September 12, 2011

Guest Blogger - Chris Enss

Today I have Chris Enss, multi-published authors of ‘true life’ Western books.  If you’ve read some of my blogs, or took my August class, Pioneering Women of the West, you’ll know that I reference Chris’s books…..A LOT. The first of her books I acquired was Hearts West: True Stories of Mail-Order Brides on the Frontier.  I now have close to a dozen of her books on my shelf.

As my guest bloggers know, I don’t usually do interviews, but I knew a lot of my friends had questions for Chris, so I made an exception.  So without further ado – Chris Enss’s interview.

Me: If you could spend an hour talking to anyone from any time in history, who would it be?

Chris: Bill Tilghman. He was an exceptional lawman. Men like Wyatt Earp would cross into another lawman’s jurisdiction to track down his brother’s killers, which is understandable, but few men would do that simply to uphold the law. Tilghman was that kind of man.

Me: I don’t think I’ve heard of Tilghman. I’ll have to look him up. Most of your books are about women and set in the “Old West.” How did you get drawn to this era and subject?

Chris: I was working on a scenic byway travel tape for the Nevada County California Forest Service and wanted to include the accomplishments of women in the history of the area. There was very little written about what women did in Northern California in the mid-1800s and what was written about those courageous ladies did not include their first names. I thought it was a sad that women were only known as “Missus So & So…” No first name given. They were only identified with who they were married to. I wanted to change that.

Me: I very much agree with your way of thinking. Women are often overlooked in history. I’m glad you decided to research our foremothers. You’ve written on a lot of different subjects, do you have a favorite among your books? Why?

Chris: The romantic tales of the Old West and anything having to do with mail-order brides. I am fascinated with the men and women who corresponded for a short time and agreed to marry their pen-pals sight unseen. Many of the mail-order brides I researched were married for decades. The couples shared a common goal of settling the west and carving out a life for themselves in a new territory. There’s something profoundly romantic about that to me.

Me: Well, that resonates with my romantic souls.  Your books are non-fiction, have you thought about writing a fiction book?

Chris: I hope to embark on fiction writing soon. My favorite book is The Ballad of Frankie Silver by Sharyn McCrumb. To craft a story such as that would be wonderful. She’s a brilliant author.

Me: Great.  I look forward to seeing you’re fiction in print! One of my friends wanted to know what resources do you use for your research and what are your verification methods?

Chris:  don’t like to use secondary sources – I try to track down the primary source on all I write. But even that isn’t always accurate. My goal is to find three independent primary sources to back up what I’m writing. It used to be good enough that I simply listed the sources in the bibliography but now I make sure I have notes on every fact that might be in question. Readers can always track where I got the information.

Me: That sounds like a lot of work, but I know with the internet, it’s easy to find misleading “facts.” Speaking of facts, what’s the most fascinating fact you came across in your research?

Chris: There are so many…that Annie Oakley was a seamstress and made all the clothes she wore in Buffalo Bill Cody’s western shows; that Calamity Jane was buried in a white dress, frontier mothers whipped-stitched their babies into their diapers, actress Maude Adams was an accomplished electrical engineer…tell me when to stop.

Me: LOL.  I understand. I should have asked ‘what is one’ or better yet, ‘tell me some of….’  In doing all this research, what inspires you to write about one person and not another? Is it a particular story? The availability of material?

Chris: I try to select individuals or historic events to write about that haven’t been covered by so many other writers. Sometimes my goal is hampered by the lack of material on a subject but I try to move past that and dig until I find those rich nuggets of information. I love the research part of the job. I also like having written more than writing.

Me: Sounds good. I for one love to learn about different people or even unknown facts of those who think we know.  Who is the person (or persons) you’ve found the most fascinating? Why?

Chris: Elizabeth Custer, Wyatt Earp, Laura Dalton – any frontiersmen who stood up for their family and fought to defend their life and honor. Libbie made it her life’s work to defend her husband George, Wyatt embarked on a ride through the Southwest to track down the men who shot his brothers, and Laura Dalton would rather have died than tell the law where the Dalton gang was hiding. These people had a sense of loyalty I desperately admire.

Me: Interesting list of people. How do you usually spend your writing time?

Chris: I generally work on three books at a time. I divide my day into four parts. I try to write two pages a day on each book and spend time promoting the material I’ve completed. It helps that I have no children, a hopeless insomniac, and have virtually no social life to speak of.

Me: Sounds like you keep very busy. Do you travel to the places you write about for research?

Chris: The majority of the time, yes. I find I can’t really write about a person or an Old West happening unless I am at the spot they were or the scene of the historic event.

Me: What do you like to do when you’re not researching or writing?

Chris: Planning the next book I’d like to write and drafting a comprehensive proposal to submit to my editor.

Me:  LOL, sounds like a true writer. What would our readers be most surprised to learn about you?

Chris: I was a standup comic for years and was one of the comics on Showtime’s program “The Search for America’s Funniest Person.”

Me: I’d like to see one of your comedy shows. Tell us where readers can find your books?

Chris: Barnes & Noble,, bookstores and at such vacation spots such as Yellowstone and Yosemite and through my website at

Visit for more information about me and books! Hope to see all your readers there.

