"SARAH'S SECRET is an engaging story from start to finish."
~Books & Benches
A Western Tale of Betrayal and Forgiveness
Follow the paths of Sarah and Will (or Sam) as they tell their stories of trust, secrets, and betrayal on the frontier in the old West. Their pioneer spirit helped to fuel the expansion into the Western territories of the United States. The two are historically on their separate journeys, yet they remain intimately connected. Through the fictionalized Western frontier tale of Sam and Sarah, the author, Beverly Scott, was inspired to reveal rumored secrets from her family history.
In 1878, Will is on the run after killing a man in a barroom gunfight. He escapes the Texas Rangers by joining a cattle drive as a cook headed to Dodge City. He struggles with the dilemma of saving his life or attempting to return to his pregnant wife and five children. Just when he thinks he might be able to return home, he is confronted by a bounty hunter who captures him and plans to return him to Fort Worth, Texas to be hanged.
Although Will changes his name to Sam, he remains an irresponsible, lonely and untrustworthy man on the dodge from the law who abandons the women he loves. He ultimately seeks redemption and marries Sarah.
In 1911, Sarah, a pioneer woman and widow with five children struggles to find the inner strength to overcome betrayal, loneliness, fears, and self-doubt. Her husband, Sam, thirty years her senior, died with a mysterious and defiant declaration, “I won’t answer!” Despite poverty and a crippling illness, she draws on her pioneer spirit to hold her family together and return to Nebraska to be near her parents and siblings.
When Sarah returns to Nebraska she receives staggering news which complicates her efforts to support her children. She is shocked, angry and emotionally devastated. Since she is attempting to establish herself in the community as a teacher, she believes she must keep her secret even from her own family. Will Sarah find forgiveness in her heart and the resolve to accept her new life alone?
“In the flash of one moment, the trajectory of a man’s life and of those who loved and depended on him changes forever. The developing plot draws the reader in as we wait to see how this one action reaches into and impacts the lives of future generations. Set against the backdrop of a post-Civil War nation, when thousands headed west to escape their past, disappear into the horizon, and remake themselves, this biography is a rich study of pioneer ethos and the risks faced every day. The women touched by this man, who kept his secrets close, are heroines of courage, steadfastness and goodness. Beverly Scott is an author who has a way of painting word pictures that make you feel like you are a part of the story as it unfolds towards the discovery of his devastating secrets.”
~Patricia and Craig Neal, co-founders, Heartland Inc.
Q&A with Beverly Scott
What makes “Sarah’s Secret” special or unique to you? Can you give us a little story behind the story?
I heard the family rumors about my grandfather at a family reunion about twenty-five years ago. I was intrigued and wanted to learn more.When my career wound down, I began a genealogy search at the National Archives since my grandfather was a Civil War Veteran.As I sorted through the yellowed pages of forms, correspondence and depositions, I discovered he was born in Indiana in 1840 as John Howard, (we knew him as Harvey Depew or H.D.) and the rumor was true!He had another family.
I continued my genealogy journey searching the US Census. He and his family were listed in the 1870 Census in Texas but he was missing in the 1880 census.Going back to the Archive documents, I found clues:his wife Harriet stated he left her destitute with her sixth child in 1878 when he went into town for a load of corn and never returned; H.D. claimed he worked cattle and that he had been a cook.Since 1878 was at the peak of the long-horn cattle drives from Texas to Kansas, perhaps he joined a cattle drive.However, there was no record of him in Texas or Kansas.He literally disappeared in 1878.
I found him under his new name in 1890 in Wyoming. He had filed a land claim.There, he met and married my grandmother, the local school teacher. With so little information about my mysterious grandfather, I concluded the story needed to be fiction.“Sarah’s Secret” is the result.
What has been your greatest pleasure in writing “Sarah’s Secret”?
My greatest pleasure has been to write a story inspired by my grandmother who was a strong courageous woman. My grandfather had been largely unknown in my father’s family.He was thirty years older than my grandmother and when he died he left her with five children. My grandmother never talked about him and brushed off any questions. I discovered in my genealogy search that she was very humiliated to learn after he died that he had another wife and family and that he had not divorced. As a result, she was refused widows benefits.
When I concluded the story needed to be fiction, I wanted the main protagonist to be modeled after my grandmother whom I knew until she died when I was in the seventh grade.
As I wrote the sections focused on Sarah, I felt I was channeling my grandmother. Although I had little factual information about her life during the time of the story, the qualities of Sarah’s character, her dialogue and both her strengths and weaknesses flowed easily. I wanted to tell the story of an amazing woman who bravely faced her own fears and over-came many challenges to become an inspiration and role-model. She managed to successfully raise her children as a single mother faced not only with poverty but with a debilitating and crippling disease.
