The beauty of Canteen Dreams was the publisher operated with three book series. So once it liked Canteen Dreams, I needed two more ideas. That meant it was time to research what happened in other parts of the state. With my World War II novels, my starting point is usually a historic fact. To find it for books two and three, I started asking people what they knew about Nebraska and WWII. I don’t remember exactly how, but I stumbled on the idea that something must have happened at Fort Robinson at the time.
From there it didn’t take long to figure out that war dogs were trained at the fort during the war. I love the idea of working dogs, and I was curious to learn more about canines were used during the war. The more I dug, the more fascinating it became. A sidenote: they also trained horses and mules at the fort — yes, during WWII. These animals were used mostly in the Pacific.
Because I enjoy as a reader when there are recurring characters, I decided that Audrey’s best friend from Canteen Dreams would become the heroine of Sandhill Dreams. The hero was new for this book. He’s assigned to train the dogs — but he’s afraid of them after being attacked by one as a child. And Lainie had dreamed bigger dreams of being part of the war effort, but those dreams are thwarted.
Sandhill Dreams was the first time I called someone as a research source. The curator of the museum at Fort Robinson had written histories of the fort, one of which included WWII. When I went home to North Platte the summer I was writing, I spent a day at the Fort while he enthusiastically shared his knowledge with me. I’d hope I wouldn’t drive three hours there for an hour of his time. Instead, he was so excited to have someone who was as interested in the activities of the fort during the war, that he literally opened his archives to me. It was AMAZING.
His information especially about what the small town looked like when it was overrun with servicemen helped add depth and details to the book.
Sandhill Dreams was so fun to write. The dogs provided opportunities for fun and drama. And you’ll see several of the characters from Canteen Dreams. If you’d like to know more, feel free to check out my pinterest boards where I have links to articles about the work at Fort Robinson. I hope you enjoyed this look behind the scenes and will enjoy reading every page!
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