Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Author Interview: Eunice Boeve

Today's guest interviewee is children's author Eunice Boeve, who moved into adult fiction with her latest novel, Ride the Shadowed Trail.

Eunice was born, raised, and met her husband--who was stationed there while in the Air Force--in Montana. They married and settled in north central Kansas, where they still reside. For eight years, Eunice worked as a speech paraprofessional in a school for special needs children. Sarah, an autistic child in her children's book, The Summer of the Crow, is based on one of those students. The Boeves have four children and five grandchildren.

Welcome, Eunice! How long have you been writing? What made you start?

I started writing about 30 years ago. I first began to realize I had the desire to write about ten years before I actually began to try to write for publication. Once, rather early on, I decided to put it all away. With children, grandchildren, working outside the home, and a lot of self-doubt about my writing abilities, I often let months go by without writing anything at all. I held out for about eight years. In the last ten years I have tried to write full time.

As most women writers know, domestic issues, community, and social involvement can keep us from our writing. It’s not always easy for women to put our own desires first. I often longed for a wife, housekeeper, cook, and at times, even a surrogate grandparent. But then again, if husband, children, grandchildren, housework and cooking did not drag me away from my writing, I would work until my eyeballs fell out and the flesh melted from my fingers. That is, when all is going well. When it’s not and I am scratching for every word, I get this overwhelming desire to sleep, and have even dropped off at my computer.

What made me start writing? I think even as a child, the seed was there. I used to invent long “stories” for my dolls--paper and otherwise--and cut out flat cloth animals, which I took into the woods and fields to live out animal stories. When I was in the 5th grade, I sent a poem to the Weekly Reader at my teacher’s urging. I never heard from them, but I consider that my first rejection. My dad wrote a book length story about his cowboy days. It was never published, as he died soon afterward. I was five then, so even at that age I realized people wrote books, but it took many years to equate that with the possibility that maybe I could, too.

My mother read constantly and often to us, so I learned to love books. I loved journalism, English, and literature classes, but I didn’t realize my desire to write until I was in my thirties. I took a correspondence course and sold a few children’s magazine stories and an article about my dad who packed horses for the Forest Service. When the editor of that magazine dropped out an important sentence from that article about my dad, I saw how vulnerable we are to the written word. That’s when I packed up my how-to-write books, tears streaming, and began my eight year hiatus from writing.

In about 1990, I began my first book, Trapped!, with many starts and stops, my stops often months at a time.

When did you publish your first book?
In 1995. Trapped! The True Story of a Pioneer Girl, is middle grade historical fiction based on the story of twelve-year-old Virginia Reed, a member of the infamous Donner Party. That publishing experience was a “hair-raiser” and led me into self-publishing, and then Publish on Demand.

What type of writer are you? Do you plan ahead/plot or do you simply fly by the seat of your pants?
I write mostly fiction so I can be a fly by the seat of my pants writer. I have in mind a novel about a woman of mixed blood who lived in Canada and Montana, and for that story, I’ll have to stick to the facts, but even so it will be fiction and so, although it will need to be outlined by time and place, etc., the flesh of the story will not be so limited. On this one, I’ll also start with a theme in mind, something I don’t always do.

When I start a story, I know the protagonist, name, age, and sex. I also know the time period and the setting and generally what will happen. Sometimes what I think will happen, doesn’t, and sometimes something I haven’t even thought of, does. Two of my books started with a conscious theme. Maggie Rose and Sass, a young adult/middle grade book, has the theme that as human beings we are all the same and it is only our perceived differences, learned through culture and exposure, that tell us otherwise. My adult book, Ride a Shadowed Trail, has the nature vs. nurture theme. Of course my book Trapped! has a survival theme, but also the sub-theme that if we work together and help each other, we increase our chances of survival.

How do you choose your characters' names?
My characters' names usually just come to me. Sometimes I have to search for a name and I do have a lengthy list to pick and choose from. Sometimes I’ll change a name later in a story. In The Summer of the Crow, Olivia was originally Olive, but, after a while, it seemed just so awkward and also I kept forgetting and calling her Olivia. In Ride a Shadowed Trail, I named an old black woman, Belle, and a sixteen-year-old white girl, Lucy. Those two would not do a thing for me. They stayed as flat and as disinterested as a pancake. Then I got the idea to change their names around and that did it. Suddenly they came alive. I think the two had a pact, that until I got their names right, they weren’t cooperating. In my Summer of the Crow book, I named my character Brady, not realizing until some chapters later that his mother had given him the name because it was what she thought had been her maiden name. That’s when I found out that she and her brother had been abandoned when they were children and Brady was the last surname they remembered. Later on in the story, that information played a role in explaining another’s actions.

What is your daily schedule like?
I have no schedule. I just write when I can and for as long as I can.

How do you handle life interruptions?
Some days I handle life’s interruptions better than others, but for the most part, I just heave a big sigh and do what I have to do. Actually I never do throw a fit.

