Most folks living in North America learned about the Santa Fe Trail as children in school. Opened as a commercial route in 1821 by William Becknell and his party, the Santa Fe Trail grew to become a critical trading lifeline between Missouri and New Mexico. Our memories conjure images of pioneers riding across open country in covered wagons. Hollywood’s version of history also influences our perception of life on the trail. But it is the real experiences of travelers who dared journey on the Santa Fe Trail that I find the most fascinating.
Living in the Rocky Mountain West most of my life, I assumed I had a good understanding of the Santa Fe Trail and its history. I’d driven the byways in Southern Colorado and New Mexico often enough. However, while researching my upcoming historical fantasy novel, THE VENGEFUL DEAD, I came to understand how little I knew of what life was really like for the pioneers and traders.
Over the next few months leading up to the release of my book in 2022, I’ll be sharing interesting facts about the Santa Fe Trail and other locations from the setting of THE VENGEFUL DEAD.
If you’d like to learn more about the Santa Fe Trail and its 200th Anniversary (1821 to 2021), please visit https:/santafetrail200.org
I’m fussy about what I read. So many books, so little time. The Memoir and Biography genre doesn’t typically interest me. Self-aggrandizing celebrities and politicians with their pictures splashed on a book cover written by someone else – hard pass. Then I started doing research for my novel about the Santa Fe Trail. My notion of memoirs changed a bit. The most impactful book I’ve read to date is a memoir not written by a sports star, but rather written by a woman living her life in the Southwest during the 1800s.
Her recollections make this memoir real for the reader. We share her shock and fear when the wagon train comes across gruesome deaths and other violence against innocents. These accounts, for me anyway, were more troubling when I stopped to consider this isn’t a work of fiction. The murders – witnessed by Marian as both child and woman – really happened. I found myself grieving with her when she experiences tragedy as a young wife. Marian was an extraordinary woman who took on a sometimes-brutal land. She was a true pioneer.
I believe part of the allure of this book for me is the setting. I’ve lived in the Rocky Mountains most of my life. Many times, I’ve traveled across Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada (in a car) passing through the places she mentions in her book. How about you? Do you know who lived in your hometown before it was a town? Seek out the stories that reveal more than one dull paragraph in a history book. You might be amazed by what you find.
The internet is a wealth of information. Some of the information you find is correct and helpful. Other tidbits are flat out wrong. Getting hardcore facts is critical when conducting research for my books. Readers want realism no matter the genre and I, as a writer, want to make them feel as if they are experiencing the story along with the characters. I enhance what I learn from books and historical evidence with human experience.
My current “Work in Progress” is a ghost story set on the Santa Fe Trail at the end of the US Civil War. Historical accounts and facts give the book accuracy, but the human experience comes from enthusiasts of the Santa Fe Trail. I’ve enjoyed watching lectures and travel videos of folks who love to visit destinations along this important route. Living in the Rocky Mountains most of my days, I have the life experience to draw on as well.
Are you an enthusiast in a special topic or historical event? Why not share your knowledge? If you write a blog, volunteer to speak on the topic, or make a video, I guarantee you will find an audience.