We would like to welcome Award winning Author Gloria Zachgo today to talk with us about some of the history in her story. Never Waste Tears takes you on a journey with Rebecca, Nathan, Hannah, Carl, and Sarah to homestead on the lonely Kansas prairie, where they pave the way for generations to come. They individually share their dreams, challenges, heartaches, and guilt.
Each had their own reason to leave everything they knew. The land was free—the true price—often high, where opportunities and tragedies were in equal abundance. Those who were strong, didn’t waste their tears, but used them wisely to help wash away their grief.
Gloria, why is Historical Fiction important to you?
Near the farm where I grew up, my sister and I found the scarce remains of a fire pit in a neighbor’s pasture. I was told it had been part of a dugout that our ancestors had lived in when they first settled in the area.
Why would they have tried to farmstead on a rocky hill? Did their wagon break down and the woman said she’d go no farther? Was it the last of the free land that the government gave away? Or did a member of the family take their last breath there, and the rest decided to stay—the same way Nathan wouldn’t leave Rebecca’s grave in Never Waste Tears?
There is no one left to answer those questions. My grandparents and great-grandparents are buried in a cemetery on the farm they once homesteaded. They left a few family photos, but no journals to tell their stories. The images in those photos helped fashion characters for my fictional novel. I tried to make them as real for my readers as they were for me.
Tell us about the history in your story, how did you weave it in and why you chose what history you were going to include?
I used scars from the Civil War, and the opportunity of free land, to give two couples a reason to settle on the Kansas Plains. It set the stage for the time frame of Never Waste Tears. I also used some of my own history to give me a feel for the land. It’s where I rode horseback as a child. I played by the orchard in the creek on my grandparent’s farm. I hid in a buffalo wallow when I played hide-and-seek at school. I once lived in the limestone house that my characters only dreamed about.
I know the layout of the land in both Lincoln and Ellsworth Counties today, but it stretched my imagination to describe it without trees. Even the creek bed by Carl and Hannah’s dugout, was changed years ago. I’ve seen the photo of my grandfather and a crew of men, working with a team of horses, as they dredged a new channel and filled in the twists and turns of the old one.
When I delved into local research of the area, the time frame for Never Waste Tears, put two young couples in the middle of many Indian uprisings. They were a very real part of history, I tried to include them in the story without going into too much detail of the many massacres that occurred in that area.
Because I wanted to show both sides of the conflict, I brought the wagon master, Skinner, back into the story for a while. He had a deep understanding and compassion for both the natives of the Kansas Territory and the white man newcomers.
Is there a detail(s) you were going to include but left out? What was it and why?
There was one reality to my story that I left out. I doubt the springs I wrote about could have kept enough water in the creek to even manage a trickle. The springs in the hills are very real, but they are quite a distance from the creek that ran through the two homesteads.
Because survival on the prairie was so dependent on finding water, I couldn’t put it into my imagination what it would be like to not have any.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out writing historical fiction.
If I had to give advice, it would be to research more than history books. Research from as many different sources as you can find. I was lucky to have found a couple of local authors who had recorded events. Historical societies, museums, newspaper records, and graveyards are great places to get names and dates.
If possible, visit the area you want to write about. Even though you know it’s changed, there is usually some kind of recorded history near. Then follow your characters on the journey back in time and make them real.
It’s a natural for Gloria Zachgo to write stories with Kansas settings. She grew up on a farm in Lincoln County, Kansas, where she attended one of the last one-room schoolhouses in the country. After graduating from Brown Mackie Business School she married her high school sweetheart.
Living out of state for several years, Gloria and her husband moved back to their Kansas roots. While their children were young, she ran a small business out of their home. When her children left the nest, she pursued a lifelong dream and took various art lessons.
Always wanting to learn new things she joined a creative writing group in 2006. She soon found she had a passion for writing fictional short stories. One particular short story was written from the prompts of a gingerbread man and a small toy horse. It led to her first novel, The Rocking Horse.
“I knew there was more to the story. I kept seeing the image of a young woman, all alone, with a quirky little toy trying to give her a message.”
After her debut novel won honorable mention in the 20th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards, she started working on another book.
“I love writing about ordinary, everyday people and their struggles with what life deals them.”
Gloria certainly did write about the struggles of ordinary people in her second novel, Never Waste Tears. She lets five individuals each tell their own story of what Kansas looked like in the 1860s, when the land was free, but the true price was often high.
Her second novel, Never Waste Tears, was awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion.
To learn more about Gloria, feel free to visit her website
Stephanie’s B.R.A.G. interview with Gloria HERE