Sinclair Jayne stopped by the Tule blog to discuss the second book in her Montana Rodeo Brides series, The Cowboy’s Challenge!
Where did you get the inspiration for The Cowboy’s Challenge?
The Cowboy’s Challenge was inspired partly by a conversation with author and publisher and friend, Jane Porter. I was feeling a little mournful that I’d wrapped up my series of the Wolf Brothers of Last Stand, Texas. I’d loved writing about a ranching family with such deep ties to the land and their history, but the surviving Wolf family (that they know of—HA!—a tease) had a very dark and tragic history that had impacted the three cowboy brothers in very different ways. I love writing brooding, angsty heroes who despite whatever they’ve got going on, don’t complain and get the job done, and don’t want to talk about it. But I felt emotionally wiped out. Jane shrugged off my lack of inspiration and said, “make your new cowboys fun.”
As luck would have it, I was almost immediately heading out to the Oregon Coast for a writing retreat, so I bandied ideas around with an author friend, Kasey Lane. I wanted the cowboys to be rodeo cowboys (of course) and hyper competitive about everything. I wanted the swagger and playful attitude. But then what? I’ve written another cowboy/ranch family series set in Marietta, Montana, as well as a couple of stories during the Copper Mountain rodeo. I loved the condensed timeline, strong sense of place and whole high stakes theater of a rodeo.
I thought of a wager or a game between three highly competitive but tight group of professional rodeo cowboy cousins. But what about? What was the prize? What were the rules? Brides seemed outrageous and difficult to pull off so naturally Montana Rodeo Brides was born and the game began. When the Pandemic hit a few weeks later and the world shut down, there was so much stress and sorrow surrounding me, and these Ballantyne cowboys and their teasing antics and gamesmanship kept my spirits up so that I could keep an even keel and stay strong for my own family.
How do you relate to Langston, your heroine, and how do you hope readers will relate to her? How do you relate to Bowen?
Langston Carr is the hero in the second book, The Cowboy’s Challenge. I created Langston for the oldest Ballantyne, Bowen, because he has the weight of responsibility always on his shoulders, and he never learned to lighten up. The name Langston is from one of my favorite poets, Langston Hughes, who wrote during the Harlem Renaissance, a unit I used to teach to my 8th graders many years ago when I taught middle school. He had such power with words and with a (seemingly) simple turn of phrase, he could connote such an ache and yet power history and beauty. Langston is the avatar I would like to have go through my life—she gets knocked down often and is hit on all sides, and yet she pops up and jumps back into the fray called life. She is also so isolated and estranged from her family (and the Ballantynes are such a strong, fierce family unit), and her desire for one caused her to make poor romantic choices I’m sure so many readers can relate to. And yet, she is determined to build her best life, and fearless enough to jump into the game with Bowen, confident that this time, she can keep her sunny attitude while keeping her heart in check. Bowen does her a favor, and she is fierce about doing one for him, even when she’s aware that she’s once again falling in love with her tall, silent, oh-so-honorable cowboy.
What I love about Bowen is that he’s so willing to sacrifice himself for others, but it’s so hard for him to accept that anyone would or should do the same for him. I think many women, especially during the pandemic had so many burdens placed on them—child care, teaching their kids, taking care of aging parents, running errands for family or ailing neighbors and yet still working for the paycheck, making ends meet, taking care of the house and dog and family and trying to maintain their sanity. Bowen is my ideal wife☺
What has been your favorite part about writing stories set in Marietta?
I LOVE to set stories in Marietta. I first started at Tule (and still work there) over eight years ago as an editor and initially so many of the books were set in and around Marietta, Montana. I’d been to Montana many times as a kid—visiting the national parks, and as an adult I’d driven through the Bitterroot Valley more than a few times. I always marveled at its extreme, almost painful beauty. Marietta is not in the Bitterroot Valley, but Paradise Valley also has so much natural beauty. The weather and landscape is its own character, and the town of Marietta has been crafted so sweetly by so many authors now that it feels like home. I am surrounded by friends, and also have two of my own Marietta families—the Wilders and the Telfords there.
Are your characters set before you begin writing or do you let them develop as you go? What did that development process look like for The Cowboy’s Challenge?
I always craft my characters first. I think about who they are, what drives them, what do they want, what do they fear, what are the childhood experiences that stay with them. I am always thinking about characters as I walk my dog or drive around on errands or work in the yard. I am often inspired by something I read, or part of a story I hear and that sends my imagination flying? What kind of person would get in that situation? What are some other ways it could play out differently, and who would be the person acting or reacting like that and why? Still, characters evolve as I write. I often will glean new information that will spin a new conflict or different direction or birth a new character as I write. The writing process is fairly fluid for me. I will have a premise or a question, and then I craft a character. It’s not until I really have a feel for my hero or heroine that I even bother trying to think of much of a plot. If they don’t act independently of my brain in the story sixty to seventy-five percent of the time, I don’t feel like I’ve done my job “raising” them.
The development process for the Cowboy Challenge was more complicated than usual because I had the premise—three rodeo cowboys hatch a scheme (in a bar, of course) to have a bride by the end of the rodeo. Why? Who are they? How can I make this scenario remotely believable so readers will get on the horse and ride with these sexy goofs? Having a character’s Goal, Motivation, and Conflict is essential before any meaningful plotting can happen for me. Also complicating the creation process while also making it super exciting and challenging, was that all three stories take place simultaneously during the same week of the Copper Mountain Rodeo. So, I not only had to have a deep dive on all three of the Ballantyne cousins before I started, but I also had to know the three other players—the heroines. Who were they and why would they agree to this theatrical stunt? What were they bringing to the party, so to speak and what were they getting in return?
I briefly played with the idea of having the three Ballantyne cowboys be brothers, but I had several specific reasons why I wanted and needed them to be cousins, which will be clear—if I’ve done my job—at the end of the third book when I conclude the series.
What are you currently reading?
As far as what I am currently reading, I am editing a book for Tule that is by a new to Tule author, which I am very excited about. I am also reading the second book in my upcoming Misguided Masala Matchmaker series next year, called Swipe Right for Marriage to polish it for the editing process. For fun this summer I’ve been enjoying a couple of books because my science-oriented daughter, who has mystifyingly decided to major in philosophy and history instead of physics or chemistry, which were her passion for years—took an astronomy course over the summer and so our house was filled with astronomy and astrophysics books and conversations I barely understood while she talked about what she was learning with an enthusiasm that I found inspirational and very humbling. We bought Startalk, the illustrated companion to the podcast that we’d listen to as well as Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. She devoured them along with a few Steven Hawking books I’m still too intimidated to pick up. I am making progress even though she headed out for her sophomore year in college over a week ago.
I hope you get a chance to read The Cowboy’s Challenge and that you enjoy it—I think it is science free, but someday I am going to write a character with her head full of knowledge, and that is how I am planning to rope my daughter into this fun but crazy career, if only for a moment. She is a hilarious story teller, and her sense of irony sings.
About the Author
Sinclair Sawhney is a former journalist and middle school teacher who holds a BA in Political Science and K-8 teaching certificate from the University of California, Irvine and a MS in Education with an emphasis in teaching writing from the University of Washington. She has worked as Senior Editor with Tule Publishing for over seven years. Writing as Sinclair Jayne she’s published fifteen short contemporary romances with Tule Publishing with another four books being released in 2021. Married for over twenty-four years, she has two children, and when she isn’t writing or editing, she and her husband, Deepak, are hosting wine tastings of their pinot noir and pinot noir rose at their vineyard Roshni, which is a Hindi word for light-filled, located in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Shaandaar!