Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Heroine Similar to a Real Person

By: Celia Yeary

In the new novel I'm writing, Texas Dreamer, my hero's name is Lee King. A couple of people who have read parts of the manuscript have asked, "Why did you give your hero the last name of King? Won't readers think you're using the King Ranch and Captain Richard King as a pattern?"

If readers do think this, it was inadvertent on my part. My Texas family saga--the "Texas Books"--follows two families, the Camerons and the Kings. The Kings produced two sons, Dalton and Lee. Dalton was the hero in Texas Promise, and not one person quizzed me on Dalton King's name. Now, for some reason, my friends think readers will quiz me about Lee King's name.
For the record, Lee King is not patterned after Captain Richard King of the King Ranch.

However, my heroine--Emilie King-- does resemble his wife and partner, Henrietta King
I do know some history about Henrietta King. I've written about her more than once.

Henrietta was a woman any hero would be proud to call his wife. She, herself, accomplished a great deal outside the ranch, in addition to taking over as owner when he died after thirty-one years of marriage.

(Photo--Henrietta King)
Henrietta lived forty more years, until 1925, and she made the ranch profitable. She further developed their cattle breed, the Santa Gertrudis, which became the popular cattle variety across Texas. During her years alone, she built a public high school, a Presbyterian Church, and she supported local colleges and hospitals. She created the town of Kingsville by donating land when “Captain” died. She became the sole owner of the world’s largest ranch, and she ultimately created an empire of over one million acres.

The heroine in Texas Dreamer is somewhat patterned after Henrietta King. I do admit, I had no idea I was doing this. I swear, it just happened.


My fictional heroine, Emilie McDougal King, is tall and lithe like Henrietta. She was raised by her father Tex McDougal, just as Henrietta was raised by her father. Emilie is a character who has followed in her father's footsteps from toddler age, just as Henrietta followed hers.
In my manuscript, Emilie has not enjoyed the company of men because she is very quiet, does not flirt, and does not possess a voluptuous body--all much like Henrietta King.

As the story progresses, Lee meets a buxom beauty at a ball in Houston. He also meets Emilie McDougal--under very unpleasant circumstances--and she knows she does not impress men. Lee and Emilie are thrown together by a problem involving her father. As the story progresses, Lee realizes Emilie's worth as a female and as a business partner. Lee is a man who looks beyond extreme physical beauty, and sees inner beauty, worth, and strength.

As I said, I did not intend to write a heroine patterned after Henrietta King, but now at almost 60,000 words in the WIP, I see that Emilie McDougal is very, very much like Henrietta.

I couldn't be happier.

~~*~~Here's an excerpt from TEXAS DREAMER:

Lee buckled the cinch around the horse he'd chosen for Emilie. The mare was young, about two years old, and one of their best horses. He hoped she'd like the pretty mare.

The back screen door opened and closed, and he glanced up to watch Emilie walk toward him. He almost lost his breath. She wore men's pants, and they were tight-fitting, revealing curves he didn't know about. With the boots she also wore, she walked with a slight sashay that made his heart jump. The shirt stretched tightly across her breasts, and again, he had not noticed the nice figure she had under those shapeless calico dresses.

With her hair pulled back to her nape, tied with a ribbon, she also showed off her long hair to the middle of her back. The bun she wore as a general rule did nothing for her femininity.

She carried a western hat.

As she approached, she said, "I hate to wear this hat. It makes me look even taller, and I'm already tall enough."

"I happen to like tall women."

She raised one eyebrow. "Oh? How many tall women do you know?"

Laughing, he shook his head. "I'd better stop now before I get myself in trouble. I think you're just right, hat or no hat. Since we'll be riding into the setting sun for a while, you'll be glad you have it."

"Where are we going?"

He motioned for her to follow him. "There's a high spot to the west I'd like to show you. It's an easy climb, but when we get up there, you can see for miles and miles in all directions."

"Sounds wonderful."

Lee opened a stall and led the mare out. "Dudley saddled her for you. She's a two-year old, very obedient, but can get a little frisky. You'll need to keep a rein on her."

"Oh, she's beautiful, Lee."

She walked close and allowed the horse to smell her hair, her shoulder, and nuzzle her arm.

"We're going to be very good friends, I can tell."

She put her arms around the mare's neck and whispered in one ear. The mare nodded, as though saying, "yes" to something. Emilie laughed and rubbed her ears, and patted her neck. She walked all around the horse, patting and talking softly, as though wooing a lover.

