Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Author Guest Post - Sandra Dallas


Readers, please join me welcoming Author Sandra Dallas who will be guest blogging here today!

About the Author
Sandra Dallas is the author of eight novels, including TALLGRASS and NEW MERCIES. She is a former Denver bureau chief for Business Week magazine and lives in Denver, Colorado.

Prayers for Sale took me 45 years to write.

When I was first married, in 1963, my husband, Bob, and I lived in Breckenridge, Colorado. Although the ski area there had just opened (Bob was the first public relations director,) Breckenridge considered itself a mining town—a gold dredging town, although the dredges, which operated from the 1890s until World War II when gold mining was declared a nonessential industry, had shut down more than 20 years earlier.

In gold dredging, a huge barge sits on a mountain stream and sends a bucket line down to bedrock, scooping up rocks and dirt, gravel, sand, and grains of gold. The rocks are discarded, then the gold extracted through a sort of placer recovery method. Dredging destroys the stream and leaves behind rock piles 40 or 50 feet high. The old timers in Breckenridge had a love-hate relationship with dredging. They’d rather have mined gold underground as God intended, but there wasn’t always employment in underground mines. So they were grateful for jobs on the dredges. Still, they hated the gold boats, the danger and the noise—especially the noise. The moaning and clanking and groaning went on 24-hours-a-day. In fact, if the dredge broke down, the old timers told me, the silence would awaken them from a sound sleep. I loved those mountain people. They lived harsh lives in the high country, where it snowed every month of the year, but they were generous and welcoming. I was curious about gold dredging and the men who worked on the boats. I wanted to find out what their lives were like, why they stayed on, doing such dangerous work. Moreover, I was intrigued with gold mining in general. In fact, I wrote about it in my job as Denver bureau chief for Business Week. But I never wrote about the gold boats in Breckenridge. I didn’t know what to do with dredging. The idea lay in the back of my mind for 45 years.

Another one of those ideas filed away in my head was that of producing a western version of Aunt Jane of Kentucky, written 100 years ago by Eliza Calvert Hall. In the novel, Aunt Jane, an elderly Kentucky quilter, tells stories about the town in which she’s lived all her life. I thought it would be cool to write a Colorado version of that book, fictionalizing Colorado history and legend.

I didn’t do anything with that idea either until a couple of years ago when I was reading a book about everyday life during the Civil War, a favorite subject of mine. I came across the story of the tragic death of a baby. Of course, all infant deaths are tragic, but this one was especially moving, and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I thought that sometime I would have to put it into a novel.

Then it hit me that I could use the death of a young child as a departure point for a novel that would include the harshness and brutality of dredging in the Rockies with the warmth and friendship represented by quilts.

Prayers for Sale, then, incorporates subjects I love—gold mining, quilting, and the Civil War. And in addition, it is a tribute to those mountain people I knew so long ago.

Thank you for that great post, dear Author! Readers, your thoughts / comments are most welcome.
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  1. I just discovered Sandra Dallas..and wrote my first fan letter! She is very gracious and a terific writer. Loved Tallgrass and New Mercies.

  2. I love Sandra Dallas's books and really liked
    Persian Pickle Club. Plan on gobbling this one up as well.