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Inhaltsangabe: Jessica Layton left her Oregon hometown ? and her longtime love ? for medical school with one thing on her mind: saving lives. Her frontier dreams were filled with more than rural domestic life, even if that life was with the man she was supposed to marry? Now, years later, Cole Braddock is not pleased to see Dr. Jessica Layton back in Powell Springs. He?s never forgiven her for choosing her career over him. With his brother fighting in the trenches in France, Cole?s busy running the family horse farm and supplying mounts to the Allied forces. He assumes he won?t have to see much of his childhood love?but the pull between them only grows stronger. To escape the heartache of seeing Cole again, Jessica vows to keep her visit home as brief as possible. But the influenza epidemic that?s been ravaging the world hits Powell Springs hard. With no other doctor available, Jessica stays to treat the victims ? and tries to ignore the emotions that surge each time Cole crosses her path. Cole knows that Jess can save their town, but will he let her heal his heart?
Q&A with Alexis Harrington
Question: Many of your books are set in the Old West. What intrigues you about that period?
Alexis Harrington: To be frank, cowboys are sexy. I?m sure we view the West through a filter of romantic nostalgia. The truth is that life was uncertain, people could be killed or die more easily, and it was a lawless, free-for-all place. As far as I can tell, the shootout at the OK Corral was nothing more than a turf dispute between two rival gangs who differed only in the flimsy fact that the Earps had badges. Still, some people endured incredible hardships and survived. I think that?s the appeal for me, aside from the sexy cowboys: self-reliance; the cowboy code of honor; strong, enterprising women. There?s a lot to work with here.
Q: The influenza epidemic of 1918 was such a dramatic, high-stakes race against the clock. Why did you settle on this particular event for your novel?
AH: Using the 1918 pandemic as a backdrop came to me about 10 to 12 years ago. No one was discussing it at the time, even though it killed millions of people. Then scientists and the National Institutes of Health began muttering about the next possible pandemic, the avian flu. I was spurred to action, and I was amazed by some of the things I learned. This is the only time when the subject came first, and then I had to create characters to fit it. I usually do just the opposite when I create the bones for a story.
Q: Readers and reviewers talk about how realistic your novels? historical settings are. How do you achieve this?
AH: This is so critical to me. As authors, we don?t have the visual advantage that movies do, so careful, judicious description is a must. Of course, I must be correct about any historical props I use, too. But with description, I want my reader to be right there with the characters. What?s the weather doing? Is the wind blowing? Then you can hear it in the trees. If it?s blowing over tall grass, the blades flash in the light to show their silvery undersides. It?s really a matter of the author putting herself and the reader in that moment.
Q: How did Cole and Jess?s story change from the first draft to the one?
AH: That book went through so many incarnations, even I can?t remember them all! In one version, Jessica stopped in Powell Springs to attend the wedding of Cole and Amy that she was paying for. In several versions, I killed Amy with the flu--but that made her a martyr, and I didn?t want that. For a while, I considered letting Cole and Jess leave together to start a new life somewhere else, but I abandoned that and made her realize she couldn?t run away again.
Q: Are there other time periods you?d love to focus on in your writing?
AH: I have one contemporary that is almost finished that?s been sitting around for a while. And I have an idea for a dystopian story based on an old rock song that I?ve been meaning to make into a story for the past 20 years.
Q: Fast-forward 50 years from the book?s setting. How are Jess and Cole faring in 1968?
AH: Wow. That?s something I?ve never done. In 1968, they?d be about 80. Of course, they?re still together and have grown children and grandchildren. That?s what the happily-ever-after ending is all about.
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