Interview: Julie Lence
The Jackson Creek Series by Julie Lence
Slade (Jackson Creek Series Book 1)
Managing the farm since her pa’s death hasn’t been easy for Jillianne Prescott. The list of repairs is long and money is scarce. To add to her burdens, Ma struck a deal with the sheriff. She supplies food and a warm bed and the sheriff sends his prisoners to work the farm. Never one to bother with men, Jillianne is nonetheless thankful for the help, until, one by one, they run off. This latest one won’t be any different. Heavily muscled and full of tomfoolery, she has no doubt he’ll sneak off to Mexico before the sun rises. But when he proves her wrong, and takes it upon himself to find the coyote prowling the farm at night, Jillianne can’t help but admit there’s more to Slade than sinew and tomfoolery.
Be the guest at a necktie social or work at the widow Prescott’s farm? He might be an outlaw, and have a lot of faults, but stupidity isn’t one of them. Slade Barlow will hide out at the farm until tempers cool and then leave Texas for good, have the spread he’s been saving for. But the widow isn’t the frail woman he expected. And her daughter does things to his gut best left ignored. Then again, Jill has an intriguing birthmark. And curves his fingers itch to explore. Sassy and pretty, she’s the type of woman a man marries. Never one to favor a woman’s long list of rules, he’ll keep his distance, track down her coyote, and steal more than one kiss from her.
Landry (Jackson Creek Series Book 2)
Landry Barlow’s gambling and outlawing has garnered him the reputation of a menace, and a handful of enemies. But in sleepy Jackson Creek, his foremost concern isn’t someone gunning for him. His brother wants him to trade his saloon for a homestead, partner with him outfitting the army with horses. Raised in a bordello by a mother who valued her parlor more than him and deceived by another, Landry isn’t sure he’s meant to put down roots. But then, Nadine puts her faith in him and something inside awakens.
Camped for the night along the trail to western Texas, Nadine Harper’s father loses his footing in a gopher hole and breaks his leg. Nadine gets him to the nearest town, but the only business with a light glowing is the saloon. Swallowing her qualms, she barges inside the watering hole and freezes at the glint in the eyes of the heavily-muscled man barreling down on her. But when he loses his steeliness to take charge of her father, she’s swept up in the tingles peppering her skin. Dangerous and handsome, Landry is a man worth knowing.
Hunter (Jackson Creek Series Book 3)
For his last mission with the army, Hunter Barlow volunteers to go to Jackson Creek and round up supplies for the regimens camped outside of town. Not only does Jackson Creek put him that much closer to the California brothel that was his childhood home, but his brothers are there and settling a score with them is of the utmost importance. They deserted him, left him with a mother who despised him. But when the woman Jackson Creek’s mayor hires to cook and clean for the army’s headquarters runs off, Hunter hires Tawny Monroe to take her place. A working girl with bright blue eyes, something about Tawny suggests he’d rather keep time with her than seek vengeance on his brothers.
Tawny Monroe fled Baltimore and her aunt’s constant badgering for a chance at freedom, but penniless in Austin, she was forced to take a job as a working girl. Feeling the sharp sting of the saloon owner’s hand too many times, she stole away to Landries in Jackson Creek, only a working girl’s wages don’t readily provide an escape from the past, so when handsome army sergeant Hunter Barlow offers her honest work cooking and cleaning for him, she readily accepts, hoping he’ll find favor with her skills and take her with him back to his fort. But when something deep within lurches toward Hunter’s honesty and muscles, Tawny isn’t so sure freedom is what she wants most of all.
Can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind the “Jackson Creek Series”?
Slade is the 1st book in the Jackson Creek Series. His story and the series was something I never planned to write. Slade was the unnamed villain in my short story, Be Mine, Valentine. He came with a vague description and no background, and his only relevance to the story was to convince the hero, who was much older than the heroine, that the heroine could take care of herself. After that story was published, a fan asked if I was going to write the villain’s story. She said she liked him and wanted to know more about him, which got me to pondering who he was. Hence, Slade was born, and the more I asked him questions, the more I discovered I liked him. He came with a madame for a mother and two brothers who both deserved their own stories.
What sparked your interest in writing Western historical romance?
