Randi Samuelson-Brown, originally from Golden, is a writer who lives in Denver. “The Beaten Territory” is her first published novel. She holds a B.A. in history and is passionate about preserving Colorado’s little-known history through both historical fiction and non-fiction. She is currently working on a non-fiction book scheduled for release in the spring of 2020 titled “The Bad Old Days of Colorado.”
What inspired you to write this book?
A couple of things, actually. A friend of mine is related to the Ryan clan in the story. When I first started hearing about these women (as sketchy as the details were), I was intrigued. In time, I started wondering what life was really like for the Western prostitutes and madams. The book is the result of that combination. I felt somewhat haunted by that lost history and the women who lived it.
Who are your favorite authors and/or characters?
I’m not particularly an author “follower”, although I have favorite books. I like “The Homesman” by Glendon Swarthout, “The Dress Lodger” by Sheri Holman, “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez and “Birdsong” by Sebastian Faulks to name just a few. Favorite characters tend to be flawed individuals who are trying to do the best they can through life: Mary Bee Cuddy (“The Homesman”), Stephen Crane (“Birdsong”) and Clara Trueba (“The House of Spirits” by Isabel Allende).
If that question pertains to the characters in “The Beaten Territory,” I like Annie Ryan for her sheer tenacity, Lydia for her success in a man’s business and Pearl for the fact that, above all, she sought love.
Why did you choose this excerpt to feature in SunLit?
The chapter strikes to the heart of the book, showing how loveless and hard the prostitute’s marginal position in society could be.
What was the most fun or rewarding part of working on this book?
Uncovering a fairly hidden facet of Colorado’s history has been frustrating, fun and surprising in turns. I’ve met so many fabulous people with their own family stories that I feel I’ve been truly fortunate to be able to pursue this.
What was the most difficult section to write in this book? Why?
There were several parts that I found difficult to write – usually those having to do with violence of one sort or another.
What was one interesting fact you learned while researching this book?
That the prostitutes wore something called “brothel gowns,” which look a bit like Lanz of Austria nightgowns, instead of the fabulous plumes and silk ruffles I had imagined.
What project are you working on next?
I am working on a non-fiction book that will be coming out in the spring of 2020 from Two Dot (Rowman & Littlefield) titled The Bad Old Days of Colorado. The next historical fiction is about a clairvoyant, a mining swindle and a fresh start.
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