the individuals involved. I hope readers will laugh and cry and “feel” with these women.

What sparked the idea for the story?
Because the story is based on real events, I have to say history sparked the idea but the idea to focus on the women only has been with me, loosely, since I was an adolescent. I grew up just a few miles from Lake Shetek and learned about the historical facts when I was in grade school. Those events came alive when I toured the cabin sites along Lake Shetek at age eleven. Then in junior high, I took a class on Minnesota history and learned more. I even wrote three pages of a manuscript but tossed it because I had no original take that would make the story different from other fictionalized accounts. The history continued to intrigue me, shaping research projects in high school and in college.

Then I got married, raised a family, and started writing historical romance. But the story of the five women who survived the Lake Shetek events haunted me. Every time my hometown paper ran a story, it clambered for attention. In 2017, I made the decision to jump away from romance and follow the story.

How did the book come together?
When I made the decision to finally write it, I had a hefty amount of research material about the 1862 events already and the Minnesota Historical Society has a great digital collection — but there were several challenges. I needed to go through the primary and secondary accounts with a fine-tooth comb to reconcile the different recollections of the timeline of events. I also had to research the lives of each of the five women prior to 1862. Once the research was done, I had to craft individual personalities/goals and motivations/character arcs and fit that into the historical record that shaped the larger plot. And, because I had five protagonists, I had to generate five different voices within the novel.

In terms of a timeline, it took a year for the research and writing of the manuscript, then about three months for beta readers and final edits. With this book, because it was a different genre, I also spent nine months marketing it to agents and editors at larger publishing houses. In the end, the time period of the book proved problematic for them and I sold it to the publisher of my historical romances. It took about a year for the submission/contract/three-phase edits/ARC review process. That put me into the throes of COVID and a six-month delay in release.

Tell us about your main characters and why readers will connect with them.
There are five protagonists in Never Let Go: Laura Duley, Lavina Eastlick, Almena Hurd, Christina Koch, and Julia Wright. Each of the women had her own unique dreams for life and each had a journey westward that created hurdles in the way of her goals. When the Dakota attacked the isolated settlement, each woman had to dig deep to discover the power needed to emerge strong. I think readers will find a bit in each woman with which they can identify, and I’m hopeful I’ve done a good enough job with making the women real and emotionally accessible that readers will connect with all five.

Did what-if questions help shape this work?
What-ifs always help shape my work. To some extent, because the novel is based on real events, there is less room to play with what-ifs. But I still had to craft each woman’s motivations and character as well as to shape connecting scenes so, yes, exploration of possibilities was important.

What makes this novel unique in the historical fiction market?
It has five protagonists—not uncommon for epic novels, but most historicals center on one character. I also think that the book could have been classified as creative nonfiction due to the deep research behind it. Finally, because the fictional elements are so research-inspired and plausible, readers who are familiar with the actual events will likely not identify the fiction from the fact unless they are reading with that purpose.

What was the most rewarding aspect of putting the project together?
There were three huge rewards for me. The first was in seeing the women come to life the way they had lived in my mind for so long. The second was in my growth as a writer with this book. The third was in the reactions of Minnesotans who know the story and expressed their delight in experiencing the story emotionally rather than as dry fact.

Share a few surprising facts you discovered while doing research for the book.
As I reviewed the scholarly accounts, I learned researchers had made an error on the time events that began on the day of the attack. Secondary accounts were all off by two hours. I suspect that had to do with daylight savings time adjustments being made incorrectly and everyone else repeating the error. There were multiple references to sunrise, and it’s now very easy to look up historical times of sunrise online—something not available to earlier researchers. I also discovered that recollections about Across the River/Pawn (one of the Dakota involved) were largely shaped by bias and that there was nothing in the historical record to support him having tricked the settlers or even supported the attack.

For Never Let Go to work, what decisions did you have to make regarding historical figures or events?
The mid-nineteenth century was fraught with cultural bias. Those who wrote the history of the U.S.-Dakota War were shaped by those biases and by the emotions of having lived through the events. I knew this going in, but I made a conscious decision that I would use Julia as a viewpoint character to reveal information about the Dakota culture and tribal structure. For Laura, I stuck to her well-known prejudices. In this way, I hoped to both reflect the prejudices of the time and foster better understanding of the Dakota. I also had to make decisions about shaping Laura’s character to ensure she was sympathetic. This meant I couldn’t rely solely on primary account recollections about her because most of her contemporaries didn’t like her. I had to dig deeper to find the sources of the traits others saw as negative and draw out the positive traits others hadn’t seen.

Of all the books you’ve written, which one was the most challenging and which was the easiest (or most enjoyable) to write?
Every one of them has been both challenging and enjoyable, each in its own way. I’m always in love with my characters, their story, and the history I use. I’m always challenged by the push to improve my writing. But I think I’d have to say Never Let Go was the most challenging (because characterization had to be shaped around fact and scenes motivated to fit into real events) and the most enjoyable (because the story haunted me for so long) and easiest (because I had known the history for so long).

Looking back to the beginning of your writing/publishing career, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then?
That it’s okay to be frustrated because it means I’m learning and improving. If I’m not frustrated, then I’m not stretching myself as a writer.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m currently about one-quarter of the way through a manuscript centering on the Fool Soldiers, the group of young Lakota men who ransomed and returned the Lake Shetek captives. The research for their story has been fascinating, exploring what shaped these men and the untold stories of how they were treated after the rescue. My research into Lakota culture has brought rewards and new connections as I’ve touched base with some of the descendants of these men. My challenge is in telling their story as it should be told.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I love connecting with readers and am always up for both live and Zoom author appearances/library talks and book-club discussions. Much thanks to all who visited today to let me share! Please connect with me on my website or social media (Facebook/Twitter).

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kat has a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

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