I could give a more extensive introduction, but Kari Bovée has sent such wonderfully extensive and informative answers to my questions that I’m just going to get out of her way. Read to the bottom to get her website and social media links, as well as more information about Kari herself.
I won’t ask you how you got into writing fiction, as I normally do, because your website tells me that you always have. But why Annie Oakley?
Several years ago, I saw a PBS American Experience special on Annie Oakley. Previously, I had always thought she was portrayed as a “goody-two shoes,” almost cartoon-like figure in history, but when I watched the special, I realized she had an incredible depth of character. She didn’t have the most wonderful childhood. Her father died when she was young, so the family struggled with poverty. She was farmed out to another family who abused her, and she had a responsibility to contribute to the well-being of her family at a very young age. Despite all of that, she went on to become wildly famous as a sharpshooter, but fame didn’t change her. Women in show business at the time were considered less than upstanding, but she was ferociously protective of her good name and reputation. Though she worked in a man’s field, she maintained her femininity. She was always covered from head to toe, and she let her talent, not her looks, shine. In her later years she was devoted to empowering women by teaching them to shoot, but she never maintained she was a feminist. She was just Annie Oakley. She had the courage to be herself.
And who is Annie to you? That is, how do you see her as a character who is at the same time historical and your creation?
We never really know what was going on in the minds or emotions of people in history. We see them through their actions, what they’ve written, and what they’ve reportedly said, but we don’t really know what their deepest fears were, or what they secretly wanted in life. That is up to interpretation. I’ve taken what I have learned about Annie Oakley and surmised that she was gutsy, smart, lovable and loving, and incredibly talented at something a woman rarely pursued—and bested most men in her field. She did not live the life of a normal woman in 1885. Given the scope of the Wild West Show’s travels, and what Annie did for a living, I thought she would make an excellent amateur sleuth. One who is driven by seeking the truth and finding justice.
On the first page of the prologue, we encounter our first sudden death. Set the stage for us, please. Who is Kimi, and what’s going on there?
Kimi is the (fictitious) adopted daughter of Buffalo Bill Cody; she works in the show as a costume designer and Annie’s assistant. When we meet her we see she is unhappy and a loner. She’s been ostracized from her people, and she doesn’t fit in with the cast or crew of the show. In fact, she is despised by Buffalo Bill’s mistress, Twila Midnight. Annie is not comfortable with someone working “under her” and accepts Kimi immediately as a peer, even a sister. She identifies with her as someone who is different and wants different things out of life, and they form a bond. When Kimi dies, Annie is distraught, especially since Kimi has a baby girl. She does not accept that Kimi died of natural causes, given what Kimi has shared with her, and there is evidence she’d been beaten. This sets the course for Annie to find out what really happened to her friend.
In chapter 1 we meet Annie, still called Annie Mosey. I was surprised to discover that Annie was raised a Quaker. How does that square with her skills as a sharpshooter? How does it influence her decisions?
I don’t know much about how Annie felt about being a Quaker, but I thought it was an interesting part of her past. From what I understand, Quakerism supports the idea that we are all equal beings. In fact, they don’t use titles or monikers for others, they are simply Friends. They live a life of modesty and service to God. I thought it would be interesting if Annie struggled with this. After all, she became a famous sharpshooter—a celebrity. Hardly a modest undertaking. In my interpretation, Annie wants more out of life than to settle into a quiet Quaker lifestyle—she wants to be somebody. She wants to get out into the world and become something greater than herself. In the book, Annie is constantly wrestling with what she “should” do and be, how she was raised, and what she really wants out of life.
Next we meet Frank Butler. What is his role in the book? What can you tell us about him and his past?
Frank Butler was the true love of Annie’s life. An Irish immigrant, he came to the United States when he was thirteen. He later became a famous sharpshooter, and they met when she beat him in a shooting contest. Instead of being intimidated by the skill of this tiny fifteen-year-old girl, he was smitten with her. In my story, his family has settled in the south, in Kentucky, where they own and operate a horse breeding farm. Like Annie, he has some unpleasant things from his past he is grappling with, and he ultimately confides in her. He, of course, plays the romantic interest in the book, but it takes them a while to get together.
And how would you describe their relationship?
For the sake of the story, I have created a lot of tension between Frank and Annie. He’s a world-famous sharpshooter on the decline, and she’s a girl from North Star, Ohio, on the rise. He’s threatened by her talent and her fame, but he’s falling in love with her at the same time. To Annie, Frank is this larger-than-life, sophisticated character whom she admires but feels is way out of her league. She does not try to impress him, or change to make him like her; she continues to be herself, and her skills keep him on his toes.
Again from your website I see that you have plans to bring out several more Annie Oakley mysteries over the next year. What’s your schedule, for these and your other two series?
The next book in the Annie Oakley series, titled Peccadillo at the Palace, comes out in May 2019 with Spark Press. I will also release a prequel novella to the series in the fall of this year. As for the third book in the series, I hope to release it in 2020—and will possibly continue on with Annie and her adventures.
I have another historical mystery series that takes place in New York City in the 1920s featuring a costume designer who works in the Ziegfeld Follies as the amateur sleuth. Lots of good stuff to draw from there! The first book of the series is called Grace in the Wings. It’s ready to go, but I’m not sure how or when it will be published. I’m working on it!
My Southwestern historical mystery series is underway. The first book in the series, titled Bones of the Redeemed, takes place in the 1950s and features protagonist Mackenzie Delgado, an archeology student in pursuit of her PhD. While digging she stumbles upon remains that lead her to uncover the existence of a secret society and the people they are murdering in the name of religion. I’m not sure when it will be ready for publication. Hopefully within the next two years.
Thanks so much for answering my questions, Kari. Good luck with your many writing projects!
Kari Bovée has always loved telling stories. She now has three historical mystery series about empowered women in the works, including several other Annie Oakley novels. She is an avid horsewoman and loves to spend as much time as she can with her four horses. Girl with a Gun is just the first of her books to appear in print. You can find out more about her and her series at www.karibovee.com.
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