Updated: Aug 26
Many readers ask how I develop the locations and characters for my stories, so I wanted to give everyone the reasons I wrote Stilettos & Boots. I usually write paranormal romance, but this story called to me. I've held it for months, not sure how readers would respond, but finally decided it was time.
My family, both my father's and mother's side, are from a small town in Eastern, Kentucky. Almost all of the men are employed by a coal mining company. Some drive a truck, some repair the equipment, and some work in the actual mine. Coal companies are the predominant employers in this part of Kentucky.
My entire life has been spent traveling to this area. I even lived and went to school here several times. (Don't ask...lol). My grandparents heated their home with a potbelly coal stove up until the early 1990's. In the wintertime, members of my family filled buckets of coal at the coal shed and set them on the front porch. Loads of coal were brought in to fill that coal shed by coal trucks. My father, uncles, and cousins worked in the coal mines and used to come home covered from head to toe in coal dust. Black lung is very real and I've lost much family to the disease. Believe me when I say, I know Eastern, Kentucky, and I know a bit about coal.
Three years ago, my mother suffered a massive stroke. We tried assisted living for her, but in the end, she and her spouse chose to return home where family could care for them. After my husband's retirement, we moved to this area as well. It wasn't my first choice, but family comes first. Because I'm an author, I can adjust to any location. If I said it wasn't a challenge, I'd be lying. There's some days when I want to pull my hair out or disappear. I'm accustomed to living near a major city, but in this rural area it's a forty-five minute drive to the nearest Walmart. I've learned to plan my trips into town since I'm not only buying for myself, but for my mother.
Eastern, Kentucky is beautiful with lush mountains, rivers, and streams. It is picturesque, but if you know me, you'd know I planned to relocate close to a beach.
The move was difficult to say the least. Our portion of family land had to be developed, since no one had lived on it in several years. A quote from Stilettos & Boots says, "You have to love it to live here." I don't know that I love it, but my husband and I have created a home here and, for now, we are content.
BRIEF HISTORY OF COAL MINING
Coal was discovered in Kentucky in 1750. Since the first commercial coal mine opened in 1820, coal has gained both economic importance and controversy regarding its environmental consequences.
As of 2010 there were 442 operating coal mines in the state, and as of 2017 there were fewer than 4,000 underground coalminers.
As for the environmental consequences, I have personally seen entire mountains stripped of soil, trees, and rock. Nowadays, they are replanting the land. Some of this is due to logging, some to coal mining, and some to industrial as well as residential development. There's plenty of blame to go around.
My greatest concern is the threat to the worker's health. Black lung is a horrible disease directly caused by long term exposure to coal. Masks are now worn by anyone in a mining occupation, but the ones who worked the mines before suffered greatly. There's no way to sugarcoat black lung.
Two phenomena have resulted in a major reduction in the number of mine workers and number of mines in Kentucky. First, increased mechanization in both Kentucky coal fields has reduced the need for labor. This has become even more pronounced with the emergence of strip mining. Secondly, acid rain regulation found in the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendment has made Kentucky coal, with its medium to high sulfur content, less desirable. That amendment requires companies to either remove the sulfur through scrubbers or switch to low-sulfur coal, found in western states like Wyoming, or submit to fines for their sulfur production.
The industry is slowly fading, but will not be forgotten. Many have lost their jobs, but they are adapting. Change is never an easy process. I want the world to know that there are people out there who have literally given their lives to this industry. I understand the need for clean energy, but I also see first-hand how these amendments affect real people. These are hard working men and women, devoted to their families...not just a name or a number on an amendment. This is what they know. They are willing to retrain, but government must provide jobs that will support families.
Because of my recent move, and my family, I wanted to write a story that featured a true, blue-collar worker.
Julian Adams is the hero of Stilettos & Boots. He's a mechanic in the mines and chose that profession after serving as a diesel mechanic in the military.
After working a double shift, Julian arrives at Delaney's home covered in coal dust and grease. Tired and cranky, the last thing he expects is a confrontation with a red-headed beauty, but he instantly knows she's the one and won't accept friendship.
SWOON! What women doesn't adore a man like Julian. One who knows what he wants and goes after it.
The heroine, Delaney Stevens, just went through a bitter, embarrassing divorce. She doesn't want to return to her family home, but must because of finances.
She has no intentions of becoming involved with anyone, but after an electrifying confrontation with Julian, she's forced to re-examine her feelings. Delaney is feisty and determined to make the relocation work. She never expected to clash with a coal miner, or to find him so irresistible.
Their initial attraction fueled the perfect romance, and I enjoyed writing every delicious word. I wrote Stilettos & Boots because this is what I know. The location is where I live. The occupation is what I've seen. I've considered developing a series around the book, but wanted to see the reaction from readers. If you read the book, feel free to drop me a line about why or why not you could see the book as a series.
Stilettos & Boots releases August 27, 2021, on Amazon. I hope this article gives you a bit of insight into why I wrote the book, and why it's near and dear to my heart. Thanks for stopping by!
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