Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Guest Post: Injecting Humor into the Wild West by Bryan Ney, Author of Calamity Jane: How the West Began

Please join me in welcoming author Bryan Ney to Let Them Read Books! I'm thrilled to have Bryan here today with a guest post about his debut young adult historical novel, Calamity Jane: How the West Began. Read on, and grab a copy of the ebook edition for $1.99!

A teenaged girl arrives in the goldfields of 1860s Montana, impoverished and despised for her parents' behavior. Through her exploits, she soon makes a name for herself as Calamity Jane, wins friends, and becomes the toast of the town. But murder and robbery stalk all who travel the surrounding trails, and Jane thinks she knows who is responsible. Can she and her new friends rally forces to clean the place up? 

“A light, fun, and atavistic Western novel!” ~Kirkus Reviews

Injecting Humor into the Wild West
by Bryan Ney

“Teen-aged Calamity Jane has to convince her frontier town that a respected citizen among them leads the outlaws, or Jane's friend won't be the last to die.”

The Western genre is populated with violent stories filled with stern, self-reliant characters, seemingly bereft of humor. A lone hero has to overcome obstacles on his (usually his) own. My debut historical novel, Calamity Jane: How the West Began, is a stern tale as well, as in the log line above.  In contrast to the classic Western, however, (High Noon comes to mind) mine is a coming-of-age tale where Calamity is more a catalyst than a hero. She brings together the diverse elements of the town at a critical moment. And she has a sense of humor. Here is an excerpt from early in the story as an example. Rough-and-tumble Jane is making her acquaintance with Andrew, a boy from a prominent family. (Incidentally, this little exchange is the favorite of Andrew's real-life granddaughter, but that is whole other story.)

There was an awkward pause. “You catch it when you got home?” Andrew asked.

“Catch what?” Jane said. Andrew seemed nice enough. Not really her sort, though: he seemed a bit timid.

“You know. Catch…heck.”

“Heck? You mean catch hell? ” Jane asked. “Are you a Mormon or something, ain’t supposed to swear?”

“No, we’re agnostic.”

“Agnostic. Never heard of that one.” Jane prided herself on being as clever as anyone else she met, but her schooling had been sparse. “Agnostics don’t swear?”

“Not as much as whatever you are.”

“Never mind what I am,” said Jane. “Queer mix of folk hereabouts. Are agnostic sermons really boring?”

“Ain’t no agnostic church. It’s a philosophy.”

“So where do agnostics go on Sunday?”

“It’s not like that. Agnostic just means you figure that you don’t know if there is a God or not,” Andrew said.

“I thought that was what an atheist was.”

“Nope. An atheist is sure there is no God.”

“Oh,” she said. “No matter. “I ain’t much of one for church anyhow.”

The reason I inject humor as often as I can is two-fold. One is just a matter of style. Good writing (I am told) is an ebb and flow of tension building and tension relief. When I can use humor for that tension relief, I do. The above excerpt follows an episode (firmly historically based) where Jane goes begging, ill-clad, cold, and hungry, little sister in tow. Some sort of tension relief is needed after that.

The other reason I use humor is to be true to the primary historical sources, particularly Langford's Vigilante Days and Ways. I came to this history biased by austere TV Westerns I had seen as a child and  was surprised to find so much humor woven into Langford's story. As that author tells us explicitly, in the darkest hour of this frontier town, humor was a daily undercurrent. In order to be true to history, I had to inject humor as well.

Calamity Jane:How the West Began is on sale!
Grab the ebook for $1.99 on Amazon. Ends September 1st.

About the Author:

Bryan Ney is a medical doctor in Los Angeles. In the 1990s he stumbled upon the history of how the outlaws held sway in 1860s Montana, and was fascinated by the dynamics of how the good guys finally united and overcame them. This book, a finalist in four contests in the months after publication, is the fruit of that fascination. Dr Ney now dreams of a second career, bringing the Old West to life in a new way for devoted fans. www.bryanney.com

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