Character Interview of U.S. Deputy Marshal Richard Bennick from Lost Hearts by Kathy Otten
Today I am happy to have as a character guest U. S. Deputy Marshal Richard Bennick, who is stepping forward in time to visit with us. His author, Kathy Otten, is also here to talk with us in a little bit.
First, Marshal Bennick, can you tell our readers a little about yourself?
I’m a Deputy U.S. Marshal, Indian Territory. I’ve been doing it about two years now.
I’m sure you have many interesting things you could share with us. But how about giving us a couple of random thoughts about yourself, something that your readers wouldn’t know?
I hate questions like this, but… I like apples and I’m a damn good shot.
I imagine that being a good shot comes in handy in your line of work.
Can you share something about your ordinary world before the upheaval to your life?
That would have to be before the war. I’m from New Hampshire. My older brother James and I were raised on a farm. We did all the normal things: church, chores, school. We were close. He always watched out for me and I followed him everywhere. You should have seen his face when I joined Berdan’s Sharpshooters and followed him off to war. He’s not always right about stuff, but he was right about that.
Those were some bad times.
Tell us what upset your life and brought you into contact/conflict with the other main character.
That would be Johnny. Another deputy and I were sent into Chickasaw Nation to arrest Peirpont Bodine and his gang, then take them back to Fort Smith for trial.
What was your immediate reaction to Johnny?
Johnny Bodine was nothing but a pile of trouble hidden inside a baggy duster and a floppy hat. And she bit me!
Well, that’s not a good start.
Were you annoyed that Johnny was getting in the way of obtaining your goal?
I didn’t want to see her swing from the end of a rope, but it was my job to bring her to justice and I did it.
That’s certainly tough on a budding relationship.
What were some of the trials you faced in dealing with Johnny?
The little hellion bit me, poisoned our water, stampeded our horses and shot me.
More trouble in the relationship…
Were there any other people who seriously interfered in reaching your goal?
Bodine had a half-brother Johnny called ‘Uncle Cal.’ He traded whisky to the Indians and guns and women to the Comancheroes down along the Mexican border. When the Texas Rangers got too close, he’d come north and hide out in the Nations with his brother. One mean sonofabitch.
This sounds like a seriously bad family.
Did you feel an immediate attraction to Johnny? Or an immediate resistance to her?
I thought Johnny was a boy and the feelings she stirred up, I thought were more proof I really was crazy.
Who made the first compromise to attempt peace in your relationship?
Not sure we ever did. We just–needed each other.
When did the heat between you and Johnny first start firing up? Did that complicate reaching your goal?
Things changed in McAlester. But that whole trip was complicated.
What led to the moment when you thought everything was lost between you two?
When I said ‘good-bye.’ She had a chance to be happy and I couldn’t give that to her.
You managed to make things work between you after some ups and downs. Would you go through all of that again?
Yeah, I would.
Thanks, Marshal, for stopping by today. It certainly sounds like you and Johnny struggled for many reasons. I’ll have to buy the book to see exactly how it all ended. Now, sit back and I’ll talk a bit with your author, Kathy Otten.
Kathy, what drives you to be a writer?
The voice in my head won’t shut up.
That seems to be a popular answer with many writers. We are a mighty strange group of people, myself included.
What do you do to get away from the stress of writing?
Read, watch TV or walk the dog.
Do you use a pen name? If so, why?
My parents encouraged me to write since I was a kid so I use my maiden name. It also keeps my family life private and when I get famous, I’ll be next to Mary Jo Putney on the bookshelves.
Where do you find inspiration for your stories?
I don’t find it, my characters come to me fully formed, wearing their clothes and sometimes talking. In Lost Hearts, Johnny came to me first. I saw her wearing the baggy duster and floppy hat. She was in a period bedroom from the late 1800’s and she was saying, “What the hell do ya want now, lawman?” That’s all I saw in my head for a long time, then when I had time, I wrote down what I saw. Then I asked her questions, like, why are you wearing boy’s clothes and who is the lawman?
Interesting. Only one of my hundred some characters have ever come to me something like that, Whiskey, from WHISKEY’S REBELLION.
Do you have a regular writing process?
I have large blocks of time when I can write, but with each short story and novel I seem to have a different process. Some on the computer, some long-hand in a notebook (like Lost Hearts), some are scenes written out of sequence then pieced together and some I start at the beginning and go straight to the end.
