Sunday, August 25, 2019

On Writing Barkerville Beginnings by A.M. Westerling

Some books are easier to write than others and I don’t know why that is. I write historical romance so maybe it’s the volume of research. Or maybe it’s uncooperative characters or a matter of simply not being in the right frame of mind to craft that particular story at that particular time. I struggled a bit with my books A Heart Enslaved and The Countess’ Lucky Charm but Barkerville Beginnings was such a pleasure to write that it almost wrote itself. Let me explain:

As far as the heroine, Rose, I chose her name because that was the name of my accountant’s former receptionist and I liked the historical feel of it. I imagined Rose as a single mother because I wanted to make things as tough for her in Barkerville as I could – single moms were frowned on in those days. I can’t remember how I came up with Harrison’s name but I knew he had to be a Viscount as my tag line is “From Vikings to Viscounts, Join the Adventure, Live the Romance” and up until Barkerville Beginnings, none of my books had a viscount.

As an author of one of the Canadian Historical Brides books, I had to incorporate real people so I did. ie Wa Lee, who gives Rose a job in his laundry, Judge Begbie, (known as “The Hanging Judge” and doesn’t that tweak your interest!), Madame Fannie Bendixon, the hotelier and saloon keeper (who may or may not have run a brothel!) who also offers Rose a job, Dr. Wilkinson who treats the injured leg of Rose’s daughter Hannah, and Wellington Delaney Moses, the barber, because Harrison needed a shave after being out in the gold fields. 

To ensure historical accuracy of the book, I worked with one of historians from Barkerville, a lovely lady by the name of Caroline Zinz, and I hope one day to meet her. 

I’ve been to Barkerville so I wanted to mention the lonely grave you drive past on your way in from Quesnel. Here is Rose’s impression as she passes by:

The wagon slowed as the road neared a fenced grave, enough that Rose could read the headboard: Charles Morgan Blessing.

“Lonely spot to be buried,” Harrison commented and he doffed his hat as they drove past.

Rose nodded. “It is.” A chill tiptoed down her back at the forlorn sight, a reminder of the fragility of life in this wilderness. She craned her neck for one last glimpse before the road twisted away.

I was also quite taken with the wooden sidewalks so of course I had to mention those as well:

Looks like we’ve arrived,” said Harrison as a cluster of buildings came into view. Once again the mules, sensing the end of a long day, picked up their pace and the wagon bounced and rattled down the last little bit of the Cariboo Trail.

Rose hadn’t known what to expect but her first view left her numb. This was Barkerville? The town that gold built? This jumble of wooden, mostly single story buildings tottering on stilts alongside a wide, muddied creek? Surrounded by steep hills stripped bare of trees? How unattractive, brutally so.

The road through town was in poor shape, rutted and puddled with patches of drying mud. In consideration for pedestrians, raised wooden walkways fronted every building like planked skirts. Rose could only conclude the creek must flood frequently. Her poor boots, already soaked through once since embarking on the trip, would certainly be put to the test here.

The closer they came, the more her heart sank. What had she got themselves into?”

Here I am on Barkerville's Main Street and you can see how high the sidewalks are raised because the street used to flood quite frequently.

As an author of historical romance, it’s my job to place my readers in the proper time frame and I hope I’ve accomplished that in Barkerville Beginnings! 

Would you like to read Rose's, Hannah's and Harrison's story? You can find Barkerville Beginnings at your favourite online store here:

Or in print at your favourite book store. :) 


  1. Great post about a great book. You place your reader so exactly that's it's no surprise to see you in the Barkerville picture.

  2. Thank you for the kind words, Victoria! Barkerville is quite the interesting place so it was the perfect location for the B.C. historical bride. :)

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