What inspired me to write LAKOTA HONOR:
Once the promotion and marketing had settled down with my first book Chasing Clovers, I had the itch to write another book. Soon my fingers found the keyboard and I was ready to let loose a fantastic tale full of grand adventures.
Earlier my publisher had suggested I write something paranormal. Paranormal? Me? I don’t think so. I was a historical western writer. I wrote about cowboys, damsels and horses. Not werewolves and vampires. I brushed her comment aside not thinking of it again. I had a great plot a few awesome subplots. I was ready to write, and I did, about 30,000 words. Then a writer’s worst nightmare happened. My mind went blank. The writing stopped. How could this be? I’d planned everything out. I had a chapter outline. I knew how the story was going to end. I yelled and cursed at my characters for their silence as I stared at a blank screen for days. I’d written the start of a great Historical western…and I couldn’t finish it.
Frustration set in and I pushed through the writer’s block, insisting that’s all it was. I’d created a mean, venomous assassin in my antagonist; Otakatay and I wanted to continue his reign of vengeance. But somehow along the way I’d begun to feel sorry for him. You don’t feel sorry for your villain…ever. What had made him so mean? Why had he killed so many? I started to think about what Stephen King had said, “If the reader can have empathy for your killer then you’ve done something right.”
With Stephen King’s words in my ears, I decided to switch Otakatay from my antagonist to my protagonist making him my main character. But I ran into another problem. How was I going to make my reader fall in love with a deadly bounty hunter hired to kill women? Anyone in their right minds would hate, despise and be frightened by him.
What about this killer would be different than all the others? Why will the reader feel sorry for him—excusing his past transgressions?
I thought about how we treat other people, and why we are attracted to some, while others we steer clear from. Why do people turn from someone who is different? What characteristics would someone have to make people afraid or unsure of them? My answer came right away.
I placed scars on Otakatay’s body. I put him between two races. I gave him vengeance, which caused his voice to sound pitted and angry. I created a monster. A man hell bent on revenge who didn’t care about anyone, even a woman. Here is where I will build my empathy, right?
Wrong. When I started to delve deeper into this character I stopped and took a few days to understand why people are so judgemental? Why we look at those who are different with distaste or disgust? Are we afraid of them, or is it simply that they do not look, behave or even speak like us?
I can be evil, crude, and hateful and whether or not they are visible, I have scars too.
That’s when it struck me like a punch to the stomach. Otakatay was torn and damaged, a man with wounds from a treacherous past—apast that shaped his life and pushed him to do the things he’d done. He’d been cast aside from the white and red race, judged as a breed and nothing more. He’d watched, helpless as his family had been ripped from him, and he was left alone. There had been no one there to love him, to show him kindness. Instead he’d been met with hate, disgust, and prejudice of the vilest kinds. He’d embraced those emotions and without knowing it, he’d allowed them to overtake him.
I sat at my desk staring at my computer screen through tear filled eyes…and empathy for my character was born.
But I wasn’t done. I needed to balance the story out and so I created Nora. She was a healer, helping those in need. This was where the paranormal came into it. Nora had been run from towns and hunted by people who feared her. She too, had been chastised but instead of hate, she chose to love.
Paranormal wasn’t the road I’d set myself on in the beginning of this book, but when I accepted the element of Nora’s powers, I knew my readers would too. Once I put the two characters together the story flowed like lava, and I couldn’t type fast enough.
What happened to the 30,000 words? They sit in a folder with the other story starters I’ve had.
Colorado Mountains, 1880
The blade slicing his throat made no sound, but the dead body hitting the ground did. With no time to stop, he hurried through the dark tunnel until he reached the ladder leading out of the shaft.
He’d been two hundred feet below ground for ten days, with no food and little water. Weak and woozy, he stared up the ladder. He’d have to climb it and it wasn’t going to be easy. He wiped the bloody blade on his torn pants and placed it between his teeth. Scraped knuckles and unwashed hands gripped the wooden rung.
The earth swayed. He closed his eyes and forced the spinning in his head to cease. One thin bronzed leg lifted and came down wobbly. He waited until his leg stopped shaking before he climbed another rung. Each step caused pain, but was paired with determination. He made it to the top faster than he’d thought he would. The sky was black and the air was cool, but fresh. Thank goodness it was fresh.
He took two long breaths before he emerged from the hole. The smell from below ground still lingered in his nostrils; unwashed bodies, feces and mangy rats. His stomach pitched. He tugged at the rope around his hands. There had been no time to chew the thick bands around his wrists when he’d planned his escape. It was better to run than crawl, and he chewed through the strips that bound his feet instead. There would be time to free his wrists later.
He pressed his body against the mountain and inched toward the shack. He frowned. A guard stood at the entrance to where they were. The blade from the knife pinched his lip, cutting the thin skin and he tasted blood. He needed to get in there. He needed to say goodbye. He needed to make a promise.
The tower bell rang mercilessly. There was no time left. He pushed away from the rocky wall, dropped the knife from his mouth into his bound hands, aimed and threw it. The dagger dug into the man’s chest. He ran over, pulled the blade from the guard and quickly slid it across his throat. The guard bled out in seconds.
He tapped the barred window on the north side of the dilapidated shack. The time seemed to stretch. He glanced at the large house not fifty yards from where he stood. He would come back, and he would kill the bastard inside.
He tapped again, harder this time, and heard the weak steps of those like him shuffling from inside. The window slid open, and a small hand slipped out.
“Tokshaake—I shall see you again,” he whispered in Lakota.
The hand squeezed his once, twice and on the third time held tight before it let go and disappeared inside the room.
A tear slipped from his dark eyes, and his hand, still on the window sill, balled into a fist. He swallowed past the sob and felt the burn in his throat. His chest ached for what he was leaving behind. He would survive, and he would return.
Men shouted to his right, and he crouched down low. He took one last look around and fled into the cover of the forest.
Kat Flannery has loved writing ever since she was a girl. She is often seen jotting her ideas down in a little black book. When not writing, or researching, Kat enjoys snuggling on her couch with a hot chocolate and a great book. Her first novel, CHASING CLOVERS became an Amazon’s bestseller in Historical and Western romance. This is Kat’s second book, and she is currently hard at work on the third. When not focusing on her creative passions, Kat is busy with her three boys and doting husband.