Gini Rifkin writes stories of romance and adventure in settings that include the American West, medieval and Victorian England, and contemporary fantasy. When not writing, she cares for a menagerie of abandoned animals including ducks, goats, donkeys, and cats. Born in Illinois, she moved to Colorado and met her husband, Gary, and they shared their lives for 30 years, until he passed away. A little bit of him lives on in every hero she creates.
SunLit: Tell us this book’s backstory. What inspired you to write it? Where did the story/theme originate?
Gini Rifkin: Using historical romance, I wanted to stress how being able to read can change a person’s ability to control their fate. Set in 1888, my heroine was brave enough to escape her terrible living situation, but if she didn’t know how to read her prospects of making a decent future for herself would have been slim to none.
I also wanted to show her growth by having her pay forward this beautiful gift of learning to read. Her students are the local prostitutes. Nearly all of these women have other skills, but they can’t read or write so are reduced to surviving the best way they can.
Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at coloradosun.com/sunlit.
If my hero was going to find out what really happened to his brother in Prairie Ridge, a corrupt town where one man made the rules, he would need to infiltrate the outlaws employed by the tyrant. He also discovers his “boss” is human trafficking men and women, keeping them sedated with peyote.
This egregious crime is still happening in towns closer than you might think, and though not a large part of the story, I wanted to touch on the situation and offer a hotline in the back of the book.
On the romantic spectrum, I thought a case of mistaken identity based upon a hatbox, and an undercover outlaw being forced to kidnap a not-to- be-messed-with female, would be a great way for the hero and heroine to meet.
SunLit: Place this excerpt in context. How does it fit into the book as a whole? Why did you select it?
Rifkin: In search of evidence as to who killed his brother, Jess takes a job at the bordello to investigate the nefarious man who runs the saloon and the town. The heroine, Trinity, has been teaching the ladies of the evening who live there how to read. As Trinity and Jesse begin to trust one another, they can no longer deny the emotions building between them. Mary June and the other girls dress Trinity in a provocative costume and arrange for her and Jesse to experience a night to remember. Fate has other plans.
SunLit: Tell us about creating this book. What influences and/or experiences informed the project before you actually sat down to write?
Rifkin: When the name Trinity Tuesday came to me, I knew I needed a female character as strong and quirky as the name. Then the title “Undercover Outlaw” suggested a hero who was willing to become the last thing he respected. Living in Colorado gave me a feel for the scenery and setting.
SunLit: Once you began writing, did the story take you in any unexpected directions? If so, how would you describe dealing with a narrative that seems to have a mind of its own?
Rifkin: Twists and turns are usually appreciated, although they can require rewriting and resequencing, which can be frustrating. I find they generally make the story more interesting, so if you are going to follow where they lead, you just have to do whatever it takes to make your story stronger and the best it can be.
SunLit: What were the biggest challenges you faced, or surprises you encountered in completing this book?
Rifkin: The heroine forming a friendship with the ladies of the evening became more in-depth than anticipated, and the local newspaperman being a match for Etta, the older woman who taught Trinity to read, was a sweet surprise.
Where to find it
- Prospector: Search the combined catalogs of 23 Colorado libraries
- Libby: E-books and audio books
- NewPages Guide: List of Colorado independent bookstores
- Bookshop.org: Searchable database of bookstores nationwide
SunLit present new excerpts from some of the best Colorado authors that not only spin engaging narratives but also illuminate who we are as a community. Read more.
SunLit: Walk us through your writing process: Where and how do you write?
Rifkin: I try to be a plotter and have at least a decent outline. Key word here is “ try.” Then there are ideas that organically occur that I can’t help but incorporate. For me, writing means rewriting, multiple times, like layers of paint on canvas until the final picture is done.
I write in a ground level room offering no great view, but it keeps me focused. When I’m stuck or tired, I go to the barn and let the animals work their magic.
SunLit: How do you integrate working on books with your everyday life?
Rifkin: While finishing this book and letting the next one percolate, I felt the desire to try something new to fill my break time away from the computer — something fun that would still allow me to plot and dream about my writing. After taking several hours of lessons at the local yarn shop, I began weaving with a rigid heddle loom.
This led to trying to spin yarn from my bags full of Angora goat hair. Still having a bit of a struggle with the carding and drop spindle, but I am thoroughly enjoying the loom. Now I can spin more than just stories and weave new tales as well as scarves and tea towels.
SunLit: Tell us about your next project.
Rifkin: My next sweet historical romance, “Break Heart Canyon” released in September 2022. The story is set again in Colorado, 1878. That was the year the total eclipse helped put Colorado on the map socially and scientifically, rather than just being known as a gold/silver mining area.
Also, after the discovery of dinosaur bones in Como, Wyoming, and Garden City, Colorado, the Bone Wars began. Universities as well as private individuals resorted to all manner of underhanded tactics to secure the best specimens.
The hero is hired to unearth a Native American breast plate containing dinosaur bones. The land upon which the artifact is buried belongs to a widowed Scottish immigrant who raises goats. She has her own war to worry about when the local cattlemen try to run her off.
For a bit of humor, add in two donkeys, Wallace and The Countess. Then for myth and mystery, there is the legend of Break Heart Canyon, and an old unsolved murder. I like to wrap my romances around historical information, but I’m open to “what ifs” and stretching one’s mind on many levels.