Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Lynn Lovegreen: Writing About the Alaska Gold Rush

I was lucky enough to grow up in Alaska, and like many before me I fell in love with it. The scenery is beautiful, the history is fascinating, and the people have an independent yet friendly attitude. It’s home, but it’s also a great setting for writing. I have a young adult historical romance series set in the Alaska gold rush. For me, it’s ideal. The time in history is exciting, and the place is full of drama itself.

The first book in my Gold Rush series is set in 1886 and the last takes place in 1916. During that era, lots of interesting things were happening in this country: Teddy Roosevelt led the Rough Riders; he and other reformers were making life better for common folks; the first aviators were flying in the sky; and people were buying automobiles and telephones for the first time. Of course women were coming into their own in many ways, from the Gibson girls riding bicycles to the suffragettes fighting for the right to vote.

In Alaska, women were a little more liberated because of the Last Frontier attitude. Folks were more interested in people’s abilities than their position in society. Women were hunters, pilots, entrepreneurs and more. The first Alaska Legislature gave women the right to vote in 1912, before the 19th amendment passed nationally in 1920. There were some restrictions, but it was easier for women to lead independent lives up here.

Within the Gold Rush, there were lots of boomtowns and motherlodes. I chose to follow the main strikes chronologically. My novella Worth Her Weight in Gold is set in Juneau in 1886. The novel Fools Gold is set in 1898 in Skagway, the first big Alaskan boomtown during the Klondike strike.  The next novel (Quicksilver to Gold, to be released this summer) is set in Nome in 1900, where the gold in the beach sand and the claim jumpers’ conspiracy made the news. The fourth book is set in 1906 Fairbanks, now our second biggest town, with its own colorful characters. My last book in the series is set in Kantishna Mining District in 1916, where tension between conservation and mining developed when Mount McKinley National Park was being created next door to some prospectors.

Building stories against this backdrop gives me lots of material to work with. I can set my main characters in the middle of a gold rush, and these young women have plenty of opportunities to challenge themselves and create the life they want to live.  They can find their own path in this great land. Their hearts know the way once they’ve learned how to listen, and Alaska gives them a place to do just that.

Content first published in Romancing the Genres, 3/23/13

Lynn Lovegreen grew up in Alaska, and still lives there. She taught English for 20 years before retiring to make more time for writing. She enjoys reading, hanging out with friends and family, and hitting targets with a cowboy action shooting club. Her young adult historical romances are set in the Alaska Gold Rush, a great time for drama, romance, and independent characters. See her website at You can also find her on Facebook, Tumblr, and Pinterest.

1 comment:

Judith Ashley said...

Hi Lynn, So glad you remembered to send me the link. I've just Google+ you also.

Glad to see you are still writing and your stories are set in the setting you love - Alaska during the gold rush.