Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Friday, November 16, 2012

Tip O'Day #412 - Diversity in the Wild West

Guest blogger Diana Harrison has a shocker for you.

People are rather surprised by the fact that a British woman writes Westerns, which is probably why I write as D M Harrison. After that comes their amazement that the Wild West genre is still alive and well.

I consider Westerns to be a combination of adventure, mystery and thriller with a sprinkle of romance or sauciness. The West attracted pioneering men and women, encouraged by a government that wanted to open up the continent. The books in the Western genre are set in the few years between 1849-1900. This short era has given us more characters than many other periods in history.

My knowledge of the Wild West came initially from films and TV series, followed by books I’ve read, Internet searches, and visits to the American West. Although used to films stars like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, I wasn't ready for the small buildings in the (now preserved) ghost towns.

As I researched the era further, I found the West was made up of a melting pot of races, colors and creeds. I have attempted to reflect its diverse make-up in my books. I depict the Native Americans as courageous Nomads who unfortunately did not survive the different culture of the Frontiersmen and women. The Native Americans thought there was enough land for everyone to share but the new people fenced it off. Sharing was not in their nature.

My books develop with an idea - a robbery, a kidnapping, a railroad coming through - and then I put it in a time and place. I see the main character and how he/she is involved in the situation. Then I build on that. I write the story from beginning to end, and then I write it over and over again until I've checked all my facts and I'm satisfied with it. After that I send it to a publisher and hope they like it.

My stories are as diverse as the Wild West itself. Robbery in Savage Page, published by Robert Hale Ltd, has a Chinese-American as its main protagonist. In The Buffalo Soldier, published by Solstice Publishing, the main character is an African-American. The Comanche's Revenge, published by Robert Hale, describes what life is like for a young boy kidnapped by the Comanche. Kato's Army, published by Robert Hale Ltd, tries to depict the strong role women played in the West, fighting alongside their men. Blood Brothers, published on Kindle, describes the paths chosen by three brothers, and asks whether blood is truly a strong bond.

Look out for Diana’s next book with Solstice Publishing, Going to see the Elephant, describing the hardships and the wonders of a 3,000 mile overland trip to Oregon and California from a female POV. Her website is dmharrison.com and her Amazon.UK page is amazon.co.uk/D.-M.-Harrison


  1. Dixon, I never believed such diversity existed in the west until I began driving from Chicago to Idaho annually. My experiences have given me so much more appreciation for the many books I've read about the west - fiction or non-fiction. I'm in awe thinking about the characters and the personal strength required, not just to settle it but also to survive. Portraying those individuals is an impressive accomplishment! Loved reading your work.
    I hope you'll check my blog for a post I wrote exactly about these books and my observations during my drive in July. My post is entitled: Seeing the West I’ve Read.

  2. Thanks for your reply to Diana Harrison's guest post on my Wredheaded Writer blog. I once rode the AMTRAK Empire Builder train from Chicago to Seattle, and the variety of landscape and weather was amazing. Everything from 10,000 foot high mountain peaks to rolling wheat fields, to the Black Hills of the Dakotas, to the deserts of eastern Washington. If setting truly helps mold character, it's no surprise that Westerns are often full of rugged, independent souls.