This month, I've been featuring the authors of Sweetwater Springs Christmas in a series of blog posts, excerpted with permission from an article by E. Ayers in the December issue of HDR. This is Part 2 of the author interviews. Part 1 can be found below, and click here to read an interview with Debra Holland.
We have E. Ayers, Linda Carroll-Bradd, MJ Fredrick, Paty Jager, Jill Marie Landis, Linda McLaughlin, Trish Milburn, Bev Pettersen, Tori Scott, and Cynthia Woolf as contributors to this anthology with us, and a slew of questions for them. Today's questions focus on life in the Old West and Christmas traditions.
If you could go back in time, would you love to live in Sweetwater Springs, Montana, in the 1880-1900? If so why, if not, why not? Or is there another place you'd like to visit at that time?
Linda McLaughlin: I’m a city kid by birth, so I would probably rather go to Denver or San Francisco.
Jill Marie Landis: I wouldn’t mind visiting Sweetwater Springs 1885 or so, but not in the winter and definitely not for a long period of time. I love all the modern conveniences we have now. What would I do without the DVR, my icemaker, and my hot tap water?
Paty Jager: I wouldn’t mind passing through Sweetwater Springs on my way to Pendleton, Oregon. That time in history was so raw in the western states. As a wife and mother I would have had a lot of hard work to do, but at the same time there would have been some fun times too that you don’t see so much of now, like the town picnics, and folks pulling together to help one another.
By 1895, many women were still riding sidesaddle, yet plenty were riding in a regular saddle. If you were living then, which would you have preferred?
Paty Jager: I would have been riding a regular saddle. Growing up, I spent many hours on my horse riding the mountain behind our house. Most of that time I rode without a saddle and without my shoes. I’d lay back on my horse, Junebug’s, back and stare up through the leaves of the birch, alder, and pine trees. Those moments I would love to have back again.
Bev Pettersen: Astride, definitely. I’ve ridden sidesaddle a couple times and found it very difficult. I have nothing but admiration for those tough ladies who jump fences in a sidesaddle. It’s also harder for the horse to stay balanced.
Tori Scott: I would have to ride in a regular saddle. I'd be afraid of falling off riding sidesaddle.
Do you ride? English or western? When was the last time you were on a horse? Any special thoughts on riding?
E. Ayers: I grew up riding. My lessons were in English, but I often rode western or bareback. My favorite horse was Bachelor, an old retired racehorse. His trot was so smooth. He hated kids, but seemed to love me, maybe because I'd do extra stuff when grooming him, such as braiding him with ribbons, and I always had an apple or something as a treat. I haven't been on a horse since right before my wedding and that was a long time ago!
Paty Jager: I ride western. The last time I rode was about a month or so ago. I have three horses and a burro. One horse is my husband’s, but he always says they are all mine. I would love to ride more than I do, but lately it’s been a time factor. I’m hoping when we get moved to our other ranch, I’ll have more time to ride.
Bev Pettersen: I try to ride every day although my horse is quite happy if I skip. When I was younger I rode English, which was necessary to jump, but now I’m totally western and loved the relaxed seat and longer stirrups.
Cynthia Woolf: Western and the last time I was on a horse, was in 1987. But I grew up with horses. My dad was a cowboy, real-life working cowboy, when he met my mom. We always had horses until he died when I was five. When I was a teenager, my brother arranged for us to have one of my uncle's horses for the summer and I rode every day.
Trish Milburn: Sadly, no. It’s on my bucket list. I’ve only been on a horse twice, and it did not end well either time. Let’s just say that the ground and I got acquainted.
Are you a traditional girly-girl who would prefer the fancy dresses of the time or would you have chosen a simple riding skirt and Nell blouse or the new "athletic" pantaloons under a shorter skirt?
Linda McLaughlin: I’ve never been a girly-girl, so I would have been more comfortable in a skirt and blouse, and I probably would have liked the pantaloons. I almost never wear dresses any more.
MJ Fredrick: I’d go with the riding skirt and blouse, for the ease of movement. I’m a jeans gal, so I like comfort! I have actually found a pattern for a cool riding skirt--I’d love to make it some day.
Jill Marie Landis: Probably the pantaloons. Or else I’d probably be the talk of the town in someone’s Levis.
Linda Carroll-Bradd: I’m similar to my heroine, Richelle, and would have chosen pantaloons and shorter skirt, or bloomers.
