Janet Chester Bly is the widow of award-winning western author Stephen Bly. Together they authored and co-authored 120 fiction and nonfiction books. She and her three sons finished Stephen’s last novel for him, Stuart Brannon’s Final Shot, a Selah Award Finalist. The family’s story is told on her website blog: www.blybooks.com. Wind in the Wires is Janet’s first solo adult novel, a contemporary western mystery, a road adventure with a touch of romance. It’s Cowgirl Lit.
Savanna: Welcome to The Engrafted Word, Janet. Congratulations on your recent release, Wind in the Wires. It sounds like an intriguing story! Was there ever a moment while writing this book that your character(s) and/or the plot surprised you and turned the story in an unexpected direction?
In the original plan, 91-year-old Seth Stroud was going to take a trip from northern Idaho to Goldfield, Nevada in 1991 by covered wagon. But when I realized how long that would take and how risky with highway traffic, etc., I changed his mode of travel to a 1912 Ford Model T. A bit speedier and still caused the stir I sought. Especially when he painted it purple. Didn’t know that was coming until one of the characters in the story very close to Seth indicated her favorite color was purple. And he was taking the journey partly on her behalf.
Another shock of a twist happened when I realized a certain character was not going to survive the long trek to the desert. I received some fussing about it from a critiquer or two. But what could I do? When the moment arrived, I realized there was no other choice. No way did I have that as part of the plot points.
Savanna: Thanks for sharing that. I always enjoy hearing about the creative process. Can you tell us what first sparked the idea for the Trails of Reba Cahill Series?
Janet: I started the Reba story in 1991 because my late husband had been writing novels and I decided to try one. It was simple as that. I wanted the protagonist to be a cowgirl because I was a city gal and wanted to live the ranch life through her. A fully completed novel never quite jelled. Life happened. And we got so involved with producing Steve’s works, some of which I co-authored with him. The years slipped by. Meanwhile, I played with various scenes, developed different characters, and even took some research trips.
Savanna: Wow, these stories must be very close to your heart then. I can certainly see why.
Your website mentions you also offer a wide variety of speaking engagements. What is one of your favorite themed topics to teach and why?
Janet: The most requested theme has been Awakening Your Sense of Wonder, taken from my book of the same title. I love talking on that subject because, no matter what else is happening in my life, I’m reminded how active God is in our lives. How we discover Him in the ordinary details of everyday. In small things. In the expanse of creation. Through children and random acts of love. By catching glimpses we’re all part of a Big Plan.
Savanna: If you were to give a tour of your home state of Idaho, what would be your first stop and why?
Janet: (Chuckle) I’ll bet you didn’t expect this answer. First, I’d bring you to Broken Arrow Crossing, the false front town my husband built in the yard beside our house. It’s one of the tourist attractions of our small town (pop. 400). And it’s across the street from Winchester Lake State Park, another stop on the tour.
Savanna: Really? How fun is that! I’d love to see it! 😉
Janet: Finishing my husband Stephen Bly’s last novel, along with my three adult sons. He left us a one-page synopsis, two pages of character names, and 10% of the writing done. We had a four-month deadline. It was a huge privilege and by far the greatest challenge of our lives. It was also cathartic as we four met weekly to stress and brainstorm, research and plot, laugh and cry.
Savanna: Wow. What a tribute to your husband. That’s wonderful!
Is there anything else you’d like to add? Any upcoming projects you can share with us?
Janet: Book 2 of The Trails of Reba Cahill Series is scheduled for Fall 2015. I’m not sure about the title…maybe something like When She Marries, When She Dies. I’m a bit more certain about Book 3 for 2016, which has the working title Beneath A Camperdown Elm.
Meanwhile, in the Spring I hope to re-release several of our earlier nonfiction books, mostly in digital eBook format. After that, I aim to reprint as many of the children’s novels as possible too.
Savanna: Ah, the busy life of a writer! Thanks so much for being here today, Janet. Many blessings on your family and your writing!
Connect with Janet
Janet has graciously offered a copy of Wind in the Wires to one lucky reader! Enter below and it could be YOU! 😉
Thanks for entering! Contest is open only in the U.S. and Canada and ends December 17, 2014. The winner will be notified by email. Happy Reading, everybody! 😉