For today’s Sunday Dinner, I invited Donna Schlachter. A hybrid author, Donna writes squeaky clean historical and contemporary suspense. She has been published more than 50 times in books; is a member of several writers groups; facilitates a critique group; teaches writing classes; ghostwrites; edits; and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, traveling extensively for both, and is an avid oil painter.
Sunday Dinner is a traditional (noon) meal served after church on Sundays. Whole families, including extended family, would gather over a large meal to celebrate a day of rest. Multiple cultures enjoy this Sunday Dinner tradition. In my experience, I know it from both my Midwestern farm family as well as my Italian-American family. Now, I’d like to bring Sunday Dinner virtually to you. So, pull up a chair as we invite various guests to join us each week!
Without further ado, please tell us interesting readers would enjoy learning about you.
I am a Canadian by birth, American by choice. I emigrated in 1999 to marry a man I’d not met in person, but had spent hours on the phone and on email with. We’d already shared praise and worship, done a Bible study, and decided to get married before I set foot on US soil.
Can you tell us about your latest novel?
Sure, and thanks for asking. Hollow Hearts, book 2 in the “Hearts of the Pony Express” series, features a recent widow and a man with a calloused heart when it comes to women.
Middle-aged widow Edith Cooper walks away from the cemetery along the Green River near Simpson’s Hollow, Utah Territory. Away from the husband buried there this morning. Away from their plans and dreams for their future. Along the way, two men offer their hand in marriage. For her protection, one says. For his children’s sake, says the second. Were any of these reasons enough to marry? She must choose one. But which?
Albert Whitt, stationmaster of the Pony Express Station, loves his independent life. Twice stood up by women, he takes the only course that ensures no more rejection: stay clear of them. But when he learns that the stoic Widow Cooper is considering two proposals from men not worthy of lacing her boots, he must do something. But what?
Can Edith and Albert find a new beginning in the midst of tragedy, or will they choose the most convenient path—alone?
For those who don’t know, what is the Pony Express and what years did it operate?
Pony Express was an express mail service established in April 1860 by the Russell, Majors, and Waddell Company. They offered fast delivery of mail and small packets from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California. They guaranteed receipt in 10 days. Stage delivery took from one to three months, and sailing ships took six months or more.
Shortly after they began operations, the government signed a contract to build the transcontinental telegraph, so the Pony Express knew its days were numbered. However, the service did what it was set up to do—keep the Union together. California was already threatening secession because of the distance from Washington DC. The Pony Express closed in October 1861, just 18 months later. And the company never achieved its goal of being awarded the US Mail contract. Instead, the government forced it to merge with the Butterfield & Overland Stage, awarding the contract to this new entity.
Did the Pony Express run in a certain area of the country? What were its common routes?
There was one route from St. Joseph Missouri to Sacramento California, which consisted of more than 200 relay and home stations, where horses were changed out and the riders lived between rides. Thousands of horses were used, and the company kept the stations supplied with station masters or station keepers, and supplies. The route ran through Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California, crossing more than 1900 miles of rugged and then-unsettled territory.
How does the Pony Express intersect with your story?
My story is set in a fort, small town, and actual Pony Express relay station called Simpson’s Hollow. This is near the Green River, and the area called Simpson’s Gulch was where the first soft soil was found after crossing the prairies, and many folks in wagon trains buried their dead there.
What research was necessary to bring authenticity to your portrayal of the Pony Express?
I’ve already traveled a good deal of the Pony Express route in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah. I’ve also visited every museum I could find with any mention of the Express, and had an afternoon-long conversation with a past president of the Colorado Pony Express Association. Read lots of non-fiction and fiction books, watched some bad interpretations of the Express in the form of movies and television series.
Were resources easy or difficult to find on these topics? Do you have a favorite resource?
Non-fiction books are a great place to start. I actually use books from the children’s section of the library because they are short, simple, concise. Visiting museums and the National Parks system Interpretation Centers along the route is fascinating, and I think it’s my favorite way to research. Talking to the park rangers is a delight, as they have spent a lot of lonely hours reading and doing online research, so they know the stories.
What is one piece of your research that you couldn’t include in the book, but wish readers could know?
It’s also a piece of information I wish I could have located: the name of the station master at the time of my story. There are so few records available at the station level.
Do you have another book in the works? What can you tell us about that book?
I always have another book in the works (smile). The one I’m working on now is about the suffragette movement. It’s part of a multi-author series that begins later this year, and mine releases in 2023.
The afternoon is slipping away, so we have to draw the stories to an end. Donna, thank you for joining us today!
If readers would like to purchase a copy of Hollow Hearts, where might they be able to do so?
Hallow Hearts is available on Amazon.
If readers would like to learn about you or your other books, how might they find you online?
Stay connected so you learn about new releases, pre-orders, and pre-sales, as well as check out featured authors, book reviews, and a little corner of peace. Plus: Receive a free e-book simply for signing up for our free newsletter! Find out more at DonnaSchlachter.com.
On social media, visit Donna on: Facebook | Twitter | Amazon | BookBub | Goodreads
Check out previous blog posts at HiStoryThruTheAges.wordpress.com and AllBettsAreOff.wordpress.com.
Before you go! A giveaway!
Leave a comment, and we’ll randomly draw for a print (US only) or e-book copy of Hollow Hearts. Make sure to cleverly disguise your email address so we can contact you, and so that those spammers can’t track—well, you know. Use this example: Donna AT livebytheword DOT com. Ends 10/5/22. See Danielle’s Policy Page for details.
Over Sunday Dinner next week romantic suspense author Sarah Hamaker will be joining us.
3 thoughts on “Sunday Dinner with Donna Schlachter”
Hi Maryann, could you send me an email at donna AT livebytheword DOT com so I can contact you about your gift, please?
I love reading historical fiction and the Pony Express is such an important part of our past.
I would love to read Donna’s book. Such a lovely cover too!
Thank you for commenting! I love historical fiction, too.