Prairie Grace by Marilyn Bay Wentz

Posted by on Dec 26, 2014 | 34 comments

Prairie Grace by Marilyn Bay Wentz

Looking for a great book for your winter reading? Drama, history, faith, and romance–Prairie Grace has it all! Marilyn Bay Wentz has done a fantastic job with her debut novel, becoming a Finalist for the 2014 Colorado Book Awards.

You can enter to win a signed copy of Prairie Grace by commenting on this interview or signing up via the Rafflecopter at the bottom of the page. Deadline is Thursday, January 4th! (For US residents only!)

Fabulous Fridays

Welcome, Marilyn! I loved reading Prairie Grace, please give us a brief description of Prairie Grace.

While the eastern half of the United States is embroiled in Civil War to end slavery, military and political leaders in 1864 Colorado Territory strive to enslave the Native American population they see as impeding settlement. Prairie Grace portrays this clash of cultures through real people, Georgia MacBaye, a throw caution to the wind frontierswoman, and Gray Wolf, a Cheyenne brave who is thrown into the white world when his uncle, Chief Lean Bear, leaves him on the MacBaye doorstep in hopes that Georgia’s mother, a well-known healer, will be able to save his life.Prairie Grace

Despite the hostilities perpetrated by both the U.S. military and Native renegades, there are individuals from both the white and Native populations that speak reason and deal honorably with each other—including Thomas, Georgia’s father, whose ultimate sacrifice brings Gray Wolf to understand grace in a profound way. Destined to be enemies, Georgia and Gray Wolf battle their own and society’s prejudices as they strive to carve out their futures. Packed with history, fast moving and believable, Prairie Grace leaves the reader with hope amid a heartbreaking tale of our nation’s past.


How did the story of Prairie Grace came about.

The basic storyline came from a story I wrote by hand when I was about 12 years old. It was a Thanksgiving story about a gravely ill, young brave, dropped left by his family members on the doorstep of a family of white settlers. They nurse him back to health, and as they become acquainted, they learn to appreciate each other’s ways.

I’ve always loved to create stories in my head. Some actually made it to paper. When I finally got serious about writing a novel, I believed I should start with this story.


Who will enjoy Prairie Grace?

Prairie Grace will hold the attention of those from 12 years old to adults. There is something for those who love Westerns, history buffs, and anyone who yearns for the open prairie and simpler times. There is a thread that horse lovers and trainers will appreciate, and a romantic thread, though there is very little “mushy” dialog. I have found that both men and women enjoy the fast-moving storyline, which is well-researched and suspenseful. In fact, the majority of reviews have been written by men.

Homeschool parents who are looking for an engaging way to teach 1860’s Colorado Territorial history will find it not only entertains, but provides an opportunity to discuss honorable versus dishonorable actions and attitudes.


Tell us something about the time period and history you researched to write the book.

I knew about the Sand Creek Massacre, and I knew I needed a major conflict for the story, but I was well into the writing of the book before I realized the massacre had to be part of the storyline. Next year, 2014, is actually the 150th anniversary of the massacre.

Prairie Grace incorporates dozens of actual events, places, and people. The Sand Creek Massacre occurred November 29, 1864, in present day southeastern Colorado. I also drew from several accounts of Indian depredations and numerous U.S. government/military campaigns to eliminate the Native Americans and their threat or perceived threat to the whites.


Is it difficult to write historical fiction? How do you get into the shoes of the previous generation?

Human emotions and dilemmas do not change greatly from one time in history to another, but incorporating them into the historical setting requires study. Coming from an agricultural background, living on the Eastern Plains of Colorado, and working regularly with horses provided me with a good basis to write about this time period.


Tell us about some of the other historical incidents that form parts of the book.

Some of the events with historical basis are the Colorado gold rush, the Denver flood of 1864, the Hungate murders, the slaughter of innocent Indians in small villages, and the settlement on the Purgatory River in southeastern Colorado.

The book is rich with the history of Colorado around the time of the Civil War. The printing press used to produce the Rocky Mountain News was transported by ox cart from the east. I wove the treaties of Fort Laramie and Fort Wise into the storyline, as well as ranching in the Bijou Basin (present day Elbert County).


I understand that your own personal background was helpful in creating the story. Tell us about that.

Marilyn-028-001-41I write as a fifth generation Coloradoan, who has lived on the plains most of my life. I grew up near the land that was homesteaded by my great-great grandparents, helping my parents work animals and raise crops. I listened to the stories of my grandparents about growing up on the Colorado Plains.