In 1895: bicycle, horse, or carriage? Why?
Tori Scott: Carriage. I like to take the easy route.
Jill Marie Landis: Carriage, preferably with a hired driver. Second choice would be a bicycle.
Linda Carroll-Bradd: Within town, a bicycle offers more freedom of movement.
Trish Milburn: Carriage. I am so uncoordinated on a bike, it’s quite sad. And see above comment about my unfortunate forays into horseback riding.
Paty Jager: Horse! I’ve never had good control over a bicycle. Riding a horse you can go more places than you can with either bicycle or a carriage.
Tori Scott: Carriage. I like to take the easy route.
Linda McLaughlin: Trolley car. I’m a city kid, remember?
Is there anything about the holiday other than the religious significance that you'd like to share with the world?
Jill Marie Landis: Christmas on Kauai (an “outer” island) is more low key than Christmas on the mainland. We aren’t as bombarded with the commercialism, the Black Friday sales, the “in your face” better-get-shopping-frenzy that goes on over there. The weather is always the same, around a balmy 80 degrees. The tourists flock here to enjoy Christmas so most people are on the job to make the visitors happy on Christmas Day. Most of the transplants living here head back to the mainland to celebrate with family. Traditional Christmas foods come from all over the world as the islands are a melting pot of Hawaiian, Portuguese, Filipino, Japanese, Chinese and Heinz 57 variety heritages. You can’t beat luau food for Christmas; pulled kalua pork, macaroni potato salad, white rice, lomilomi salmon, catch of the day fish, and poi. Yum. Oh, and steamy coconut pudding.
For your Christmas tree in 1895:
Molded glass ornaments from Germany?
Handcrafted wooden ones?
Fancy Victorian ones with lots of feathers in bright colors?
Paper or other homemade ornaments?
Bev Pettersen: Handcrafted wooden ones - won’t break if the kids or animals knock the tree over and will look good for years
Paty Jager: Handcrafted wooden ones and paper or other homemade ornaments would be on the tree. When you craft something yourself it brings more love and caring to the holiday. I make a gingerbread people garland, decorating the people to represent each of the immediate family members.
Tori Scott: We're pretty simple people, so I'd probably go with handcrafted wooden ones.
Trish Milburn: Molded glass from Germany. First, they sound pretty. And also, my mother’s family came from Germany before the Revolution, so there would be a sort of family connection.
Cynthia Woolf: I have glass ornaments that have been handed down in my family since I was a little girl and some tin ones too. I collect Christmas ornaments so I have some wooden ones that move, golden sleighs cut out of a sheet of brass, paper ornaments made by my youngest niece and nephew when they were small. Crocheted angels. Victorian paper houses. I have almost too many ornaments to fit on one tree.
Linda Carroll-Bradd: Women in my family were/are needle workers so my Christmas tree has ornaments that were crocheted, knitted, sewed and tatted from my grandmothers, mother and ones I’ve made. My favorite was a brown corduroy gingerbread man my mom made when I was in college. She stuck whole cloves inside, sewed thin rick-rack around the edges and used pearl buttons for facial features. For many years, the scent of cloves greeted me when the ornament box was opened.
MJ Fredrick: Paper or other homemade ornaments? Definitely paper and homemade ornaments. I love to do crafts, and one of the crafts I used to do, when my eyesight was better, was Scherenschnitte, the German art of paper cutting. My tree used to be covered with those kinds of ornaments, along with primitive-looking fabric ornaments. I thought the look was so pretty, and reminded me of Little House on the Prairie.
Jill Marie Landis: I think I’d probably have them all on my tree (that’s how my tree is now, an eclectic mix). But if I have to choose, I’d take the molded glass ornaments from Germany. I love their fragility and I think they’d look lovely with candlelight glinting off of them. A little side note, one of the importers of German glass ornaments was F.W. Woolworth.
E. Ayers: In 1895, I would have had the ones from Germany. My great-grandmother's family came from Germany and I still have a few of those ornaments along with some very old china ones. I don't dare put them on the tree with a cat in the house. But I probably would have loved all the feathers of a "modern Victorian" tree.
Come celebrate the holidays in 1895 Sweetwater Springs, Montana, as ten Western Romance authors join New York Times Bestselling author DEBRA HOLLAND in telling SHORT STORIES of love and laughter, heartbreak and healing, and most of all, Christmas joy.
Available at Amazon in both e-book and trade paperback format.