Author's Notes Ride the Fire

Of all my historicals, Ride the Fire is the most personal and probably my favorite. Since the book's release, I've been open with readers' groups and fans about the fact that I, like the book's heroine, was sexually assaulted as a child. Bethie carries the pain and shame of that terrible experience through the story until she meets a man who understands her suffering far more than she can imagine. For Nicholas and Bethie, it really is a case of love healing all wounds.

This book consumed me, not only because of the very emotional themes in the story, but also because of the history. I love pre—Revolutionary Colonial America, and I love the history of the French and Indian War. Pontiac's Rebellion, the pivotal event in this story, is the aftermath of the French and Indian War (Seven Years' War). And it led to the Paxton Boys' Rebellion, a little known incident that some historians have referred to as America's "first civil war." Drawing all of these events together and depicting them as accurately as possible was a huge challenge and one that I loved.

With the help of the Fort Pitt Museum, I was able to use soldiers' diaries from the siege of Fort Pitt to recreate day-to-day life in the fort. I put a painting of Fort Pitt up on my wall, where it hangs still, as an inspiration for my writing. The author's note in the back of the book offers more details on the research and why I ended up setting the story in this historical backdrop.

What the author's note doesn't say is that when I finally finished this book, I was a wreck. I've never been so emotionally drained by anything. For about six weeks afterwards, I couldn't talk to anyone about the story without sobbing. I had given it everything that was inside me, and given the personal nature of the story, that was a lot.

I was so exhausted when the book was finished that I didn't have the energy to write an epilogue. But I'm about to remedy that by writing an epilogue that will be available with the October 2008 re-release of the book.

Ride the Fire also marks the first book I wrote completely as I wished to write it, and I believe the book reflects me coming into my own as a writer. Some people have complained that the book is too violent, and, certainly, there is some uncomfortable violence in the story.

But I've never been the kind of reader who wants to read light and fluffy stories, so I'm not likely to write them. Violence was a fact of frontier life with atrocities being committed on all sides. I've tried to tell a love story set during violent times, a story about healing from violence. I hope it touches you the way it touched me.

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