Spoiler alert! Read this after you've read Beauty for Ashes.

Beauty for Ashes - Author's Note

I can officially say that Beauty for Ashes is the book that took me the longest to write. I first started it in 2014. I wrote fourteen chapters and then the manuscript sat collecting digital dust as I walked through a number of personal health challenges and job changes.

In the fall of 2021, I decided it was time to finish the book. I worked on it some in the summer, but I was not happy with the plot. I loved picking up Perry Quinn’s story. I loved Rebecca’s character, but something was missing. Then in the middle of the night, it came to me. Rebecca needed to be a single mother.

 

The next day, I hacked and slashed the manuscript. I mapped out a new plot. Then I wrote like crazy. There are very few scenes from the 2014 manuscript that made it into the book. The opening scene is one of them. That scene changed very little from the first writing. The initial scenes with Rebecca were adapted to include Josiah. Once Perry woke up, well all of that was new material I wrote in the fall of 2021.

The history behind freighting and each of Perry and Dixon’s trips was inspired by the recollections from Thomas Sanders, a real-life Prescott Pioneer, who documented his time in Arizona from the 1860 to 1880s in a book called My Arizona Adventures. I borrowed some trips and some anecdotes from his colorful stories, including the scene with the 24-member military band. I am grateful to Al Bates, the editor of My Arizona Adventures for his work in publishing Tom’s story.

Rebecca’s back story had roots in real history. In Hopkinsville, Tennessee, there were many hemp (rope) plantations, some of which used slaves. During and following the Civil War, many of these plantations went under because their labor force was gone, or the plantation owners died during the war. Many widows who grew up in luxury were forced to find work to survive. It’s not a story often told, which is why I picked it for Rebecca’s back story.

The conversations with General Crook and his wife, Mary, are how I imagined them based on research. Mary was said to be a romantic at heart and loved to match make. The general’s challenges in dealing with Colyer and President Grant were real.

I hope you enjoyed Perry and Rebecca’s story.

Karen Baney