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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

An Interview with Author Melody Groves

Author and ex-gunfighter Melody Groves weaves her passion for the Old West into her writing. Her articles have been published in numerous magazines including American Cowboy, Wild West, True West, and New Mexico Magazine. She’s also the author of three nonfiction books and four novels in the Colton Brothers Saga series. Her newest historical western novel, She Was Sheriff (Five Star Publishing, 2016), introduces a set of likeable characters her readers will love to cheer on. You can find Melody on her website at and her Amazon author page.

What is your elevator pitch for She was Sheriff?
All she ever wanted was a gold band. Instead, all she got was a tin star.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
Not being from northern California, writing the terrain was tough. In 2014, I toured the area. I also did that when I researched Kansas for Kansas Bleeds (the fourth book in the Colton Brothers Saga).

Tell us about your main character and why readers will connect with her.
Maud is the lead character who is challenged to do (1) things she’s never done before and (2) things 1872 society frowned upon—especially for a woman. I hope readers connect because she’s breaking societal barriers as well as her own perceived limits.

What makes this novel unique in the historical western market?
At a recent Western Writers of American convention, my novel was held up as an example of the up and coming “strong female protagonist” Western! My publisher has a new line of novels called “Women Frontier Fiction” and I’m proud to be one of the first. Westerns are no longer typical “shoot ‘em ups”—although that’s my favorite kind.

Did you discover anything interesting while doing research for this book?
I do tons of research for all my novels and that era was fascinating in that the world was changing so quickly. We think of our 21st century as spinning—well, the West had the train, telegraph, East coast fashions, and thousands of immigrants from all over the world that spun their lives. People moved from place to place trying to make a living, trying to find the proverbial pot of gold. It was a relatively transient society full of various characters and in many instances, very little law.

Tell us more about She Was Sheriff: what sparked the initial story idea, how long it took to write, etc.
I have no idea where the story came from other than I have a t-shirt with a woman on a horse and the title is She Was Sheriff (there are no copyright laws on titles). My imagination kept spinning a story that, piece by piece, came together. The book itself took most of a year to write, then a couple of months of editing and rewriting. After a tad bit of final rewriting, selling it to my publisher wasn’t hard.

What is it about the Old West that keeps you writing in that world?
I love the Old West. It was a time of lawlessness, but also a time where people re-established themselves. They became someone they wanted to be. That still goes on today. The West is a magical, open, awe-inspiring place. I was born here and have always loved it.

How did your gunfighting re-enactment affect your writing?
For ten years I walked the streets of Old Town and other places, shooting good guys, bad guys, and sheriffs. I’m quite comfortable using my .22 Ruger, being shot, and shooting as a group. We performed in the O.K. Corral (a true Mecca for re-enactors), and I swear I was back in 1881. I use the experiences (and remembered bruises) in my writing. In re-enacting, the bullets may be fake, but the adrenalin is real.

BorderAmbush150You’ve written four novels in the Colton Brothers Saga. What are the challenges to writing a series? Do your protagonists still surprise you as you write their stories?
Series are hard to keep fresh. Thankfully, turns out there are four Colton brothers, so they’re always getting in trouble or making bad decisions—singularly or together. Hopefully, they stay fresh that way. My protagonists surprise me all the time. It’s truly fun to let them “do their thing” by not putting restrictions on their character. As their creator, I may have one thing in mind, then they turn around and do the opposite. Just like your own children!

What are your strengths as a writer, and what do you do to overcome your weaknesses?
I do pretty good dialogue, but then again, it’s my characters talking. I just write down what they say. I’m fairly good at reversals—when the reader thinks one thing will happen then it changes. As for weaknesses, women’s roles are hard for me to write, but I’m hoping I learned from She Was Sheriff. I’m not crazy about women in traditional Westerns, so I don’t give them big parts.

You have a knack for writing distinct characters, both heroes we love and villains we love to hate. What process do you use to develop your characters?
Developing characters is an ongoing writing exercise. When coming up with new characters, I find ones who have flaws, which make them interesting. I spend a lot of time thinking about people I know, then choose something from them. Or at times, I simply sit and watch strangers. I see terrific body types and then add characteristics—kind of like Frankenstein.

What are the hardest kinds of scenes for you to write, and what do you do to get over this hurdle?
The hardest scenes to write are fights or cattle stampedes. There are so many moving parts (literally), I find keeping them all in my mind’s eye difficult. So, I do two things—use pieces of “stuff” to place my characters on my desk. I’ll use a pencil eraser, a marble or whatever is handy and march them around like kids do with little tin soldiers. It looks silly, but logistically, it works well. The other thing I do is watch movies/TV shows with fights or stampedes. Those always inspire me.

Looking back to the beginning of your writing career, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then?
Isn’t that the million dollar question? If I could go back, I’d become a journalist instead of an educator. The most successful writers I know started in newspapers. I wouldn’t spend my time in the classroom, I’d be out hunting stories and writing my own. I recommend to younger writers to take as many journalism classes as possible and get a job in that field. I guarantee they’ll be great writers sooner than those of us who started later in life.

SonoranRage150What’s the best encouragement or advice you’ve received on your writing journey?
Best advice—“trust your reader.” At first I didn’t understand, but it means your reader is smarter than you think. Give them the information once, and they’ve got it. No need to remind them time and time again. In my band, the keyboard player one day said “trust your bandmate,” meaning assume he’s doing what he’s supposed to do—to the best of his ability. Readers are the same way. Just trust them.

Best other advice—choose what’s the most interesting. At the end of my book Sonoran Rage, it was a toss-up if James’ (the main character) fiancé would be waiting for him when he returned from being captured by Cochise. What everyone wanted, including me, was to have her there and fall into his bruised arms. But that’s what was expected. So, the more interesting choice was—no, she’d moved on (in all fairness, she thought he was dead). That opened up the future plotline that developed into several novels.

What are you working on now? Will we see Maud, Seth, and Pokey from She Was Sheriff again?
I’ll be starting book 7 of the Colton Brothers Saga as well as intense research for a book based on my Irish ancestors who immigrated to New Orleans during the potato famine. It’s a true Western, too, as they came to an unknown land to re-invent themselves. Maud, Seth, and Pokey are trying to find a story I’d like to write. While I’m working on the other two books, I’ll let these three characters play.

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

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