Writing a Western

Heart of Stone isn’t technically our first novel. We wrote Blood Bathory: Like the Night first, but it got rejected when we submitted it the first time, so we shelved it and started working on stories based on specific calls for submissions. Heart of Stone is the first novel we wrote that was accepted for publication, and it came about because we saw Dreamspinner Press has an on-going call for historicals. Westerns were mentioned specifically in the submissions blurb, we started brainstorming, and it wasn’t long before Luke and Stone moseyed up to have their story told.

Ari and I share an interest in history, so it wasn’t difficult for us to dive into this genre. In fact, we’ve got multiple historical plot bunnies on our ever-growing list, so chances are, we’ll write more! But Heart of Stone is the first historical and our first novel to be published, so it’ll always be special to us.

For me, writing this novel was a bit different. As part of our collaboration process, we choose which of the lead characters we’re going to write (I talked about that in more detail here). I wrote Luke Reynolds, who is a laid-back, easy-going cowboy with a penchant for teasing — very different from the type of character I usually write!

Normally, I gravitate toward characters who are a little darker, a little more angsty, a little more broody, have more of an edge, especially in longer works. Writing issue-free characters in shorter works is easier because the action isn’t sustained over hundreds of pages, although I can still develop a broody boy in short works, Aidan Grimm from On the Rocks and Jon Lawson from Caribbean Blues being two notable examples.

Writing a character who is issue-free in a novel-length work was a huge switch for me, but I enjoyed the experience because it did take me outside of my usual comfort zone. When we meet Luke, he’s comfortable with his life and in his own skin. Falling for Stone shakes up his comfortable world, however, and he does get pushed through the angst wringer like most of our other characters (no escape from the angst wringer!), but he’s still significantly different from my usual leading men in his lightness of spirit, optimism, and good-natured personality. Luke is an extrovert, which is not a characteristic most of my characters possess. 😉

It was a refreshing break for me, not only because he’s different but also because it let me know I can write issue/angst/broodiness-free characters in a longer work. Plus he was just fun. His playfulness was enjoyable to write, and I liked seeing how he was able to draw Stone out of his shell bit by bit.

I hope the readers enjoy watching Luke and Stone’s relationship unfold as much as we enjoyed writing it! If anyone has any questions about our characters, our writing process, our books, or whatever, just drop us a comment here or tweet us at AriMcKay1.

Heart of Stone is now available in ebook or trade paperback format at Dreamspinner Press.