Thursday, 12 November 2015

Guest Post: Heading to the Wild West again by Liz Harris

First of all, I’d like to say a massive thank you to lovely Sharon for inviting me to be her guest today, and giving me a chance to chat about my latest historical novel. Asking an author if she’d like to talk about her novel is about the nicest question imaginable, so thank you, Shaz.

The Lost Girl, which was written under the working title Golden Tiger, is set in Wyoming.

As you know, it’s the third time I’ve set a novel in the American West. This is because it’s the most romantic of periods, and so interesting in terms of its history, that as soon as I finish one story set there, I have the inspiration for another. 

But let me say quickly that although I’ve now set three novels in Wyoming, the story for each takes place in a different location and has a different historical focus. I wouldn’t want to repeat a background that I used in an earlier novel as I enjoy describing different sorts of scenery.

A Bargain Struck, set in 1887, tells the story of a second generation homesteading family who live on agricultural land south of the railroad. A Western Heart, set in 1880, is located in ranching country north of the railroad. And The Lost Girl is located in the 1870s and 1880s in SW Wyoming, which is an arid, non-agricultural region, but one that is rich in coal.

The Lost Girl tells the story of Charity, a Chinese girl who was found by the river when she was one-day old. The American boy who found her, Joe, aged seven, persuades his mining family to take her in. Reluctantly, they agree.  At that time, there were no Chinese in the area, but as Charity grows up, the situation changes and tensions develop between the white miners and the Chinese immigrants brought in to work in the mines, and Charity, looking 100% Chinese in her face, but wearing American clothes, speaking with an American accent and thinking like an American, finds herself shunned by both communities.

However, the novel isn’t focused solely on Charity as she grows up. The reader watches Joe, too.  Having lived for a short period of time on a ranch when he was very young, he’s always longed to leave the mining town and go back to green fields and a job out on the range. Increasingly, he comes to see joining a cattle drive as the road to freedom.

And, of course, there’s a love story at the heart of the novel!

To discover how a cowboy lives throughout the year, and not just when he’s leading a wagon train or driving cattle to Kansas City, I was forced to delve deep into logs written by cowboys at that time. Hitherto, my knowledge of cowboys had come exclusively from cowboys in Hollywood movies (I’m not complaining – they were pretty hunky guys!), and finding out what actually happened at the end of the drive and in the heart of winter, was truly fascinating.

As you may have gathered, my research into life in SW Wyoming in the 1870s and 1880s is always thoroughly fulfilling in itself, but three times it’s had the added bonus in that it’s given birth to characters who will always remain very close to my heart. 

I’m sure that I shall return to Wyoming again in a future novel. For the moment, though, I’m working on a novel set in 1930, and it isn’t set in Wyoming. It isn’t even set in America! But more about that another day.

What if you were trapped between two cultures?

Life is tough in 1870s Wyoming. But it’s tougher still when you’re a girl who looks Chinese but speaks like an American.

Orphaned as a baby and taken in by an American family, Charity Walker knows this only too well.  The mounting tensions between the new Chinese immigrants and the locals in the mining town of Carter see her shunned by both communities.

When Charity’s one friend, Joe, leaves town, she finds herself isolated. However, in his absence, a new friendship with the only other Chinese girl in Carter makes her feel like she finally belongs somewhere. 

But for a lost girl like Charity, finding a place to call home was never going to be that easy … 


  1. Many thanks for inviting me on to your column, Shaz. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to you about The Lost Girl.

  2. Can't wait to read this fascinating book very soon.

  3. Haw, haw! I wouldn't bee complaining at spending time with a few hunky cowboys, Liz.. Can't wait to read The Lost Girl, which sounds absolutely fascinating. Your 1930s novel sounds a little intriguing too! Best of luck!

  4. Many thanks for your comments, Angela and Sheryl.When I happened upon this period in Wyoming's history, I felt that I'd discovered the gold that my character, seven year old Joe, had been seeking at the outset of the novel. xx