Love Bytes is happy to have author Laura Stone, here today on their blog tour for Bitter Springs.
Welcome to the blog, Laura!
Author Name: Laura Stone
Book Name: Bitter Springs
Release Date: December 3, 2015
Pages or Words: 302 pages
Publisher: Interlude Press
Cover Artist: Collen M. Good
In 1870s Texas, Renaldo Valle Santos, the youngest son of a large and traditional family, has been sent to train with Henry “Hank” Burnett, a freed slave and talented mesteñero—or horse- catcher—so he may continue the family horse trade. Bitter Springs is a sweeping epic that takes themes from traditional Mexican literature and Old Westerns to tell the story of a man coming into his own and realizing his destiny lies in the wild open spaces with the man who loves him, far from expectations of society.
Categories: Fiction, Gay Fiction, Historical, M/M Romance, Romance, Western/Cowboy
Today I’m very happy to be interviewing LAURA STONE author of BITTER SPRINGS. Hi Laura, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.
Thank you for having me! I’m a full time writer, blogger, and lover of wine, and often times all three things are happening at the same time. Bitter Springs is my second novel, and follows the youngest son of a Mexican rancher in 1870s West Texas as he learns the art of horse catching from a famed mesteñero, Hank Burnett. They have to learn to get along (and spoiler alert: they do.) The problem comes with realizing that this may be the only chance they’ll ever have to be with each other.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
I like to create my characters first, what they look like, how they behave, their personalities, how they interact with their families. From there I try and create a time line of major events leading up to where they appear in the story. It helps me get to know them fully so I can then take them wherever the story goes. As for plotting the story, I try to keep an open mind about how the story will go, even though I typically outline a general arc. Some times it changes, and this story was no exception. I actually intended to have a deadly shootout at the very end, but the story is drastically different from the original outline. Whew!
Who doesn’t love a good hero? Tell us about your protagonist. Was there a real life inspiration behind them?
Renaldo is definitely his own man. I know men like him: family-focused, tender-hearted and open with affection, but with a real sense of duty, the kind who put themselves last for the good of others. My favorite sort of character is one who have life throw them a curveball and they keep going. Renaldo definitely is that sort of character.
What real-life inspirations do you use when world building?
I love to know a place, how it looks, the terrain, who lives there, and in the case of Bitter Springs, the plants and animal life along with the people who inhabit it. I’ve always loved books with a strong sense of place and time, so that’s something I try to achieve in my stories, as well. There were two gunslingers from Tombstone, Arizona who lived, fought, and died side by side, and were buried together in an unprecedented shared gravesite, and they kicked off the whole novel. Who were they? What were their true feelings for each other? How did the people around them see them and their relationship?
Did you learn anything from this book and what was it?
The best thing I learned was just how common it was for men to be in long-term, loving relationships with other men during this time period. The same went for women, too. Most Native Americans believed there were more than two genders, sometimes as many as five, and saw what we consider homosexuality or bisexuality to be a gift. A real disservice was done to LGBTQ people at the turn of the 20th Century, erasing their history and their contributions.
It’s your last meal on earth. What do you choose?
Oh man, Chicken fried steak from Love and War in Texas. It’s the most ridiculous, heart-clogging dish, and should be illegal it’s so good. If I ate the whole thing, it would probably kill me anyway.
The day before the wedding, a visitor arrived at Vista Verde an entire week early. Renaldo, ready to wash up and eat dinner after a long, hard day—his side ached from roping cattle as a part of Paloma’s training, his hands were full of bits of raw hemp from the stock lassos, and one of the calves had kicked him high on the thigh—walked back from the barn using his hat to slap at the dust on his chest and thighs. He noticed a tall, striking young black man standing at the door to their home speaking with their father. They didn’t see many black men this far from civilization—with the Civil War ending so recently, many were staying close to where they’d been forced to live, were heading far out west where there were more opportunities to make a new life or were going north seeking less hostile society. Who he could be?
He was about as tall as Renaldo, maybe an inch or two more, broad-shouldered and whip-thin, dressed in well-worn, simple clothes. He had a close-cropped beard, but instead of hiding the shape of his jaw, it accented its sharpness. His light eyes, almost luminescent even at this distance and glowing like amber, were ringed with thick lashes, nearly to the point of being girlish, but there was nothing feminine about the man. With his lean but strong-looking chest, muscular arms and curved backside, he managed to carry himself with a confident air while standing idly; his body was still, but in a way that made Renaldo think of a raptor sitting on an abutment, watching and waiting.
“Oh, here he is,” Estebán said, motioning for Renaldo to join them, saying, “Señor Burnett, allow me to introduce to you my son, Renaldo.”
This? This was the legendary mesteñero, Henry Burnett? He couldn’t be much older than Renaldo, who realized his jaw had dropped. He closed his mouth quickly and moved toward them as if drawn like metal shavings to a magnet.
Burnett, however, looked amused, as the edge of his mouth quirked up. “Pleased to meet you,” he said, his voice deep and husky.
Renaldo couldn’t look away, shocked that his expectations couldn’t have been more wrong. This was a vibrant young man. But… this was the man he would be alone with on the prairie for months? His stomach twisted at that thought, and at how unexpected it all was, causing his heart to race and face flush. Yes, it was unexpected. That Burnett had come so much sooner than they’d expected had to be why Renaldo couldn’t find his voice and felt so upended.
“Mijo,” his father said sharply.
Renaldo shook himself slightly, and then nodded, saying, “Señor Burnett, it’s very good to meet you, finally. Please forgive my shock, as I don’t believe we expected you so soon.”
Burnett laughed, a rolling, melodious sound, and replied, “Well, then just imagine my shock when I come here all the way from Nacogdoches expecting one Valle man, only to find him gone and you in his place.” He smiled. “Your padre seems to think you’re a better match, so that works for me.”
That smile, bright teeth framed by full lips, eyes crinkled at the corners, helped lessen some of Renaldo’s shock and, if he was being honest, some of the worry that he carried about spending a lot of time with a hard, taciturn man Renaldo knew he would be unable to please. At the realization that this was who he would be with on the plains, just the two of them with no one else for weeks on end, Renaldo became excited, finally looking forward to this task. A young man with an infectious grin wouldn’t be such a chore to be stuck with after all.
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Laura Stone is a born and bred Texan, but don’t hold that against her. She’s a former comedian, actress and Master Gardener, and currently keeps busy as a media blogger, ghostwriter and novelist when not busy raising her three children. They’re not fully raised, but then, neither is she.
She lives in Texas as proof that it’s not completely populated by hard-line right-wingers. And because that’s where the good tamales are. Her first novel, The Bones of You, was published by Interlude Press in 2014 and was named a finalist for two Foreword Reviews IndieFab Book of the Year Award. Laura Stone at Laura-Stone.com and on Facebook at facebook.com/9LauraStone
Where to find the author:
Rafflecopter Prize: Grand Prize: $25 Interlude Press Gift Card, First Prize: One of five e-copies of ‘Bitter Springs’