Ever since I was a little girl, I loved John Wayne’s ‘cowboy’ persona and horses. They are such beautiful animals and I always wanted one. (Sadly, I never saw that through.) Fast forward several years when I began reading romance in earnest and I fell in love with Johanna Lindsey’s Malory family and Judith McNaught’s voice. Both inspired me to try and write my own story, so with John Wayne’s ‘cowboy’ in mind, horses, and my obsession with the tv show, Dallas, I combined everything and began a career writing western romance.
The series follows the Barlow brothers in the wild west. What drew you to explore their stories and dynamics as the central focus of the series?
When I sat down and started asking Slade questions about his childhood and why he became an outlaw, I realized there were many layers to him. Raised in his mother’s brothel in California, it became clear she never wanted him (or his half-brothers), and that lack of a mother’s nurturing and acceptance was something he carried into adulthood. He always believed he wasn’t worthy of love and was meant to live a lonely existence until he met Jill. She and her family needed his help, and the more he got to know her, the more he realized he wasn’t meant to be alone, that Jill was someone who accepted him, faults and all, and wanted a future with him.
In Slade’s story, the reader meets Landry, the next Barlow brother. With a bit of bad blood between them, and the mother who resented them, Landry proved to be the comedy relief Slade needed. But Landry also had baggage from his childhood that needed to be resolved, and an interesting career as a gambler and outlaw that needed to be explored. Most of Landry’s baggage had to do with his mother, and like Slade, he believed himself unworthy of love, until he met Nadine.
Hunter is the youngest sibling and carries a lot of emotional baggage, too. Some relates to his mother, but most to his brothers. Seems they up and left him and he’s never forgiven them for that. But unlike them, he didn’t choose to live by his guns. He’s an army man on his final mission and hopes to catch up to his brothers and give them a piece of his mind before he returns home. But Tawny has something to say about him staying out in Jackson Creek.
The more I delved into the brothers, the more I had to find out if they were destined for a happy ending between themselves, or if they would go their separate ways. Their mother wasn’t much of a mother and their scars ran deep…
The setting plays a significant role in historical romances. How did you research and capture the atmosphere and authenticity of the wild west in your writing?
Many of the descriptions of towns and ranches in my books are born from movies or my imagination. (I literally draw maps of towns so I don’t forget where the saloon is in relation to the mercantile). Plus, I live in the west and can see the landscape to give readers a mental picture of sagebrush and scrub brush. But some things from that era cannot be imagined or seen firsthand, so I research on Google or visit the library. One instance from the library was a reference book on San Francisco and the Barbary Coast in the 1800s. I learned about ships permanently drydocked and incorporated that into a story. As for Jackson Creek, the town itself is fictional, and the landscape outside of town is detailed from my own imagination.
What are some of the themes or messages that you wanted to convey through the series?
That some things are not always as they seem, and time can heal a wound.
Did you encounter any challenges or surprises while writing the series? If so, how did you overcome them?
I did. In Slade, the reader learns Landry owns the saloon. The bartender is described as having beady eyes. To me, that means small, dark eyes always sizing up a person. When I wrote Landry, the bartender now had a name, Burke. He was Landry’s sidekick; tall, heavily muscled, and didn’t look a thing like the bartender I described in Slade. Nor did he sound anything like him. That always bothered me. I kept thinking, how do I explain that, and not just to readers but to myself? So when I wrote ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’ (Jackson Creek’s short Christmas story) with Burke as the hero, an explanation is given as to why Burke and the bartender from Slade are not the same people.
Can you share any interesting anecdotes or behind-the-scenes moments from your writing journey with the “Jackson Creek Series”?
Well, I’m not sure if this counts, but writing each story went something like this… I love this story, I hate this story, I love this story, I hate this story…
As an author, what do you hope readers will take away from reading this series?
Not just happy endings, but that family is important. We don’t get to choose our siblings, but almost everyone has them and most come with their own quirks and way of doing things. That doesn’t make them a bad person. It just makes you love them more and need them to keep you sane.
What can readers expect from future books in the “Jackson Creek Series” or any other projects you’re currently working on?
As of right now, I have no plans to do another book in the Jackson Creek Series. Unless someone puts a thought in my head, there isn’t one secondary character from the series I wish to go back and explore. But, I’ve learned to never say never so who knows what the future will bring.
Currently, I’ve switched gears and am attempting my first contemporary. It may result in a series (not sure yet) and yes, it is a Western. Set in the 1990s, the heroine is a country music sensation who lives outside Reno on her family’s ranch and the hero is a city boy from Queens, New York.
Visit Julie online at www.julielence.com.