In honor of NaNoWriMo, we’re sharing a letter Charlotte Nicole Davis wrote to readers about how the Old West inspired her to write her debut novel, The Good Luck Girls, a story about a group of girls who escape a welcome house in the hopes of finding true freedom.
Even though I grew up in a part of the country that used to be the Old West, I never took much interest in Westerns when I was a kid. The heroes of these stories the John Waynes, the Matt Dillons never looked like me, a queer Black girl. But in reality, Old West was much queerer, browner, and more female than most Westerns like to admit.
So in the The Good Luck Girls, I made it my goal to reclaim a genre that has erased so many of us from our own history. There are few cultural touchstones more quintessentially American than the Western, and it’s not a coincidence that they’ve come to feature a certain kind of hero at the exclusion of all others. People like Aster, Clementine, and their friends are more likely to be portrayed as the bad guys. They’re the fallen women, the political dissidents, the outlaws on the road–and, maybe, they were the real heroes the whole time.
The Good Luck Girls has plenty of fantasy elements, too, but there’s nothing in it that didn’t feel real to me as I was writing it. This is a world where the dead cry out at the injustices they suffered and the living learn to ignore them, a world where those with less power can sell their souls to gain an advantage over those with none at all, a world where people are branded as Others and it hurts them to hide who they are. The welcome houses themselves were all too easy to imagine in the real world. After all, America is a country where sexual slavery was once built into the economy, and it was completely legal as long as the women were Black and the men were white.
It was this last connection that made The Good Luck Girls particularly resonant for me as a Black girl descended from these women who survived the unthinkable. This is a story about finding freedom, triumphing over insurmountable odds, and coming together against the rich and powerful to take back what’s yours. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Charlotte Nicole Davis