I am pleased with the character Sarah became. She is not my grandmother but I am confident, she would like Sarah, too.
What has been your greatest challenge as a writer? Have you been able to overcome it?
I have had several challenges in my professional life. Probably the most difficult for me as a writer is my drive for perfection. Early in my writing journey, as I read books, articles and blogs written by other writers, I noted the warning signs…the tendency to continue doing revisions and to constantly re-write key passages. Even as I wrote and re-wrote, I continued reading about the approach other writers used, the how-to directions and the recommendations and advice. Then, I would go back and revise and re-write again.
There were two key recommendations that helped me cope with the tendency to keep re-writing: Anne Lamont, in “Bird by Bird” points out that first drafts are not perfect. Someone else reminded me that at some point, I needed to stop and consider the story finished.
There were also supporters in my writing network that were enormously helpful. My writing group who gave me positive feedback and encouraged me by saying I was on the right path. Beta readers who pointed out specific areas that needed to be changed and other areas they really liked. And then I left them alone! I don’t think I have overcome it, but I have learned some ways of managing it.
What kind of research did you do?
Since I began doing genealogy first, my research began at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. which held a treasure trove of documents, the result of my grandfather’s pursuit of Veterans Benefits.I also visited my grandfather’s birthplace, the other places he lived either in his first or second marriage. I used census records to track down births and residences.At the time, I hadn’t expected to use this research for a fictional story but it turned out to be invaluable.
Once I determined that the story would be fiction, I read books and stories about the time period, such as the period of long-horn cattle drives from Texas to Dodge City, Kansas, I pursued specific questions on-line such as “was there a bridge in 1911 across the Canadian River between Texas and Oklahoma?” I found books of cowboy slang and read descriptions in libraries of dugouts and sod houses written by homesteaders besieged with drought, snowstorms, and hostile Indians. When it supported my story, I used quotes from the depositions in the National Archives files and descriptions from hand written family stories donated to historical museums.
After I began writing, I was grateful for the easy access via ‘Google’ to find information in the moment when I needed to know some historical details.I also discovered that much of the fun of writing historical fiction is the research and integrating what I learned into the story to give more vivid details to the reader.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I grew up at a time when girls were expected to get married and have babies. Fortunately, my parents encouraged me to get a college education and pursue a career. But my aspirations about career choices were limited to becoming a teacher, a nurse, a social worker or a secretary.I loved learning and my primary interests were learning about people and groups so I was attracted to psychology and sociology. I decided to go to graduate school.But I had no idea what I could do with the Master’s degree in Sociology that I secured. Even as I was encouraged by mentors and bosses, I believed I just needed to acquire the experience that would enable me to find a job where ever my husband landed. My horizon and my dreams were limited.
Over time, my aspirations gradually grew but in many cases, it was too late. Or perhaps I still believed it wasn’t possible for me to achieve.For many years I believed that I could not write fiction.I wasn’t creative enough. My advice to my younger self would be to dream big and to believe that you can do anything you set your mind to accomplish. Don’t be restricted by what others think you can do. It doesn’t mean it is simple or easy. But if you want something and work hard for it, you can achieve it. That is my advice today to young women I mentor and to my grandchildren.
“Using the plain spoken language of the women and men who scratched out life on the hard scrabble plains in the early days of this young country Bev Scott crafts a sharp picture of the violence and the love that shaped the middle of this nation. Every river crossing, each spring planting reveals the conflicts inside the characters and their struggle to survive in contested territories.” ~Jewell Gomez, author of The Gilda Stories
Bev specialized in serving executives and managers as a leadership coach and organizational consultant for over thirty-five years. She taught organization psychology and founded The 3rd Act, a program whose mission supports positive aging. As she grew into her own third act, she started a genealogical journey to uncover the details of her grandparents’ lives. She concluded that the story needed to be told as fiction using the known facts as her framework.
“Sarah’s Secret: A Western Tale of Betrayal and Forgiveness,” Bev’s debut novel, is the culmination of her long-held desire tell the family story and confirm the whispered story about her grandfather.
Bev previously focused on publishing non-fiction work, including the second edition of “Consulting on the Inside,” which she co-authored with Kim Barnes, published in 2011. She has written numerous professional articles and contributed to “70 Things to Do When You Turn 70,” edited by Ronnie Sellers and Mark Chimsky. Bev blogs on several sites, including her own, “The Writing Life” on www.bevscott.com.
Bev enjoys traveling, visiting with friends, reading and spending time with her grandsons. She lives with her spouse in San Francisco.
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