Though Sandra Dallas was born in the south, on a farm in Virginia, she is a westerner through and through. The Colorado author's love for western history began when she was quite young. Her mother took her to see the famous sites in Washington, D.C. before the family moved to Denver when she was 6 years old. Once in Denver, the family continued to explore.
"In Denver, she took us to Larimer Street, then a slum, to see the historic buildings," Dallas said. "So I've been interested in history as long as I can remember."
Dallas is the featured speaker at a fundraising event for the Eagle County Historical Society on Thursday. The author plans to talk about her writing process and her latest book. There will be time for questions, and what Dallas hopes will be a good discussion.
"It's always the questions that make a talk interesting," she said.
Kathy Heicher, the president of the historical society, said the group likes to mix history with fun, which is what prompted them to invite Dallas to town.
"Sandra Dallas is a well-known author who mixes history with the plots of her books," Heicher said. "Many of us had been enjoying her books for years. We were brainstorming a special event for the Historical Society and thought 'what if we bring in Sandra Dallas for a party and talk?' ... We are thrilled to have an author of this caliber visiting Eagle County."
While Dallas' books typically touch on well-documented historic events, she mixes those facts with "believable characters, then binds all that together with a plot that offers a little mystery, romance or adventure," Heicher said. "These are not 'formula' books. She offers widely varied writing approaches and intriguing plots."
All proceeds from the event will benefit the Historical Society, which operates the Eagle County Historical Museum and presents local history programs at schools and throughout the community, including cemetery tours and walking tours of local towns. Dallas took the time to answer a few questions for the Vail Daily:
Vail Daily: You were a journalist for many years - a reporter for BusinessWeek for 25 years and the magazine's first female bureau chief. Do you miss journalism?
Sandra Dallas: I was lucky to work during the heyday of press journalism. I miss the connection to the news, of interviewing people who are making news, of learning about so many different subjects, of writing stories that made a difference in people's lives. Because I don't spend my day as a journalist, I'm less well-informed that I was. But I don't miss the stress. And I find writing novels to be more rewarding. Those are my words and stories, and books are more lasting than magazines.
VD: What prompted you to write your first novel, which you did while you were working as a journalist.
DS: Two journalist friends and I decided to write a bodice-buster and make lots of money. It was a lark, and we didn't put much effort into it. Among other things, it was a lot harder than we thought it would be. But I realized during that exercise that I loved writing fiction. So I pulled out a manuscript I'd written years earlier and rewrote it. It didn't work then. (It was alter published as The Chili Queen.) I tried a woman's western, and then I wrote Buster Midnight's Cafe. I was 50 when it was published, by the way.
VD: You have a new book out this month, called "The Quilt Walk." Tell me what inspired it?
DS: The Quilt Walk is for children ages eight to 12. It's based on a story in a history of quilting I wrote several years ago, The Quilt That Walked to Golden. A friend told me the title story would make a good children's book. I played around with the idea but didn't get serious until I was approached by Sleeping Bear Press last year about writing a children's book.
VD: Are in the process of writing another book? If so, what can you tell me about it.
DS: The next book is Fallen Women, about an 1885 murder of a prostitute in Denver. Her sister, a New York social worker, attempts to find the killer. While my other books have had had murders in them, this is my first real mystery. It will come out a year from now.
VD: What am I not asking that I should know about?
DS: Ah, money. Everybody wants to know how much you make, because people know about the million-dollar contracts signed by big authors. But few people have the nerve to actually ask. In fact, writing is a job, a nice job, but very few get rich off it. And people think you enjoy fame. I ran into a college friend not long ago, who asked, "Do you lead a glamorous life?" I'm sitting here at my computer in jeans. I have to write a blog and post some stuff on Facebook, then work on my monthly Denver Post column. When I finish, I'll go down to the basement and put the laundry in the dryer. I have to rip out the tomato plants, which did poorly this year. I need to figure out what to fix for dinner, take some stuff to the Goodwill, and I ought to rake, but I won't. I dislike raking. Oh, and I have to write a page of the novel I'm working on.