Idaho Falls magazine sat down with author Darryl Harris to discuss his newest books, "Abby’s Crossing" and "Finding Zarahemla."
IFM: Why did you start writing novels? Can you tell me a little about your books?
DH: The first ones I published were "Light and Truth," the series. The reason I wrote it is I had a keen interest in my ancestors and the first Harris that emigrated from England to America, my grandfather. What I decided to do is write a novel, chronically, the story of him and his wife and how they came from England to America.
Ever since then I’ve been writing. Two years ago, I wrote "Abby’s Crossing" and it was printed and published about this time last year, about in June.
In 1863, Civil War soldiers had been organized in California, but assigned to establish a new fort in Salt Lake City. The commander, or the colonel, Patrick Connor, decided he wanted to take care of the Indian problem once and for all. He marched his soldiers from Salt Lake City in the dead, cold part of the winter…and did a surprise attack on the Shoshone Indians.
The Shoshone Indians were camped on the Bear River… near present-day Preston, Idaho. More Indians died in that single battle than any other single battle in the history of the United States. But because it happened during the Civil War, it got lost in history.
Using that as the historical background, I had to make up a story. When you write for Covenant [Publishing], they want a romance. My forte, I guess, would be a lot of action, so it’s an action/romance/historical novel.
I like history and this happened right in my backyard where I grew up and I always wanted kind of to tell the story.
The Reformation is when organizations and people started breaking off from the Catholic Church and the Church of England was formed, and the Lutheran Church was formed, and the Bible was translated into English.
I’ve written the historical romance in the midst of all that.
IFM: Where do you get the ideas from?
DH: I love history so I think of something historical that I like that I want to learn more of because…it forces me to study. I purchased probably a good thirty books, and researched and read and studied them to write the Reformation book.
I just bought a lot of them and studied them, and then got all of the history correct in my mind and then wrote a historical romance.
IFM: So is that how you do the majority of your research is do you buy books and study those?
DH: Yeah, plus it’s amazing what you can find on the internet. But you have to be careful with what you find on the internet. The best sources are the published books by good historians. I go on Amazon.com and usually I can find them used for a really low price because they’ve been published for a long time.
IFM: How did you come up with the idea for your other recent novel, "Finding Zarahemla"? Can you tell me more about it?
DH: I had some friends and relatives who were involved in horse racing, namely chariot racing. Up in the Intermountain West, the ranchers would take their quarter horses and they’d hook them up and in the wintertime, they would race. So I did a program for it, kind of an annual. All the people that qualified, I’d collect their pictures and tell stories about it.
And then I started doing a monthly…quarter horse magazine. That led me to the knowledge that I have of horse racing. It’s a romance about a stolen horse.
So in this book, you’ve already started. You know that the owner of the horse and her attorney, who is a former Navy SEAL, so the storyline is that those two are the main characters and they’re looking for this horse, and in the end, they will fall in love.
To write that one, I had to learn about crime. I had to study mafia leaders. I had to study the guy who’s a former Navy SEAL, I had to read books about what the Navy SEAL guys do and what qualifies them, what makes them good.
Everybody who’s read it said “Did you actually go to Mexico and see all this?” and the answer is no. I didn’t have to. You can go to Google Earth and if I want to describe a street in one of these cities like Sinaloa, I can plop myself right down there on that street corner and look around on Google Earth.
IFM: So did you explore the area to write "Abby’s Crossing" or are you already familiar enough with that type of place?
DH: No, I went to the Bear River. Where the battle actually happened there’s a monument there. I had to visualize the soldiers coming down the hills, down where the river is, where the Indian camp was. And then, it’s pretty easy to visualize the battle that happened because there’s a lot of accounts of it. Then the story ends up in Bannack City.
I’ve been to Bannack City three or four times. I’ve walked the streets. I’ve looked to see the route where they would have brought the freight. I know the territory, I’ve studied the Indians, I’ve studied the miners, I’ve studied the soldiers, all of the elements.
And the fun thing was having all that there and then, “ok, how do I make a story that fits in it?”
Editor's Note: This interview was edited for clarity and length. You can find "Abby's Crossing" and "Finding Zarahemla" at Amazon.com.