Chris Enss has done a great deal in her career. The New York Times Best Selling author is also a script writer, comedienne and writer for television and film. She’s performed on cruiseships and stages, but her true passion lies in the history of the American West. Chris Enss recently took time from her book tour for Wicked Women (see our review here) to speak with FangirlNation about her recent projects.
FGN: What prompted you to write the book Wicked Women?
Chris Enss: Women excelled in so many professions in the Old West I wanted to give voice to those that excelled at the bad. Society branded ladies such as Eleanora Dumont and Rosa May as “wicked” but they were simply business ladies making a living. Their stories fascinated me.
FGN: As you tell their stories, you seem to have sympathy for the individuals involved but still tell it like it is. Was it ever difficult to look at one of these women and just wonder what the heck they were thinking?
Chris Enss: Maybe Big Nose Kate, Doc Holiday’s paramour. She continued to work as a madam after the two became involved. She was soiled dove by trade, but I wonder why she didn’t decide to give up the profession when she was with Doc. I also wonder what it must have been like to kiss someone that had tuberculosis. Doc was not a healthy man, physically or emotionally. If they were alive today the police would have made many domestic violence calls to her place. Kate and Doc fought often and I can’t imagine tolerating that for an extended period of time.
FGN: Do you have a favorite female figure in the old West?
Chris Enss: Klondike Kate Rockwell. She was talented and worked very hard to be a popular entertainer in the Old West. It’s unfortunate that her significant other, Alexander Pantages, took all her money and left her with nothing. He bought up a number of theatres using her money. The Pantages Theatres are still in business. We remember him because of the theatres, but it was Kate’s hard work that made it happen. I admire her work ethic. Her choice in men was questionable.
FGN: What was your research process like? What was the most fascinating thing you discovered while researching this book? The most off putting?
Chris Enss: The life of a “wicked” woman was often times short. Soiled doves were murdered or committed suicide. I wasn’t aware of how tragic their lives could be. My idea of ladies in that line of work was shaped heavily by television and movies. I saw Miss Kitty from Dodge City, clean and polished, standing on a staircase eying the customers who came into her saloon. Miss Kitty never had any scars from a client who beat her or suffered from a client who stole from her. Such treatment was common place for “red-light” gals. I didn’t know how much so until researching this book.
FGN: Why do you feel it is important to tell the side of women in the history of the Old West How has writing this book changed you as a writer and researcher?
Chris Enss: As a person? I recognize how difficult life was for the women who came West and appreciate the sacrifice they made to settle the frontier. When we think of women from the Old West they generally fall into two categories, Laura Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie or Miss Kitty. Women filled a variety of roles. There were frontier teachers, doctors, business owners, ranchers, etc.. I am driven to find out all I can about these ladies and tell their tales.
FGN: Do you plan to write the histories of women in any other time period?
Chris Enss: I am working on a book right now about Ma Barker. She was a criminal in the 1930s. Talk about a “wicked” woman. She raised four outlaw sons and was the leader of the Barker-Karpis Gang. Ma was killed in a shootout with Federal Agents in 1935.
FGN: Where can our readers keep up with your last works?
Chris Enss: Please visit my website at www.chrisenss.com. The site contains excerpts from the books I’ve written, news on the titles to come, and a monthly book giveaway. I’m also on Facebook. Now that I’m thinking about it, how fun would it be to create a Facebook page for each wicked woman I’ve been blessed to write about? Hmmm….maybe.
Her book Wicked Women is available February 20, 2015.