Do you have some “words of wisdom” for other writers, especially new writers?
There is so much advice someone can give a new writer it’s hard to pick one thing, but in keeping with what I just said about my writing process, I think about what romance author Anne Stuart once said, “Be true to your book.” Some books want to be written late at night in your office, or in your pajamas in the living room. Others want to be written at Starbucks, some at home with perfect silence. Each book of short story evolves differently and each writer is in a different place craft wise or emotionally than they were with a previous piece. Don’t force things, let them flow the way they want. And just keep writing.
Excellent advice, and I’m one of those writers who writes in many different locations, at different times.
Now let’s talk some specifics about your book, Lost Hearts…
Genre: Historical western romance
Length: 342 pages
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Release Date: November 2010
Buy Link: The Wild Rose Press
What was unique to this particular book?
Not everything is tied up in a nice little bow at the end. The hero still wrestles with PTSD and he still drinks. Things are better because as Johnny has learned to accept him just as he is, he also learns to accept himself just as he is, which leaves the reader with the hope that they will be able to work things out because they are together.
Was there anything that surprised you while writing this book?
That Rab remained as closed off emotionally to me as he is with the rest of the world.
Did you have a favorite character in this book?
Did you have a favorite scene?
Any scene where Johnny got her back up.
Did you have a scene that was particularly hard to write? Why?
The courtroom scene was intimidating. I had read a lot of books about Judge Parker’s court and I know he was a stickler for the law. I had a hard time between TV and reality also, then of course there was the fear of missing some major precedent or objection and ruining the whole climax of the book.
Trapped in a life of violence and abuse, Johnny Bodine disguises her femininity and dreams of a family who loves her. Haunted by flashbacks he can’t remember, from a war he wants desperately to forget, U.S. Deputy Marshal Richard Bennick arrives in Indian Territory with warrants for a notorious outlaw and his feisty, irreverent son, Johnny.
As they journey through the dangerous Choctaw Nation, Richard and Johnny must learn to trust each other in order to survive, forming a unique bond of love between outlaw and lawman that can only be broken by Richard’s oath to uphold the law, and by the justice of the hangman’s noose.
The steady drone of Johnny’s conversation gave Richard something to focus on beside the agony tearing through his leg. He squeezed his eyes and clenched his teeth. Sweat ran down both sides of his face and moistened his neck. His right hand squeezed the butt of his revolver so tight his knuckles hurt, but he made certain his finger was nowhere near the trigger.
“Got it,” Johnny whispered, sagging back on his heels.
Richard responded with a slight nod.
“Sorry, lawman. I reckon that yarrow root wore off quicker than I figgered.”
He drew a deep breath and let it out slow. At least it was over. He opened eyes to see Johnny wiggling the cork from the top of the bottle.
“Now all’s I got to do his pour some a this here whiskey in to clean it out good,” Johnny said, and dumped a generous splash into the fresh wound.
Searing pain ripped through Richard’s body in one great spasm as his whole spine arched off the wagon wheel. His breath escaped in one long hiss. “Goddamn sonofabitch!”
“All done,” Johnny soothed. “Now, soon as I get ya stitched up, I got some powdered flax seed and blue corn meal paste a cookin’ on that fire yonder. I’m a-goin’ to use it to poultice yer laig. Iffin ya rest up fer a spell, yer laig should be right as rain in a couple a weeks.”
Their gazes locked for several heartbeats. Even as Johnny spoke the words, they both knew he wasn’t going to rest.
Johnny turned away and scooted close to the fire. “I was jest a wonderin’,” he began after a lengthy silence. “Iffin ya could tell me what yer name is. I reckon we’s a-goin’ to be together fer a spell an’ I cain’t jest call ya lawman or Yankee all the time.”
Richard’s spine stiffened. This was exactly what he’d been warning himself against. He needed to be firm. Don’t look into those eyes. Johnny was a thief and a liar.
“I can’t afford to rest up, and you don’t need to know anything about me other than, I am a U.S. Deputy Marshal. Don’t think for a minute that I’m stupid enough to sit here waiting for Calvin Everett to ride down on us. You and these other men are my prisoners, and I’m sworn to bring you back to Fort Smith for trial. First thing tomorrow we head to McAlester.”
AUTHOR CONTACT INFO
Author Web Site: Kathy Otten
Facebook: Kathy Otten
Authors Den: Kathy Otten
Email: [email protected]