Monday’s Friend: Tera Shanley

Today I am pleased to welcome writer Tera Shanley to the blog. Tera’s forthcoming romance novel is set in the Old West, and if sexy cowboys are your thing, you probably want to check this one out. Welcome, Tera!

Research and Reality
By Tera Shanley

Hello all, and thanks so much to Sara-Jayne Townsend for hosting me today. I’m ecstatic to be creeping closer to my December release of An Unwilling Husband, so today I thought I would share a little of what led me to the story.

At a Christmas party last year, an older gentleman asked me what genre I write. And while I have a paranormal series and a light horror novel under contracts with publishers, my go-to answer always seems to be Historic Western Romance, around the turn of the century. The old cowboy frowned at this and said, “What possible experience would you have in the historic west?”

He seemed angry that I, a thirty year old woman, would have the audacity to write in a genre he felt he would know more about and before I spouted that no one had personal experience as I hadn’t seen any hundred and thirty year old cowboys shuffling around in their favorite boots and spurs lately, my actual answer was that I, like all writers, research. “Research,” he snorted before he left me sitting wide eyed at the table and wondering what I’d done to offend him.

On the ride home, while overthinking the conversation to death like I usually do, I realized my answer had been wrong. Of course I research, that’s a given with this career. If you don’t have personal experience in something, you have to make sure you have every detail right or it won’t be an authentic read. But I also write from what I know and my unusual upbringing gave me the tools that made me fall in love with writing cowboys of the wild west. I’m a Texas girl born and bred with parents who have a keen interest in history. What this meant for me, was when we pulled our old minivan out for summer road trips, we stopped at every historical place known to the United States of America and read every single plaque from every battle field, historic home, and yes, every cowboy museum. While Tera-the-impatient-child would’ve done anything for a twizzler and a nap on the museum benches, my parents were determined to instill in my siblings and I the importance of the past and eventually, as I got older and started devouring books that made those historic plaques make sense, I started to appreciate history too. Ingredient one into my wild west cocktail.

My grandmother was a cowboy. I didn’t know it was anything unusual until I was much older because it was all I knew, but for as long as I can remember, my Grammy ran cattle all by herself, with nary a man in sight. To her name are hundreds of acres around a town that was named for her great grandfather. Bryson, TX. When my grandfather was alive, he and my grandmother ran two separate herds on two different parcels of land, and when he passed, she kept right on doing what she was doing. My tiny grandma hauled herds of cattle to her land, fed them religiously, branded and worked them, and was there at every auction to sell them. And right beside her at those auctions, sat me.

While my Grammy was busy showing a completely male run industry how it was done, we were out there helping. I spent the summers with her growing up, and some of my fondest memories are of my siblings and I ripping feed bags open and dumping them over the tailgate of her moving truck to the soundtrack of bellowing cattle. We fed orphaned calves bottles in her backyard until they were grown, ran from snakes, pigs, and bobcats, and became experts at plucking out cactus thorns. My Grammy, Dad, and uncles worked the cattle in the blazing Texas heat every summer, gritty work if anyone’s ever had a hand in it, and we were right there, standing on the fences and soaking up everything they were doing. And when I was finally old enough and strong enough, I helped with the calves. I have a hundred stories to draw from as Grammy ran cattle well into her older age.

And while I have experience with horseback riding, twenty seven years of hunting and fishing experience under my belt, and a devotion to the outdoors and conservation from the years we’ve spent up on our land that have come in handy when writing Westerns, the experience I gained working cattle with my Grammy for all those years has helped me the most. I’ve thanked her often from that Christmas party to now for taking me out there with her. She gave me a peek into the world I love so much and I’ve been able to create stories and characters I care about from some of the stirrings she began in me.

AUH CoverBlurb

For adventurous Margaret Flemming, newly arrived from Boston to be with her father, the old west town of her childhood is a far cry from the drawing rooms and balls of the high society life she’s used to. Her fancy gowns and proper manners have no place in the dusty, cruel land inhabited by Indians and rough cowboys and her fiercely independent streak seems to just get her in trouble.

When tragedy strikes, there’s only one person she can turn to–her childhood friend, Garret Shaw–but he’s disgusted with her society ways.

With his ranch under attack from the land-grabbing Jennings family, the last thing Garret needs is to be saddled with a high-falutin’ lady. Even if she’s a friend’s daughter and her kind ways tug at his hardened heart. Duty to her father forces them to wed, but he knows sure as anything, when the chance comes along, she’ll ride back to Boston. No matter how much he wants her, loving her is not a risk he can take.

Will Maggie choose a life of luxury and ease over struggle and hardship with an ill-mannered cowboy? That’s a question only her heart can answer.


Tera Shanley is a rifle slinging, sweet talking, chocolate loving, southern bell. If she’s not curled up with her laptop, clicking away on a new novel, she’s with her family and friends and they’re probably outdoors. Her dream (other than to write characters everyone will love as much as she does) is to live in the forest somewhere in a teeny house.  For more information about Tera and her writing, catch up with her online.


8 comments so far

  1. Mae Clair on

    Tera, you most certainly have the background to bring an authentic perspective to a historical western. Your grandmother sounds like she was an amazing woman! I’m looking forward to reading An Unwilling Husband when it’s released!

    • Tera Shanley on

      She is, Mae! I just spent the entire day with her on friday, which means we saw snakes, snapping turtles and of course did a drive by on a cattle auction sale barn, haha. 75 and the great outdoors is still her jam. She’s my hero. Thanks so much for stopping by 😀

  2. Gemma Brocato on

    Tera, it sounds like a sense of adventure runs in your family. And a passion for hard work and the great outdoors. I love that your parents dragged you to historic sites. Every parent should be so considerate. We usually think that because America is so much younger than Europe we don’t have a history worth talking about. But it seems to me we do and that our history is fresher than other countries. That doesn’t make it less colorful.
    And that old cowboy you spoke to last Christmas? I guess you showed him that he shouldn’t be judging by a cover.
    And speaking of covers, yours is delicious. Can’t wait for December to get a copy of my own.

    • Tera Shanley on

      I completely agree, Gemma 🙂 I didn’t appreciate it when I was a little kid, but I remember every civil war battle field we visited and still have the souvenirs that remind me of the stories. Now I feel so lucky to have parents who were so interested in history and I get to share those experiences with my husband and two little kiddos of my own. I’m fully prepared for my kid’s grumbling, because I know someday they’ll thank me for it. America really does have such a rich and interesting history.

      Thanks so much for dropping by!

  3. M.Q. Barber on

    Wonderful visceral description of working the ranch, Tera. I can’t wait to see how you put that experience to work for you in the book. 🙂

    • Tera Shanley on

      So glad you enjoyed it, M.Q.! thanks for reading 🙂

  4. Joanne Wadsworth * Romance Author on

    A great interview. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks.

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