As a child, I was thrilled to learn that my grandfather was part Sioux. Unfortunately, because he was born in the early 20th century, he was embarrassed to talk about it. That lack of information about my own heritage led me to read and research Native Americans, as well as the origins and historical treks West by the settlers with whom they interacted, and in some cases, intermarried.

I and my family operate Prairie Natural Lamb, raising lambs and marketing them directly. I also raise and train horses for fun, and am a certified Colorado 4-H horse show judge and level rater.


With your curiosity about Native Americans, did you use any historical characters in Prairie Grace?

Many of the Native American characters are real. I drew from the lives of Lean Bear, Bull Bear, Roman Nose, One-Eye, Beaver aka George Bent, Black Kettle, and Tall Bull.

Some of the white characters were also real historical figures also. Cheyenne captive Laura Roper, the Indian agent, Samuel Colley, Governor Evans, and Colonel John Chivington all make appearances, to name a few.

The extent to which history is portrayed in daily routines—both Native and settler-described, make Prairie Grace not just a good read, but a history primer, as well.


Tell us something about the fictional characters you created. How did you come up with them?

The MacBaye family, as well as they Karlson family, Gray Wolf, his sister Meadow Lark, and Soaring Falcon are all fictional. Portions of the settler backstories and individual character traits are drawn from my own family. I took great care to do extensive research on everyday settler life, Cheyenne customs, and history, so that these fictional characters would act and talk in a way that is engaging and believable.

I worked hard to depict attitudes of people during this time period, without being simplistic or stereotypical. My own experience in agriculture, the use of herbal and nutritional remedies, and horse training, helped me to write credible descriptions of these aspects of settler life.


Did you learn anything unexpected while doing your research? If so, what?

I learned so much in my research, but I’ll share just of couple of those surprises. I didn’t know much about the Cheyenne Dog soldiers, and the reading I did often painted them as either evil or heroes. The truth is somewhere in between. They started off as mighty warriors, usually honorable, but in their fear of the whites, they did some pretty awful things. Another thing that was surprising was the treatment by Sand Creek Massacre commander Col. John Chivington of the teenage sons of white men and their Cheyenne wives. Charlie Bent, son of George Bent, and Jack Smith, son of John Smith, well known by Chivington, were captured. Jack Smith was executed one day after the massacre. His father and Charlie Bent barely escaped a similar feat.


Do you have a favorite character? If so, who is it and why?

Gray Wolf is admirable, and Georgia is charming and tough, but Thomas is genuine and a stand-up guy. He has so many of the characteristics of my own father, so if I have to choose one favorite, it is Thomas.


Did you base your heroine, Georgia, on anyone in particular?

Georgia is not based on any one person. However, her tomboy tendencies remind me of both my mother and my sister, Shelly. Georgia’s desire to leave behind her mother’s Eastern propriety is something I observed in the relationships between my great-grandmother, my grandmother and my mother.


You mentioned the way Christianity was used with the Native Americans. What is the worldview of the book?

Prairie Grace reflects my Christian world view. Adhering to historical accuracy, it is no stretch that Thomas MacBaye would read the Bible to his family after an evening meal. Gray Wolf has no respect for a god that would not fight for his people (African American slaves), and he is predisposed to doubt the white man’s religion because it has been used to manipulate his people. The hypocrisy of officials, especially Colonel John Chivington, a preacher and abolitionist, are clearly portrayed. Thomas shares his beliefs, while validating Gray Wolf’s religion, suggesting that the two faiths may have more in common than opposed.


What do you think is the strongest message of Prairie Grace?

In addition to being entertained and educated, I hope readers will come away with two truths. First, I want readers of Prairie Grace to be reminded that there is always hope, even amid the worst circumstances. Second, I want to reinforce the truth that we should never judge an entire people by the actions of one, as Thomas reminds Gray Wolf. It is a truth that, unfortunately, was not widely held in the 1860s.


What comes next for you?

In early 2014, my mother, Mildred Nelson Bay, and I pitched a non-fiction book idea to Cladach Publishing. All We Like Sheep, Lessons from the Sheepfold, pulls from our collective seven decades of sheep raising experience. It is a collection of sheep stories and the lessons our experiences have taught us about ourselves, others and God. Running the gamut from sad to touching to hilarious, All We Like Sheep, Lessons from the Sheepfold is presented in a devotional format. It is scheduled for release in the spring of 2015.

In addition, I am writing a sequel to Prairie Grace. Set in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, Prairie Truth is the story of Caroline, who seeks to escape the difficulties of her inter-racial heritage by pretending to be someone she is not in a land that is foreign to her.  Prairie Truth is fast-paced, deals with racial issues and is history intensive. For you horse enthusiasts, expect to read about a talented and daring female horse trainer in Prairie Truth.

