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, Amazon.com, bookstores and at such vacation spots such as Yellowstone and Yosemite and through my website at www.chrisenss.com.
Visit www.chrisenss.com 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!