Thank you so much for being with me today, Chris.  And for my readers: Win one of Chris’s books! She will give away two of her books: Love Untamed: True Romance Stories of the Old West and Hearts West: True Stories of Mail-Order Brides on the Frontier.  Just leave a comment, with your email address, to be eligible for the drawing…two winners, twice the fun!


Kris said...

Thanks Anna Kathryn for this wonderful interview with Chris. I've been waiting for it since your class. Chris, you are as fascinating as the women you write about! While taking the "Pioneering Women of the West's class" I purchased Chris's "Hearts West: true stories of mail-order brides on the frontier" because I was so fascinated by the mail order bride concept. I've learned so much from the class and your book Chris, that I'm definitely going to try my hand at writing a romantic mail-order bride story.

Both of you reminded me of how much I loved history and the old West. I'd lost track of that over the years and now I'm back in the thick of researching,reading and planning a story. :)

Thank you both for writing about WOMEN from this time period because they were so overlooked.

Chris you are truly an inspiration to women everywhere, whether just readers or writers. Hearts West is a wonderful reference source and I'd recommend it to anyone intending to write about mail-order brides.

Anna Kathryn - thanks for the class I really learned a lot and I wouldn't be heading towards this story in my head without that class.

Happy writing,


Calisa Rhose said...

Though I used to, I don't read as much westerns these days. I think my sister and I owned/read every Louis L'Amour book in the Sakett series when we were in our late teens (these we read were published from 1960 to 1977 but the last Sakett book-- A Guide to the Sackett's-- was published in 1988). This series begun with The Daybreakers. I was hooked and in love with these men.

But true history facts give new light and meaning to any fiction written. I would love to read either of the two you are offering Chris. Thanks for sharing such awesome information.

Georgie Lee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Georgie Lee said...

I read Hearts West, it is on my bookshelf and I loved it. It was great reading about you and your work. I loved the fact about women whip stitching babies into diapers.

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi, Kris. I'm so glad you enjoyed the class. I enjoyed doihg the research for the different 'lectures.' I have at least a half dozen of Chris's books and all them are chockful of interesting facts.

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Calisa, thanks for stopping by. Dare I say that I have not read Louis? I do need to read a few, that's for sure!

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Georgie, Hearts West was my first book by Chris. It is a wealth of information. I loved the reprints of the ads!

Debby Lee said...

Thanks Anna and Chris for a very entertaining and educational article. I enjoyed reading it but then again I enjoy reading just about anything set in the Old West. I've wrote one book set in the West and working on another.

Jolie McAllister said...

Thanks, Anna Kathryn, for introducing this author to me. I'm excited to delve into Chris' books. All her material sounds fascinating and I'm looking forward to adding her books to my library. I'm sorry I missed your class on Pioneering Women. Will you be offering it again?
Jo Ann Jones
jodyjones @ infowest. com

Celia Yeary said...

CHRIS--I am quite impressed.
And you were once a stand-up comic?
Your work is admirable and such good resource books, as well as just plain good reading. I love "facts," especially something unique or little known.

Since I'm a Texan and write "all-Texas," I do look for books to help me out, but in some cases, just a book I love for itself.

One such book is "Texas Tears and Texas Sunshine," the title taken from two quilt patterns created by Texas pioneer women (also Log Cabin, Lone Star, etc.) However,the book is not about quilting, but it chronicles famous and important women in early Texas. Each story contains personal writings and letters and oral history from these women.
It often reads like a novel.

I enjoyed reading about your writing goals...Celia

Tanya Hanson said...

Hi Chris, stand up comedy? You rock! I learned so much from just this post...the whip-stitched diapers being one thing.

And I totally love stories about mail-order brides. I'm definitely need Hearts West!

Thanks for the interview, Anna Kathryn. Good job, both of you.

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

I had to go out this afternoon, so glad to see all the comments. Thanks for stopping by.

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Caroline Clemmons said...

Chris, I so admire your research. Your books are a wonderful resource for western historical writers. I also hesitate to accept secondary information, but I definitely trust your books for credible content. I hope to own all of your books and would love to win one. Thanks so much for visiting Anna Kathryn and sharing with us today!

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I love your books, Chris. I have the mailorder bride book and it is full of the greatest stories.

My grandparents lived in Nevada City and there sure was a lot of history for me there while I grew up. Now we live over near Placerville where the gold rush of 1849 happened. Living where it happened certainly adds reality to my stories...even if judges try to deny what I say actually happened. Interesting.

So nice getting to know you today.

marybelle said...

Why write 3 books at the same time? I would imagine it to be very challenging.

A fascinating post thank you!!


Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi, again. Chris stopped by and appreicated all the comments, she said it made her feel great to hear ya'll talking about her books.

I dohn't know when I'll do the class again. But I would like to sometime! I have the material ready

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

I guess Blogger isn't letting Chris comment, so she sent me this answer to, Why do you write 3 books at once?

Unless you are John Grisham or Sue Grafton, you can't make a living writing only one book a year. That's my experience anyway. Just thought I'd share.


Patricia Preston said...

Wonderful interview! Enjoyed reading about the women of the Old West. What would they think of us today? Wimps? LOL.

Dr. Debra Holland said...

Great interview. The diapers fact was definitely interesting. I'll have to get your books, Chris!

I did sign up and pay for your class Anna Kathryn. But I never received any class information, and forgot about it until I read this blog.

Dr. Debra Holland said...

Opps. Forgot to leave my email address.