Historical fiction always necessitates research, but yours has the added factors of the location and one of the main character’s occupation as a geologist. Can you tell us about what kinds of research you did and what it entailed?
Since my husband is a geologist, I had a built-in model for Tom. And I have a master's in marine geology, so I know enough to be able to be realistic about the geology. Once I decided to put Maggie in Yellowstone I spent quite a bit of time both in the Park and reading its history. There's a wonderful new research center in Gardiner, and I spent time there digging through old records. And of course the Old Faithful Inn was built in 1904 (the year the story is set) so it's kind of spooky to stand in the lobby and think that Maggie would have seen what's there today.
Maggie is a strong female character, you could even argue feminist (given her choices at the end, I won’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read the book). Did you set out with that intention or did she just turn out that way?
Maggie evolved as I was writing, but I always knew she needed to grow into someone who could be independent of the constraints of her contemporary society. What's surprised me since the novel has come out is how many readers have told me that they were unaware how confining a girl's prospects were in 1904. So although there are feminist undertones, it was really Maggie's evolution that dictated the path of the novel. Mrs. Gale, on the other hand, was inspired by a real person (Evelyn Cameron), and she's a character I really admire. She truly broke out of society's expectations.
This past summer there was much talk about bears in the state parks, including Yellowstone. You were in Yellowstone this summer doing book signings — any bear encounters?
There have been tons of bears around this summer! We did see a few in the Park — there were a couple of grizzly sightings that we had to drive by because we needed to get to the Inn. But actually I've seen at least six bears this summer alone right here by our cabin, including a griz up on the hill above the house. I've heard that the pine nuts are not so numerous this year, so the bears are a little hungry. *shiver* But, you know, you have to be respectful. This is their place first, ours second. I try to be "bear-aware" and know that they have a right to be here.