For today’s Sunday Dinner, I invited Linda Goodnight to talk about Claiming Her Legacy. Linda, a New York Times and USA Today Bestseller, has authored fifty-plus sweet and Christian romance novels. A smalltown girl, Linda has also won the RITA, CAROL, and other awards.
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 never think of myself as particularly interesting. However, my family is. My husband and I believe strongly in God’s spirit of adoption, and as such, have three adopted daughters, plus our bio kids. Those kids, now grown, have already adopted seven children and I won’t be surprised if there are more to come!
Can you tell us about your latest novel?
Claiming Her Legacy is my latest women’s fiction novel, though I have others on the shelves this year!
With her family’s legacy on the line, a woman with everything to lose must rely on a man hiding from his past…
Oklahoma, 1890 -Frontier women don’t ride off alone to track an outlaw—not even women as capable as tomboy spinster Willa Malone. But Willa desperately needs the bounty money offered for her father’s killer if she’s to keep their homestead and take care of her sisters. That means she needs an expert tracker’s help. Gideon Hartley has the skill, but the handsome trail guide also has a troubling secret…
Gideon has spent years trying to numb his pain with whiskey. Little by little, their quest—and Willa’s belief in him—is restoring the sense of purpose he thought he’d lost. Journeying into the heart of danger, they’ll have to face down the past together if they hope to protect their future…
What made you choose late 1800s Oklahoma as your setting?
Honestly, the setting, the hero, and the heroine, all just sprang into my head one day as I was brainstorming ideas on the computer. I’d say they chose me, rather than the other way around. I found it fascinating to explore the societal expectations of women at that time and to dig into a time and place so very different from today, and yet, a place so familiar to me. I’d love to write more in that setting.
Have you lived in or visited Oklahoma? What research was required to set a book there in the late 1800s?
A life-long Oklahoman, I already knew a great deal of Oklahoma history-it’s a required class in high school . Back then, I found it dry and boring. As an adult, history began to come alive for me organically as I realized that fascinating stories of real people in a wild, dangerous, exciting time were all around me. To research deeper, I visited historic towns, museums, state parks like “Robber’s Cave” and read some fascinating old letters and diaries that bring the time period to life. I live in what was once Indian Territory, so I am familiar with the places Willa and Gideon traveled in their quest. It’s been fun and enlightening to look back at old photos of what this area looked like over a hundred years ago and to pit my characters against such hardships and dangers.
Can you tell us more about the Oklahoma Land Run? What part did women play in it?
Oklahoma is unique in being the only state that came into being through a competitive race. Thousands guarded by the military lined up along the Kansas border and when the gun was fired at high noon on April 21, 1889, land-hungry people poured into the “unassigned lands” of Oklahoma Territory, hoping to stake a claim.
Many were desperate to embrace the American dream of owning land they couldn’t afford elsewhere, but some came for the sheer excitement and adventure. They came on foot, horseback, wagon, buggy and one enterprising single woman, gun and stake in hand, even jumped from a train. My kind of gal!
President Harrison declared that anyone could make the run and own land, including women, African Americans, immigrants—anyone willing to work hard and “prove up” the 160 acres by building a dwelling and improving the land within five years. Fights over claims broke out. Many ran and got nothing. It took determination and grit to stake and hold a claim.
In a time when women couldn’t even vote, the opportunity to own land was irresistible to many ladies, including my heroine, Willa Malone. One of my favorites photos from that time, and an inspiration for the book, is of a lone woman in a white-collared dress sitting outside her tent. It is captioned, “She held it down.”
Sadly, human trafficking occurred in the late 1800s. What did it look like in Oklahoma at the time and how is it the same/different from today’s atrocity?
Trafficking at the time was not recognized as a horrible crime the way it is today. Authorities, when aware, often turned a blind eye. Like the characters in Claiming Her Legacy, most people assumed that women in brothels chose to be there. Sometimes that was the case. Sometimes they were desperate women with few choices. But sometimes, they were bought and sold just as traffic victims are today.
The trade in Chinese girls out of San Francisco was especially strong until Christian churches began a crusade against the organized crime and trafficking in California. Then the sex trade moved on to saloons, brothels, red-light districts, and mining camps and was huge business in the woman-scarce west. Sometimes kidnapped and drugged, but often lured by promises of good jobs or a husband, the girls seldom found a way out. Some found an odd kind of success in their profession, but many died within in a few years of disease, despair, opium addiction, or brutality.
Were resources easy or difficult to find on these topics? Do you have a favorite resource?
It is easy to find generalized information on the Land Runs, but more difficult to find individual stories. That’s why diaries and letters are my favorite resource. Fortunately, many are online today, but I found some fascinating stories and letters in the Territorial Museum in Guthrie, Oklahoma, the state’s first capital. Studying the human trafficking from that time period was much harder as many sources wanted to glamorous bawdy houses and saloon girls, telling rip-roaring “fun” stories rather than delving into the underworld that prostitution was. Information on the trafficking of Chinese children in the 1800s, though, was more plentiful.
What is one piece of your research that you couldn’t include in the book, but wish readers could know?
I’m such a research nerd! There was so much I couldn’t use, but I didn’t want the research and history to overwhelm the story so I only used that which enhanced the plot. But here’s a very fun fact you won’t read in the book: There was a group of women who made the Land Run together and began an all-woman town called Bathsheba. No men allowed! Alas, it didn’t last because eventually one of them found true love and wanted to get married. 😊
Do you have another book in the works? What can you tell us about that book?
I also write for Love Inspired contemporary, mostly western/cowboys and small towns, so I always have books on the shelves and in the wings. The most current one, Her Secret Son, released October 25. Set on a ranch, it is book 4 in the Sundown Valley series and features a cute toddler, a hunky, pro-athlete neighbor, and an over-worked cowgirl who blames the hero for cheating her granddad and devastating their family finances.
The afternoon is slipping away, so we have to draw the stories to an end. Linda, thank you for joining us today!
If readers would like to purchase a copy of Claiming Her Legacy where might they be able to do so?
Oh, I hope you do! Reviewers have said some wonderful, encouraging things about the story, so I think you’ll love it.
If readers would like to learn about you or your other books, how might they find you online?
For Sunday Dinner next week, we’ll be joined by author Julie Brookman. See you then!