Message From The Author

Author's Message

Zoe Archer Takes Aim


Not many graduates of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, the country's most prestigious M.F.A. program for writers, have a clinch on the cover of their first published novel. But Iowa grad Zoe Archer's debut with Dorchester, Lady X's Cowboy (Feb.), features just that, proudly proclaiming its romantic lineage to the world -- or
at least the shoppers at the local Barnes and Noble.

Archer, an award-winning writer of literary short fiction under her real name, Ami Silber, wrote romances even while earning her M.A. in 18th-
century literature and her writing degree. "A few of the other students knew, but it wasn't something I talked about much," she says, adding that others in the program were likely "closeted" genre readers.

Archer's experience as a secret fan of popular fiction invades her first novel. Lady Olivia Xavier, a Victorian widow and brewery owner, keeps her love of dime novels -- lurid tales of cowboys, schoolmarms and gunfights -- a secret from her society friends. So she's more than a little thrilled when a real American cowboy, Will Coffin, comes to her rescue and fends
off the hired thugs of a business rival. Despite their differences in class and income, Will and Olivia feel an instant attraction that only increases once they unite to discover the truth about Will's past and foil Olivia's foes.

"I was intrigued by the initial premise of a fish-out-of-water story," Archer explains. "There have been a number of romances about Englishmen coming to America, but I wanted to do it in reverse. I wanted to back up the time period to before people were really familiar with the trope of the American cowboy."

Adding her own unique twist to the genre's conventions is something
of a trademark for Archer. "I'd like to move away from the historicals that feature so many titled people," she says. "I prefer an egalitarian approach. In reality, there were so few noble people in England, and there are so many other kinds of people whose lives are more like the readers. I like the combination of high and low and the tensions between the two."

Archer pursues that combination in Love in a Bottle, her follow-up novel, due out in late '06, about a gentlewoman and a traveling quack medicine man. And she exemplifies that in her own life, with her commitment to romance and her just-completed literary-fiction novel. "I have enough energy and inspiration to do both." -- Colleen Cusick

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