Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Ten Questions from Tara: Interview with Alethea Williams

Tara: Welcome. You’re here to promote Walls for the Wind, a Western historical novel. Tell me, please, what was the inspiration behind this story? How did it come to you?

Readers, here's the blurb real quick: 
Can an angel survive Hell on Wheels? When Kit Calhoun leaves New York City with a train car full of foundlings from the Immigrant Children’s Home, she has no clue she might end up as adoptive mother to four of them in rip-roaring Cheyenne, Wyoming. Kit has spent her life in the Children’s Home and now she rides the Orphan Trains, distributing homeless children to the young nation’s farmers as fast as the rails are laid.

The first time handsome Patrick Kelley spies Kit in Julesburg, Colorado Territory, he wants her. But circumstances, and a spectral-looking demented gambler as well as Kit’s certainty no one in his right mind would want her cobbled-together family, conspire to keep them apart. As Patrick and Kit and her brood ride Hell on Wheels into their destiny, they’re all forced to leave behind everything they knew and forge new lives in the raw American West.

Alethea: Hello. I am pleased to be here today. An article on orphan trains caught my attention years ago. At that time there was little published about the beginnings of any kind of social services in the U.S., or the trains that ultimately carried hundreds of thousands of orphaned and abandoned children from the big cities of the east to be indentured to the expanding nation’s farmers.

Tara: We focus a lot on heroines here on Book Babe. Tell me what makes your heroine(s) strong.

Alethea: Kit Calhoun is an orphan of Irish immigrants to New York City. She grew up in the Immigrant Children’s Asylum, to which she returns at age twenty-two with a sense of mission. At first she takes to the streets to find unwanted children, and then advocates to the courts to gain custody of them. Later, she becomes placing agent to the asylum and begins to accompany the orphans west on the trains, trying to find them homes. But on one journey she reaches the end of track with four orphans still on her hands, and she must decide if her fate is to the many who need her help—or just these four who have become close to her heart.

Tara: Do you see any of yourself in her?

Alethea: I think a bit of the author is in every character she creates. If not bits and pieces from her actual history, then things she wishes she had the courage to do.

Tara: What makes her sexy?

Alethea: Kit doesn’t realize she is beautiful. The second-hand clothes she wears are not flattering, and she is much too busy tending to the needs of others to see the attractiveness of the face that looks back at her from the cracked mirror in the asylum’s dormitory.

Tara: I like that answer. A truly sexy woman doesn't realize it, doesn't even work at it. What kind of research did you do when you penned this novel? Did anything surprising come up in your search? 

Alethea: I intensively researched the post-Civil War years, the orphan trains, and the transcontinental railroad. What struck me was the plight of the immigrants, especially the Irish, who came to escape horrible circumstances at home only to die early deaths here of disease, accidents, and alcoholism. The descriptions of the Five Points area of New York, where people lived belowground like rats, was especially eye-opening. We tend to think now that there might have been a better solution to the fact of children living on the streets than shipping them out in rail cars, but a number of them were volunteers, who wanted to escape the conditions in the city and perhaps find something better in the country.

Tara: I can understand that. That's sad. What would you like readers to gain from reading your book? Is there a strong moral? Do you hope they will laugh, learn something, ponder a point?

Alethea: I enjoy history and historical research so much, I hope I can impart some of that love. I would like to think I brought alive another little piece of time in our history.

Tara: Now let’s talk about your hero. What draws the heroine to him? Is he based on a real man in your life by any chance?

Alethea: One of the joys of writing is being able to conjure up the perfect man. I always fall in love a little with my hero, and so far he is my true dream man. Patrick Kelley was not based on any living person or any one I ever knew. Not even a little.

National Orphan Train Museum, WikiCommons
Tara: Your book takes place from New York City to Cheyenne, Wyoming, Dakota Territory. If I were a tourist, what would you recommend I see in this town/country?

Cheyenne Depot Museum, WikiCommons
Alethea: You would have a long journey with much to see! From the towering buildings of New York, to the Tenement Museum there, to the plains of Kansas and the Orphan Train Complex, and on to Cheyenne, Wyoming, to the refurbished old Union Pacific train station, the Cheyenne Depot Museum, you could ride the trains west as the orphans did and immerse yourself in the past.

Tara: That actually sounds like a good idea! A more personal question. What’s the one thing you hope to accomplish before you die? Your main goal?

Alethea: I wanted to be published! I wrote seven books over a period of twenty years, and in the last two years I have had five of them published under two different pseudonyms. I have two more to go plus new work. One of the two older manuscripts has been rejected many, many times but I haven’t given up hope of seeing it in print one of these days.

Tara: I’m a dog mom, so I always ask this. Do you have pets? If so, tell me about them and do provide pictures.

Alethea: At one time my husband and I had four dogs, two cats, and a parrot. All are gone now except Amazon parrot Bob, who has been with me more than 30 years. Maybe one day when I have more room, I will think about getting another dog.

Tara: Alethea (I love that name, by the way), thanks so much for being here today. I wish you the best of luck with your book and those yet unpublished manuscripts you mentioned above. I'm so glad you're achieving your dreams. :)

Alethea's Bio:
Western history has been the great interest of my adult life. I've lived in Wyoming, Colorado, and Oregon. Although an amateur historian, I am happiest researching different times and places in the historical West. And while staying true to history, I try not to let the facts overwhelm my stories. Story always comes first in my novels, and plot arises from the relationships between my characters. I'm always open to reader response to my writing.
Twitter: @ActuallyAlethea
Amazon author page: The Romance Reviews author page:

And for those of you interested in purchasing her books...


  1. Thank you so much for the interview, Tara. I hope everyone who picks up a copy of Walls for the Wind enjoys my orphan train story.

  2. Hi Alethea, this sounds like a great book and I'll look forward to it, especially as someone who divides her time between WY and NYC! Good luck with it and I hope you see your last mss in print.

  3. That blew me away to discover the orphan trains were real. What a great idea for a novel. She certainly does sound like a great heroine