Old West life inspires Virginia City author
September 12, 2013
Kristin Ruggaber began living a dream when, in November, she and husband Micheal pulled up their Indiana roots and moved back in time to Virginia City.
"The kids are appalled," said Ruggaber of her three adult children, who have two children of their own plus one on the way. "But they're all grown. We thought, let's do something fun.
"I miss the kids, miss the grandkids. But as much as I miss them, I love it here."
The change provided the inspiration for Ruggaber to write a novel she had been thinking about for some time. Set in Northwestern Nevada, "The Legend of the Lamp: A Time Travel Romance" was published in January by AuthorHouse, and is available in paperback and e-book formats.
Fulfilling her dream began with retirement. Ruggaber had worked odd jobs such as librarian and freelance journalist while raising her three kids. Her husband worked as a psychologist.
"I was bored. I thought, wouldn't it be fun to write a book?" she said.
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Not just any book. She wanted to write a historical novel set in the Old West, written in a retro '60s style that reflected the values of integrity and hard work, which are sometimes considered old-fashioned.
As a child, Ruggaber enjoyed watching classic westerns such as "Bonanza" and "Gunsmoke." As a teenager, in the 1960s she and her family visited Virginia City on a "Bonanza pilgrimage."
"It took me a long time, but I made it back here," she said.
The Ruggabers, who both enjoy history, now rent a cottage on B Street close to the historic courthouse and Piper's Opera House.
"It's so much fun up here. So much is going on. It's hard to go in the back room and write," Ruggaber said.
Nevertheless, she completed her historical romance in six to eight weeks after moving to Virginia City.
The heroine of "The Legend of the Lamp: A Time Travel Romance" is Jessie, a pampered city girl sent by her father to work for the summer at a ranch in the Reno area. While exploring an abandoned mine, she's transported to 1860s Virginia City, just in time to witness a hanging.
Ruggaber modeled her hero, Jack, after Bonanza's Parnell Roberts, and has a cutout of him as Adam Cartwright.
"I started doing research on him. He was a real humanitarian," she said.
A pivotal point in the book involves a one-eared bison named Bubba. In recognition of the furry character, the Ruggabers recently added a bison head to their living room décor and cut off his left ear, in keeping with the character.
"We van Goghed him," said Michael Ruggaber, who only helped after the amputation was well under way.
Ruggaber has received a satisfying response from readers of "The Legend of the Lamp."
"More people bought it than I have friends," she said with a laugh.
Readers have asked her to continue the story, so she's planning a sequel.
"I've got to get her out of the fix I got her in," she said.
She hopes to have the sequel completed by the end of the year, or at least early next year.
"It depends on if I can stay away from Civil War Days and Camel Races."
The next book will have a lot more about Virginia City and the Paiute Tribe, she said. Ruggaber has developed good relationships with members of the Pyramid Lake Paiutes, and was even gifted with a book and CDs about the Paiute language.
"You might as well, if you're going to write something, say something," she said about giving more recognition to the area's native culture.
Ruggaber also is considering a nonfiction book about Virginia City residents' ghost experiences.
The couple experienced their only ghostly experience in the apartment they first rented. While talking to other residents about it, they were surprised at how many people had paranormal encounters.
"It's not 'if' you have an experience, it's 'when'," she said.
In between researching and writing about Virginia City's historical characters, the Ruggabers enjoy living in the Old West.
They attended last year's Governor's Ball, held annually in celebration of Nevada statehood.
"Somewhere in the middle of the grand march, we were transported back," Ruggaber said. "It could have been 1868."
Ruggaber recently purchased a hoop skirt to complete her outfit for the next ball. One evening while walking down B Street past the old buildings to show a friend her costume, she felt a sense of the history of the Comstock.
"It just felt right. I felt like I fit in."