Do you write with music playing? If so, is the music likely to be songs with lyrics or only instrumentals?
No, I don’t have music playing while I’m writing. If I did, it would have to be instrumental, so I wouldn’t start tuning into the words.

What food or snack keeps the words flowing?
I don’t eat and rarely drink anything while I’m writing. I do have a coffee and snack break with my husband at 3 pm.

What one thing do you like most about writing? Least?
What I like most about writing is living inside the character’s skin and seeing what life will hand them, what decisions they’ll make, and where they’ll be when the story ends. What I hate about writing is marketing. I just want to send my book out into the world and then get started on another one. I do really enjoy giving a book talk, but I’m not too crazy about signings.

Tell us about your new novel, Ride a Shadowed Trail.
My latest book, Ride a Shadowed Trail, came out last spring and begins when Joshua Ryder is eight-years-old. He is living with his mother, a Mexican prostitute, in Indianola on the Texas coast when she is brutally murdered. His father, he’s been told, was a redheaded white man who died of yellow fever when Josh was a baby. Josh sets out to find some one who might have known him and finds Pete Waters instead.

Pete is an old ex-cowboy who has always longed for a child, especially a son, and he takes the boy in and, in the course of time, teaches him the cowboy trade and becomes a father to him. Josh is eighteen when Pete dies. Still wondering about his biological father, Josh leaves Pete’s small ranch in the hands of his Mexican neighbors and riding Shadow, the colt he helped raise, he again begins his search for someone who remembers his father.

Finally, without finding even a scrap of information, he gives up the search and hires on with an outfit taking a herd of longhorns to the railhead at Wichita, Kansas. The ranch owner (based on a real woman who took a herd to Wichita along with her children) accompanies the herd along with her son and two daughters. Josh and the eldest daughter fall in love, but Josh now knows who murdered his mother and has vowed to return to Texas and bring to justice this particular vicious outlaw--who kidnaps, abuses, and kills young Mexican girls--or die trying.

What is your next project?
Well, readers of Ride a Shadowed Trail are asking what happens to Josh next, so I’m back in his life. This time he is in Montana, having trailed a herd up from Texas. I know some of what happens in Montana. He meets a woman, whose Indian family, all but the unborn child she carries, were killed at the Battle of the Big Hole, and I know he’ll spend some time in Virginia City, Montana. But that’s about all I know. I’m also working on a picture book based on an incident in my life, but, oh, my gosh, is it ever hard to write! When I think I have it, I set it aside to cool for a month or so and then take it out again and always I see that it needs more work. I think I’ve re-written it at least forty-seven hundred times.

[laughs] What is your advice for other writers?
Write what you want to write, not necessarily what you know. How limited would be our range of stories if we wrote only what we knew. That’s what research is for. However, we all know what it’s like to be human, we’ve all known happiness and sorrow, we all have loved and on occasion, although, hopefully, only temporarily, have known the murderous rage of hate. So I guess we do write what we know. Also read, read, read. But have we ever met a writer who wasn’t also a reader?

What other work of yours has been published?
In the late 70s and early 80s I had some children stories published in Wee Wisdom, Boy’s Life, and some Sunday school papers, and the article about my dad in the Montana magazine. In 2001 the Montana magazine published my story about a black woman named Mary Fields, a.k.a. Stagecoach Mary. Ride a Shadowed Trail is my first adult book. I have four middle grade/young adult books:

Trapped! published in 1995 by Royal Fireworks Press
The Summer of the Crow, self-published in 2001
A Window to the World, Publish America, 2004
Maggie Rose and Sass, Publish America, 2005

The last book was named a 2006 Kansas Notable Book.

Since the summer of 2006, I’ve been writing a time travel story for kids for the Kansas Traveler, a quarterly publication about Kansas.

My website is www.euniceboeve.net if anyone is interested in more information.

Thank you for the Interview, Eunice.
My thanks to you Marsha.

Ride a Shadowed Trail was released this spring by Publish America. It is available through the publisher, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, from me, and it can also be ordered by any bookstore. It retails for $19.95.


  1. Thanks for another great interview.

  2. I'm reading Eunice Boeve's "Ride a Shadowed Trail" right now. It was great to hear a bit more about the author. Her next book sounds even more interesting. I'll look forward to it.

    Fairlee Winfield
    Author of BUFFALOED

  3. I love your interviews Marsha. It helps connect me witht he authors and makes me want to read their works.

  4. Great interview, Marsha and Eunice! Your book sounds facinating. I love the title in and of itself, but the storyline is intriguing as well.

  5. Anonymous1:05 PM

    Great conversation Marsha and Eunice! I loved your introduction to the new book and the "hook" for the sequel.
    Thank you for the encouraging comments about the "adventures" in writing.
    Great job!

  6. Thanks for all your comments, folks. I enjoy doing these interviews, and learn a lot about how other authors write.


I welcome your comments.

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