Author Mike Torreano writes about right and wrong, values that characterized the Old West. “Values we could use more of today.” He was inspired when a friend approached him a while back and said he had the idea for Mike’s next novel. He spun a fascinating story about thousands and thousands of gold bars supposedly hidden under a peak north of Las Cruces. “I had to know more. What I found was a legend that never had an answer which was just the intrigue I needed to create a story about it.”
Thus, White Sands Gold.
What do you write about?
My sweet spot is traditional westerns, old-timey mysteries with a touch of romance, of course. My latest, White Sands Gold is set near Las Cruces in New Mexico Territory, 1870. I seem to be drawn to the mid-to-late 19th century American southwest, and writing about the challenges the hardy pioneers of those times endured.
What’s the fun part of writing and why?
I’ve always had the most fun finding out what my characters are going to do. Being a hard core pantser, I have to wait to find out how my stories turn out.
Why did you write this particular book you’re talking about today?
I was drawn to this area because of its history, dangers, and setting. White Sands Gold is a hard-driving tale where right is right and wrong isn’t. The men are manly, the women strong. The romance is subtle but full of tension and playfulness.
What’s the most difficult part of writing and why?
As it is for many of us, marketing is my biggest challenge. We all tend to do the things we like, and set aside those we don’t for another day, and if I’m honest, that’s what I typically do with marketing. Set it aside for the most part. Still, I make an effort but it doesn’t come naturally.
As for technology, the more I learn about social media, etc, the more I find I’m just falling behind at a slower pace.
How do you get to know your readers? What do you learn from your readers?
Just starting a newsletter to keep in better touch with them. I hope to personalize it so they get to know me and my novels, too.
Where do your story ideas come from? If they come to you in the middle of the night, do you get up and write them all down?
Some ideas come to me at night, when my current scene regularly plays out in my head. I’ve taken to writing them down now. I always thought I didn’t need to, that I’d remember them in the morning, but that never worked. Who knew that insomnia could be so helpful in overcoming writer’s block?
What’s your approach to writing? Are you a plotter or do you follow your characters’ flow (Pantser)?
If you look up ‘pantser’ in the dictionary, you’ll see my picture there! In cobbling my stories together, there are so many times I wish I was a ‘plotter’, but pantsing does give me free rein to twist and turn at will. Makes editing and polishing harder, but has always seemed to work out.
We’d like to know more about your book. Is it part of a series?
White Sands Gold is a stand-alone novel. Here’s a snapshot:
Blurb for White Sands Gold
New Mexico Territory, 1890
In a hidden cavern, a treasure trove of gold bars sits alongside an ancient relic.
To find her treasure-hunting brother, Lottie Durham enlists the help of an easygoing lawman she can’t stand—at first. When a mysterious woman known only as Ma asks her to join the relic’s guardians, Lottie’s world spins. Should she take on this solemn obligation?
Twill, leader of the secretive guardians, has sworn a vow to protect the centuries-old religious relic. Regrets bedevil him and his dedication to his oath is repeatedly tested. If he breaks his promise, he’ll fail Ma, the one person he’s never wanted to let down.
Will a looming raid by a band of determined killers be the end of the guardians, the gold, and the relic?
Lottie lowered to the damp ground, which brought the deputy down as well. She fought the urge to look his way. She was alone in the desert wrapped in a semi-bear hug with a man she met yesterday. She eased a hand to her holster and picked the leather loop off her hammer. Probably didn’t need a gun to protect against someone who’d already saved her life, but…in case he tried something.
The deputy snugged his hat lower and shut his eyes.
“Hold on, cowboy. We can’t be sittin’ here just sleepin’. I mean…you oughta be talkin’ to me, reassurin’ me. How about it?”
He two-fingered his hat up a touch. “You seem to be able to take care of yourself fair, you should probably be reassurin’ me.” He glanced sideways at her, his face not more than a few inches away.
That same half-smile that had been so irritating somehow didn’t look so annoying anymore.
