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Laurie Moore-Moore talks about her new novel: Gone to Dallas
As a fifth generation Texan, I’ve always had a strong interest in Texas history and a curiosity about what life was like for the early Texans. The story of a young woman moving to Texas and what she did when she arrived, has been rattling around in my head for a couple of decades. It reached the point where I had to let the story out. My businesses have always involved writing of some kind, so I sat down to try my hand at fiction. When COVID came along, I certainly had the time. I had a fun with my fictional Sara and hope readers will enjoy her adventures.
Back when Texas was part of Mexico, Americans fleeing the law, creditors, or other problems would sometimes flee to Texas, generally painting or posting signs saying “Gone to Texas” or GTT on their doors or fence posts. The message became associated with law breakers and other scalawags. When Texas won its independence it began granting land to newcomers. People in search of homesteads and opportunity began to flow into the state. As they began their trips, signs were posted and wagons were painted with “Gone to Texas.” This time, the words became a symbol of new opportunity. Some of those who were “Gone to Texas” were “Gone to Dallas.” Since my characters were headed to Dallas, the name just seemed a natural one.
The name comes from the last phrases of the Texas state song:
“God bless you Texas and keep you brave and strong
that you might grow in power and worth throughout the ages long.”
It seemed to me that our Texas ancestors—men and women alike—were brave and strong.
I wanted to recognize and honor that in the name of the series.
I’m what the publishing world calls a seat-of-the-pants writer. I don’t outline the entire story in advance I just sit down and start to write. The first 54,000 words took less than a month to write. . . . although they ended up being in the middle of the book! Feedback from very early readers was helpful in shaping the story, but the characters took over and I just followed with the words. I was sometimes surprised by the twists and turns in the story. I hope readers will be as well. Writing the novel was a joyful experience!
Although most of my characters are fictional, the book is also peppered with real people—from Sarah Cockrell, often called Dallas’s first capitalist, and certainly a brilliant business woman, to Barry Derrit, the slave who manned the toll bridge over the Trinity River. These characters play active roles in the fictional story. The background in which the story unfolds is built around actual happenings at the time—that’s what I call, “salted with history.” For instance: a grand ball at Mrs. Cockrell’s hotel, the visit of a mud and muck circus, the collapse of the bridge over the Trinity, the fire that burns Dallas to the ground. The actual historical events are better than fiction!
I chose Dallas because it’s home and also because I think people all over the world have a fascination with the city. Some of that goes back to the old TV series, Dallas, and the mystique of the Dallas Cowboys football team in Roger Staubach’s era. I traveled in my business for thirty years and taxi drivers would want to talk about some aspect of Dallas as soon as they knew where I was from. Plus, the city has a fascinating history! The time of the novel is keyed to the period when Dallas began to take shape and grow. It ends just as the Civil War is about to begin. The sequel—Cotton, Cattle, and Conflict starts with the war and carries through Reconstruction.
Interesting facts just piled up as I started to research the city’s history. One of the most surprising bits of information was that the founder of Dallas, John Neely Bryan, was actually a squatter on land which had been granted to a land promotion company known as The Peter’s group. I suspect Bryan’s squatting was most likely unintentional, but he was nonetheless a squatter! Bryan settled beside an old Indian crossing of the Trinity on Peters’ Colony land. He had the land surveyed and platted (divided into lots). He added a ferry across the river and began to work to attract settlers. To make matters even more complex, the state had already given a land grant to a former soldier in the Texas Revolution and that grant overlapped a portion of Bryan’s city plat. I won’t tell you how it was all resolved, but it’s a fascinating story involving the state legislature, a revolt of Dallas settlers, and court cases that continued for decades. This all predates my story by a few years, but is certainly interesting.
Just one teaser: I was tempted to name it Camels and Conflict.