Author Linda Warren Shares How the Texas Rebels Were Born
What do you do when you’re writing a series and the line (Harlequin Western) closes? Panic? Sure. But readers of my Texas Rebels series wanted to know if Jericho, the hired hand at Rebel Ranch, was going to get his story. Since the line had closed, I had to say I didn’t know. I talked about this with my editor and she suggested I continue the series in Harlequin Heartwarming. I was happy to do so. Jericho finally gets his story in A Child’s Gift, the eighth book in the Texas Rebels series.
I’m often asked where I got the idea for this large family. It’s really interesting how the brain works sometimes. Or at least my brain. After my husband and I watched the miniseries Hatfields & McCoys on TV, I mentioned I’d like to write something similar about two feuding families in modern-day Texas. I didn’t think anymore about it. Then one night I had a dream in which two families (those of John Rebel and Ira and Ezra McCray) were fighting over a fence line. Ezra said he would kill any Rebel who crossed onto McCray property. Then two little boys of about five and six were riding double on a horse and decided to jump the fence. As they did, Ezra shoots them. John hears shots, grabs his rifle and runs to find his sons. Ezra attempts to shoot John, but John fires first, killing Ezra. He then gathers his blood-covered sons in his arms, mounts the horse and rides hell-bent for home, screaming for his wife, Kate. She runs from a large log house. He hands the boys to her and she carries them to a truck. John follows as five more little boys come out of a barn with a tall gray-haired man. The older boy asks what happened. As John is getting into the truck, he tells the boy that Ezra shot Jude and Phoenix and they have to get them to a hospital. He then says, “Falcon, take care of your brothers. Quincy, you too. Egan, Elias, Paxton, mind your brothers.” He then looks at the older man and says, “Look after them, Pa.” And then the truck speeds away. That was the dream.
As soon as I woke up the next morning, I went to my office and wrote down the names in a notebook before they faded from my mind. There were seven brothers and I had all their names. From the kitchen, my husband hollered, “Breakfast.” I kept scribbling. No one can read the scribbles, but me. (I didn’t take time to turn on the light and you can tell.) He kept shouting. I knew if I answered, those names would be gone from my mind. He finally came looking for me and wanted to know what I was doing. I told him I was writing down a dream. “What?” He shook his head and went back to the kitchen. He’s used to his crazy writer wife.
I worked on it all day and many days afterward. John Rebel had built a big log house for his growing family. I saw it in the dream and I looked and looked for photos so I could have a reference to show you. Steve Hancock from The Log Connection graciously allowed me to use this photo from his beautiful catalog of log houses. It’s not quite what I saw through dreamed-filled eyes, but it’s close. The challenge was how to build seven books from that small dream. First, I had to decide where story one would start. Second, I had to flesh out the brothers, so I gave each of them a characteristic trait that would define him. Falcon was the oldest, the responsible one; Quincy, the peacemaker; Egan, the loner; Elias, the fighter; Paxton, the ladies’ man; Jude, the quiet one; Phoenix, the fun one. And Jericho would be the helper. Another challenge was juggling all those characters in my head and keeping the timeline, dates and ages straight for the family and secondary characters. My notebook came in handy as I kept jotting down details. It all came together and the first seven books were published in Harlequin Western Romance. Now Jericho has his story in Harlequin Heartwarming.
Jericho is a big, intimidating guy, but his heart is as soft as a cuddly teddy bear. He’s had a lot of bad breaks in his life but then he finds a home on Rebel Ranch with the Rebel family. As he watched all the Rebel brothers fall in love and get married, he yearned for a family of his own. I really wanted to give him that. He’s one of the nicest, kindest heroes I’ve ever written and I was so pleased to write his happy-ever-after.
One of the best things about A Child’s Gift is the cover. I held it and stared and stared. I put my glasses on and took another look. I asked my husband for an opinion and we both agreed that the cover model looked just like our great-nephew Hudson. I asked his grandma for a picture of him in his cowboy hat and she sent one. The eerie thing about this is, as I was writing about Dustin in the story, I had Hudson in my head. Gave me goose bumps. I love this cover. It has to be my favorite. Thank you, Harlequin art department!
What do you think? Does the boy on the cover look like Hudson?
P.S. The 9th book in the Texas Rebels miniseries, To Save a Child, comes out in March 2020.
About A Child’s Gift:
Or tear them apart?
Cowboy Jericho Johnson lives a good life working on the Rebel family’s Texas ranch. All he’s missing is a wonderful woman like Anamarie Wiznowski. But Rico’s troubled past and Ana’s disapproving family conspire against them. When Rico is named guardian to a four-year-old boy, he asks Ana for help. And suddenly, he’s falling faster than Christmas snow…for Ana, sweet little Dusty and life as a family man!