Low morning sunlight snuck under Lottie’s hat. She brushed a hand across her face and peered at the deputy. Still asleep. She could feel his warmth, which she’d snuggled into during the night. Almost all of his blanket around her. Why hadn’t he said something about it? She didn’t want to move. And why hadn’t he tried anything? She was attractive—the boys in town made enough fuss over her to make that clear.
A fire would take the chill off the morning. Lottie scrounged small pieces of damp wood and flat remnants of dead cacti. In her hurry from the ranch, she hadn’t brought matches. Hadn’t thought this out well, which wasn’t like her. A glance at the deputy’s horse. Maybe in his saddlebags. Pretty horse. She rubbed his nose and stroked under his chin. Duns weren’t that common around here and she had never seen one this good-looking. The deputy didn’t seem to have much in the way of worldly goods—maybe he’d spent everything on this beauty. A man who loved horses couldn’t be all bad.
Interview with Ma Richards, White Sands Gold
New Mexico Territory, 1890
With the Las Cruces Courier
LCC: “Thank you for sitting with me for a few minutes, Ma. May I call you Ma?”
Ma sat in the rocking chair on her weathered front porch next to her visitor and looked up from her knitting. “Of course, dearie, everyone does, but for the life of me I can’t think why anyone would be interested in me? An old lady who doesn’t do much more than sit here and rock these days.”
LCC: “You’re selling yourself short, Ma. Everyone knows you have a way of keeping things under control around town. Have for years.”
Ma: “Me? Not sure what you mean. I just run this little boarding house here at the end of the street. Not much to look at, is it? Could use a coat of paint.”
LCC: “Yes, about that. We don’t see many people come and go here, how ever do you keep the place open?”
Ma: “Oh, I get by. The Good Lord provides.” She returned to her clacking needles.
LCC: The reporter scooched his chair closer and leaned forward. “There’s rumors that you lead a group of men called guardians. That they—”
Ma: “Oh, Pshaw. Do I look like I would be up to doing something like that?” A slight pause. “And what are these ‘guardians’ supposed to do?”
LCC: “Some think there’s a treasure trove of gold bars hidden under Victorio Peak north of here. Maybe thousands of them. Legend says the guardians were formed to protect some sort of religious relic hidden next to the gold. That they kill anyone who searches for it.”
Ma: “My, my. Sounds very scary. People do have some imaginations, don’t they?”
LCC: “The story goes that guardians have been doing this for centuries.”
Ma: “Centuries? Why, that’d make them quite old by now.” She smiled, then rested her hand on the reporter’s. “Excuse my manners, can I get you some tea?”
LCC: “Thank you, but do you have coffee?”
Ma: “Oh, coffee’s too strong for me. I find that it upsets my delicate constitution.” She flashed her big smile at the reporter.
LCC: “You must have boarders right now. I can hear kitchen sounds coming through the open front door.”
Ma: “Why, yes I just happen to. I give them free rein of the kitchen. Maybe I shouldn’t, though. Never can tell what they’ll get in to.” Just then, a young man pushed the front screen door open and stood near the reporter, staring down. He reached out a hand to Ma. “It’s all right, Twill, no need to worry. I think that’s all this young person wanted to ask, anyway. Isn’t it?” She looked at the reporter with another big smile.
LCC: “Yes, I guess it is.”
Ma rose with help from Twill as the reporter hurried away down the street.
Mike has a military background and is a student of American history and the Old West.
His debut western mystery, The Reckoning, set in South Park, Colorado, in 1868, was released in 2016 by The Wild Rose Press. The sequel, The Renewal, also in South Park, 1872, was released in 2018. His next western, A Score To Settle, was released October 2020, also from The Wild Rose Press. He has a coming-of-age novel, Fireflies At Dusk, set during the Civil War, and his short story, The Trade, a tale of the Yukon Gold Rush, was his first published work in 2014.
He’s a member of the Historical Novel Society, Pikes Peak Writers, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Western Writers of America and several other western writing groups. He brings his readers back in time with him as he recreates life in mid-to-late nineteenth century America. He lives in Colorado Springs with his wife, Anne.
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