About the author:  Marilyn Bay WentzA native of Colorado, who grew up on a crop and livestock farm in northern Colorado, Marilyn earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Northern Colorado in 1984. She writes and edits newsletters and magazines and handle public relations and promotions for clients, including the National Bison Association and the American Grassfed Association. Prior to establishing her home-based public relations and writing business, she was communications director for several different agriculture organizations  She has lived in Costa Rica and Taiwan, and is fluent in Spanish and  conversational Mandarin Chinese. Marilyn says, “When it comes to Prairie Grace, I’m just a simple girl, writing a story of grace amid a heartbreaking tale of our nation’s past. It depicts the best and worst of humankind. It is not a bad Indian or a bad white man story, rather, it shows depredations and kindness from people representing both groups.”

Learn more about Marilyn and Prairie Grace at

Connect with Marilyn at

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  1. Sounds like an interesting read. I love fiction stories wrapped in historical truths. I’ve also been frustrated by lack of facts regarding the Black Foot blood in our family tree. Gramp (my great-granddad) would never talk about it. It caused a huge rift in our family way back when, with my great-great grandparents disowning their daughter when she married Gramp (who was only part Black Foot and raised on a farm). Gramp lived to be almost 100 years old, so I was privileged to know him. If only the old prejudices would have let him speak of these things. *sigh*

    • Thanks for commenting, Pegg! It is a wonderful story!

    • We have the common experience of a part native grandfather. See for more details. I also see you are a horse lady. You will appreciate the genuine horse description/narrative in Prairie Grace.

      • We have even more in common, I also raise sheep. 🙂

        • Oh my. Don’t know a lot of horse and sheep people.

  2. I’m a history buff, and I LOVE westerns! So glad I followed the link from “All Things Books” on Facebook. I’ve already 1-clicked and look forward to getting comfy with this book.

    • Thanks for commenting, Felicia! It is a terrific book!

    • I used to say that any book with a covered wagon classified as historical fiction. With Prairie Grace, I used the historical timeline to drive the story, so you will find plenty of facts and fun in this read.

  3. Wonderful interview and this sounds like a good read.

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Ann!

  4. This was a super interview, Norma. Thanks for sharing Marilyn with us. I learned a lot just by reading the interview. I can only imagine how informative and intriguing the book will be.

    • It is a terrific book for making history come to life. Thanks for commenting, Nan!

    • Those of you who are Kindle readers, my publisher is running a special through the end of December, Kindle versions are regularly $5.99 but just 99 cents for a few more days.

  5. it sounds like a good book. I’ve got to add it to my “to read” list

    • Great book to read! I’ve read it more than once!

      Thanks for stopping by and entering!

    • You know, I have to share with you avid readers the importance of supporting new authors. We soooo want to continue writing, but need your support through purchases, checking out our books at libraries and writing us reviews to help spread the word. Norma and I both are working really hard to “make it” as authors.


    • It’s a great story! I hope you’ll be back again sometime!

  7. I love romance westerns. The cover makes this book look interesting.

    • It’s a great book! I had the privilege of reading it long before it was published and throughout the process.

      I hope to see you visit again sometime! Thanks for stopping by!

    • This site and Norma Gail are SO very supportive of authors. Thank you.

  8. Oh my goodness, wow ! Whan an amazing book Prairie Grace by Marilyn Bay Wentz sounds like it would be. After reading the interview and excerpt I really wish I had it sitting here in front of me all ready to read. I love this type of historical fiction. A great historical fictional story based on a lot of research is just my thng.I know this will be an excellent read !

    • It is good, entertaining writing without compromising the history, or vice versa. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Just a disclaimer; Prairie Grace is not a romance. Like most novels, even a James Patterson mystery, Prairie Grace has a nice, clean romance, but the romance is not the story.

  9. No one could be better equipped to write this fabulous story than Marilyn Wentz. Readers will not be disappointed.

    • They sure won’t, and you know for a fact, Davalynn! Marilyn excels in this book!

    • Thanks, Davalynn, for your kind comment.

  10. SoUndos like a great read.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Patty! I hope to see you visit again sometime!

  11. I like the use of native american characters and the fact that the cheyenne customs were researcged

    • Thank you for your comment Wendy! It is an honor to showcase a book that I know was researched so thoroughly. I hope you’ll visit again sometime!

    • Just a historical note, Nov. 29, 2014 was the 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre, the event with which Prairie Grace culminates.

  12. Looks like a winner. I would share this with my 82 year old aunt.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Diane! It is a winner in every way!

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