I was surprised and thrilled to be named a Finalist for my book The Lily of the West for the Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award, not only as Best Historical Novel, but Best First Novel as well. This is a great honor and I’m humbled to be in the company of authors I admire and respect. The path that led me to write about Katherine Haroney, “Big Nose Kate” was a long one. I graduated from Prescott College in Prescott, Arizona, and while spending a lot of time in Prescott, a unique and wonderful western town that was the first state capital of Arizona, I discovered her gravesite one afternoon. Years passed, but those signposts kept coming up now and again and I became fascinated by this woman and her life, and eventually delved deeper, finding coincidental pieces of her life here and there all over the state, from Prescott to Globe to Tombstone. Finally, I felt compelled to write about her from my perspective and I hoped, from hers.
To write truthfully about a real person is, as Rebecca Solnit says, “to engage with those patches of darkness, those nights of history, those places of unknowing”. To tell Kate’s story, I immersed myself in those places, and sometimes it was like crossing a river with only a few solid factual stones to step on amid the murky waters of her past. As I filled in those places, there was many a late night when I felt as though she was looking over my shoulder, so real I could nearly smell her glass of whiskey or hear her smoky laugh. We became friends, and I like to think I did her life and story justice, long-deserved.
Thank you, Western Fictioneers, for acknowledging me and Kate, and thank you, Mary Katherine Haroney, for living a life that merited my respect. I hope you approve.
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