Under the pseudonym of Amos Carr, Jill McDonald-Constable has written numerous westerns for the Robert Hale Ltd Black Horse Western series. A passionate writer for many years, she tells us why she loves the western genre and just how she ended up being given an Indian name herself.
Where did your love of Westerns come from?
I’m an outdoor girl, that’s probably why I like Westerns. I was brought up surrounded by animals, and spent more time with horses than with people, which may just be why I put so many ‘horsey’ details in my books. I loved watching Western films and series, but never read a Western book. I was always really rooting for the Indians though. I have spent all my life writing in various genres, but the way I finally broke into Westerns is a series of strange occurrences.
My husband, Cris, never knew who his real father was, and often expressed a wish to find out. One birthday, I bought him a DNA test - it was eventually published on an ancestry web site. Within a few weeks, we had a match with someone in America, who, it turned out, is Cris’s second cousin, their fathers used to play together! Then, we discovered their great, great-grandfather had been a Chippewa chief! So from being a fan of Indians all my life, I am now married to one, and we have both been bestowed with Indian names!
Then, a little while after that discovery, I had a dream one night, which gave me the title; and almost the whole plot for a Western. I wrote it down, and sent it off to Hale. It was accepted almost immediately. When I told my mother I was at last going to be published, she asked what the book was. When I told her, she paled. Her father had never read anything but Westerns. (He had died before I was old enough to know what he was reading, and Mum had never been ‘bookish’). My second book was written, and accepted, very quickly, and now I can’t seem to stop writing Westerns. Maybe Grandad Harold is guiding my pen? I like to think so, as, somehow, I am able to write them quickly, and directly onto the computer, whereas everything else I write has always, for years, been done in longhand, then entered into the computer.
And the final, spooky coincidence is this – I live in a little place named Clayton-le-Moors, and the actor who played the original Lone Ranger was named Clayton Moore! This sounds more like the Twilight Zone than the Wild West!
What attracts you to writing about the Wild West?
I believe that it is the freedom of the age. There were very few frontiers then, and people were free to roam all the wide open spaces without constraint. I like that.
Westerns are traditionally written by men. What do you think the differences are between those books and your own?
I think that maybe my Westerns are a little ‘softer’ than those written by men, with more of a feminine presence, and dare I say, some romance? Those written by the men tend more towards violence, and for the most part, their women, if any, are still very minor characters.
What are your favourite characters from Western books, films or tv?
As a young girl, my favourite Western character was Little Joe, from Bonanza (just because he looked pretty!) Tonto was a favourite too, because he always saved Lone Ranger’s hide! It really depends what I am watching at the time.
Although there is one older Native American actor, Graham Greene (Dances with Wolves) – he’s a brilliant actor, and always has a twinkle in his eye, and his tongue firmly in his cheek. I find that very attractive.
What’s next for Amos Carr?
Next is my second book Crazy Man Cade, due out in October. Then I have three other Westerns at various stages of production, hoping for at least one or two out next year. (My alter ego is also working on three other books in different genres.)
If you would like to read excerpts, or more about McDonald-Constable, go to www.womanwholeads.webs.com
For more information on Robert Hale Ltd’s Black Horse Western series, check out our website.