Lee couldn't take his eyes off Emilie. Here was her soft side he'd never seen. Would she treat a man...a lover...the same way? Whispering softly, laughing, patting, and rubbing?

Thank you for reading--Celia


  1. Celia, I never knew about Henrietta King before. She sounds like quite a woman. So does your Emilie. I love the excerpt! It shows both characters in a warm light. I'm looking forward to reading Texas Dreamer.

  2. Hi Celia - I also didn't know much about Henrietta King and enjoyed the insight you gave us, as well as the excerpt with Lee and Emilie. Looking forward to reading "Texas Dreamer".:)

  3. Your story sounds great. I wonder if we inadvertently give our characters characteristics of people we have read about or known. Sometimes when I go back and read what I've written, I see someone I remember.

    I do remember reading about Henrietta King. She was so vibrant and daring to go against what society expected.

  4. Lyn--I admire Henrietta King so much, and even more when I learned of her life before marriage and then as the sole owner of the biggest ranch in the world.
    Today, the King Ranch is a corporation, I believe, and some of her grandchildren run the huge operation. It lost it's place as biggest in the world--now the biggest is in Australia.
    Thanks--glad you liked the excerpt.

  5. Ashley--Thanks for reading and commenting. Henrietta is a woman to be admired.

  6. Paisley--I wonder, too. When I learned I was using Henrietta King as a pattern--and didn't realize it--I did wonder if I'd done this before. I can't think of any instance, but probably I have.
    Yes, I admire her because she took on a man's role and did it just as well--even better.
    Thanks for the comment.

  7. Though I try to avoid using similar names in my books, after I write a book I'm surprised to see a scene somewhat similar, though not exactly like one I've written in another book. Also, I use certain phrases a lot and try to change them up when I notice.

    Morgan Mandel

  8. Looking forward to reading it! I enjoyed Texas Promise. And being from Texas I love the background story and that you are spotlighting such a heroine, Henrietta King. :)

  9. Hi Celia,

    I enjoyed your excerpt very much. You have a way of writing plucky heroines who also have a softer side. That style of writing always draws me in.

    And how interesting about Henrietta King. I bet she'd be flattered that your character shares some of her attributes.

    All the best, Maggie

  10. Celia, I don't know as I've ever done this--maybe I have subconsciously and didn't recognize it. I know I've used family facts from the past in my stories and as a basis for what I use in my plotting at times. I did use my gr gr grandfather's childhood kidnapping and adoption in one of my short stories. But I never knew him so I don't know if what I wrote was in the least "accurate" as to what actually happened to him, his emotions, and so on. That's a very interesting question you posed! I'm looking forward to reading Texas Dreamer!

  11. I guess Henrietta King is living proof that women are smart and business savy, regardless of what men like to think.
    My great-niece is raised by her daddy and she is a real daddy's girl. I see her mimic the things he does and mirror his ideas and interests. it's so endearing. However, I hope she doesn't want to be a mechanic. LOL
    I have written a book about a real person, my Uncle John in The Violin, but that's about it.
    I know Texas Dreamer is going to be a very exciting story to read with a heroine like Emilie.

  12. Morgan--oh, yes, those similar phrases and scenes. Probably we're all guilty of that. As to creating a character from a real person, I just don't think I've ever done it. This character, though Emilie McDougal, just took over, and when I realized--after 60,000 words--that she's much like Henrietta made me stop and really think.
    Thanks for you comment.

  13. K Meador--A couple of year ago I wrote about Captain Richard King, owner of the King Ranch. In doing the research, I discovered his wife, Henrietta. I've become very interested in her and her accomplishments...much more than most men in the world could do. She was really someone to admire.
    Thanks for commenting.

  14. Thank you, Maggie.."Plucky heroines." I love it.
    Henrietta King was a very intriguing person.

  15. Cheryl--yes, it made me stop and thing, too. Have I done this before? I don't think so. All my other heroines were totally fictitious. Thanks.

  16. Sarah--how funny! But I have a partial story in a file about a young woman who cannot find a job even with a university degree. She's best at...yes, being a mechanic, really a lawn mower and tractor repair person. Isn't that weird?
    I think we know by now women can do everything a man can...except for a couple a minor details!

  17. How fun to find a real life heroine so like your own. I love coincidences like this.

  18. Hi Celia, I love "behind the book" information. I too seem to have real-life folks sneak into my works LOL under other names.

    But even this Californian knows of King Ranch and Richard King LOL. Doesn't he haunt the Menger Hotel in SA?

    Best wishes on the book. I look forward to another winner!


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