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Home People & Lifestyle People of the West Western Author Writes As If She Lived It

New Mexico's Melody Groves

Western Author Writes As If She Lived It

Southwest Novelist

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When it comes to writing about the Old West, Melody Groves says she feels as if she's lived it; of course since she is a gun-toting Western re-enactor, she really does live it just about every weekend at Albuquerque, New Mexico's Old Town.

"I write what I live-and live what I write," says the award-winning Western author. "As a native New Mexican, I've traversed deserts, ridden horses, explored ghost towns, and embraced the Old West as well as the New West."
 
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Born in Las Cruces, New Mexico, at the southern end of the state, Groves explains her fascination of the West. "Tendrils from the past draw me in and keep me absolutely connected to the Old West."

She's always felt that way, she admits.

"I've lived and traveled all over the world, but I'm most comfortable-at home-in the Old West."

Groves began her writing career in the 9th grade as editor of her school newspaper. When her dad, who was in the civil service, was assigned to Philippines she and her family relocated with him to Subic Bay Naval Base. While there, she attended high school and continued her role as a journalist writing for the school's newspaper.

Later returning to New Mexico, she attended New Mexico State University where she received a bachelor of art's degree in drama education, with a minor in journalism. She married, and she and her husband moved to Albuquerque where she went on to earn a master's degree in gifted education from the University of New Mexico.

Although she taught school for several years, she was never far away from the cowboys, outlaws, and Indians of yesteryear. In fact, it was in front of students taking a standardized test when her main fictional characters, the Colton brothers, pushed their way onto paper.

They had rattled around in her head for some time, but when she finally let them out, she discovered what a spirited family they are. "They're always up to something," she says. "I just write really fast trying to keep up with them."

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The brothers, Trace, James, Luke, and Andy, come to New Mexico from a Kansas farm where their ma and pa have instilled strong family values and ties. Trace, eight years older than Andy, leaves the homestead first to drive a stagecoach for Butterfield. A year later, James joins him to ride as shotgun guard, then Andy a year later, followed by Luke.

"My inspirations in regards to creating each character," Groves says, "is that it all started with James. His full name is James Francis Michael Colton, the only one of the brothers with four names. And...he insists on being called James. Not Jim or Jimmy."

She does not base her characters on any one person she knows. "Too limiting," she says. "Within a few days of meeting James, I met the rest of the brothers. They were just in the background-waiting to be introduced."

In addition to Arizona War and Sonoran Rage, her first two novels (now available through book retailers Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Borders), she has written and/or plotted out five more in her Colton Brothers Sage series. Border Ambush (Spring 2009) is next.

Although most of her novels are set in the 1860s in Arizona/New Mexico territories of the Southwest, her fourth novel, Kansas Bleeds (Spring 2010), is set in Kansas where the Colton parents encounter Quantrill's Raiders. James rushes back home to help out, but brother Luke takes the wrong side.

With historical fiction at the core of each novel, Groves enjoys bringing in fictional characters to play off the "real" ones. As for plotting, generally she uncovers an interesting piece of history, then manipulates her characters into participating in the event.

For example: the westernmost battle of the Civil War was fought at Picacho Pass south of Phoenix. So, in Arizona War, James Colton and younger brother Andy, join the Union Army. They end up fighting at that battle. "It's fun," she admits, "adding my characters to history."

Writing what she lives is easy.

As a member of the New Mexico Gunfighters Association, she wields a .22 Ruger single action six every Sunday in Albuquerque's Old Town. The Western re-enactors perform comedic skits centered on the Old West. Mostly she plays an outlaw (her favorite role) robbing banks, harassing townsfolk, shooting deputies and sheriffs.

It's this experience, facing down a lawman, standing shoulder to shoulder with fellow "bad guys," that she says gives her a feel for the Old West.

In fact, her group travels to Tombstone, Arizona, every Labor Day to perform in the O.K. Corral as part of the entertainment for the Gunfighters Rendezvous. She even portrayed Morgan Earp one year and performed the shootout in the O.K. Corral.

"With all that shooting, my ears rang for a while and it was hard to see through the smoke," she says. "Then I realized that it was real and I got a feel for how to include it in my writing."

Groves has won two first-place writing awards and the coveted Paris Award from SouthWest Writers. She is the publicity chairman for Western Writers of America, and public relations chair for SouthWest Writers.

In addition to her novels, she has published Ropes, Reins, and Rawhide: All About Rodeo and is finishing up a nonfiction book, Historic Bars of the SouthWest (Spring 2010).

Visit her website at
www.melodygroves.com


 
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