Caleb O’Toole and his two sisters are left orphaned after a cholera outbreak in their hometown of Great Bend, Kansas. Attempting to fulfill their mother’s dying wish, they strike out on a one-horse wagon to travel the treacherous road along the Oregon Trail to the Montana Territory to live with their aunt. Caleb promised to keep his two sisters safe. But safety is thirteen hundred miles away in the rugged Bitterroot Mountains, past the dust-choked deserts, monstrous tornadoes and ravenous wolves of the Oregon Trail. And after witnessing a crime by the infamous Blackstone Gang, Caleb and his sisters have no choice but to brave the dangers of the trail, trying to stay one step ahead of murderous outlaws.
Amie: Welcome Eric! Thanks for joining us here at the Mixed-Up Files. Why don’t you tell us a bit about what interested you most about the Oregon Trail?
Eric: I love a good Western and stories about the survival of characters who must overcome huge odds to win in the end. The history of the Western U.S. was such a great backdrop for challenging my young characters to learn on the fly and pit themselves against formidable foes. Also, my own family migrated on the Oregon Trail in 1848. There are diaries of the rugged and sometimes violent life on the Trail. I was inspired to pack up my car and hit the road with my dog to research the route my relatives would have taken those many years ago. I spent a month taking in the vistas, studying the landscape. I spoke with historians, visited museums, wrote by mountains, rivers, and abandoned mining towns. It was truly a fantastic adventure.
Amie: I remember my dad watching westerns as a kid. John Wayne was a favorite! How cool that your ancestors migrated on the Oregon Trail. Why don’t you tell us about your favorite character in The Last Ride?
Eric: I love so many of them, but Caleb is my 12-year-old soul. I love his courage and sense of mission. Here is a young boy who had to learn so much to survive and deal with all the hardships of the journey. He had to keep it together for his two sisters. He starts out with nothing, having lost his parents. He must grow into a man before his time and face incredible evil. He has to learn to ride, shoot, hunt, track, trust and think on the fly. And he must remain strong and win in the end to fulfill his mother’s last wish.
Amie: As an author, I love incorporating a piece of me into my characters. Especially the kid-me! What do you love most about writing for middle-grade?
Eric: Writing for this age is inspirational to me. When I first thought about beginning my book, Henderson, the gunfighter, was front and center. I then began to ponder what it would have been like for young kids to survive the Wild West. The book took on a different tone. It became much more interesting to me to write THE LAST RIDE OF CALEB O’TOOLE from Caleb’s point of view. There would be so much for him to learn, the hardships deeper and more challenging. My next book also has a young protagonist. It is a more satisfying adventure for me as a writer.
Amie: I love that you thought about a child’s position and how they might have felt facing hardships. It really gives a fresh perspective to the wild west, doesn’t it? Last question. Frogs have taken over the earth and they’re eating humans. Do you fry up frog legs for supper or make a frog-eye salad?
Eric: Fry up the frog legs. Forget the eyes. Talk about freaking someone out!
Amie: Can’t say I’ve ever had frog legs, myself. But frog eye salad is a favorite in our family! Don’t worry, it’s made with pasta. What were you thinking? Thanks for saddling up and swaggering in for a visit, Eric!
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Eric Pierpoint is a veteran Hollywood actor has been on stage, screen, and television for nearly thirty five years and whose credits include Hart of Dixie, Parks and Recreation, Alien Nation, The World’s Fastest Indian, and Holes.
Inspired by his family’s heritage as part of the pioneer migration along the Oregon Trail, including a great-great-grandmother born in a covered wagon, Eric piled Joey, his trusty dog, into his car to trace his family history, experience first-hand what the pioneers must have seen during the Western Migration and learn the history of this amazing era: the American Indian Wars and tribal culture, the hardships of the wild west and friendships that formed because of the dangerous journey. The author’s journey and his research was transformed into THE LAST RIDE OF CALEB O’TOOLE, a unique adventure novel of America’s pioneer past. Visit www.ericpierpoint.net or www.facebook.com/EricPierpointConnection.