Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Join The Coffee Pot Book Club in conversation with author Kimberly Burns #HistoricalFiction #AmericanHistoricalFiction #AuthorInterview @cathiedunn

The Redemption of Mattie Silks

by Kimberly Burns


In 1892, running one of the West’s fanciest brothels is a rough game. In a town filled with brazen criminals, corrupt police, zealous politicians, and morality committees, Madam Mattie Silks makes her fortune catering to Colorado’s gold and silver millionaires.

Notorious crime boss “Soapy” Smith is at the top of the Denver underworld. There are no rules for Smith’s gang. They solve problems with bribes and bullets. When Mattie’s husband stumbles into Soapy’s dealings, she struggles to protect him.

Gold is discovered in the Yukon and Mattie seizes the opportunity for adventure and profit. But Skagway, Alaska, is even more lawless than Denver. Mattie must use all her business sense and street smarts to safeguard those she cares about. Will it be enough? Or will Lady Justice again turn a blind eye?

Based on a true story, The Redemption of Mattie Silks is an action-packed tale of a woman succeeding in a man’s world even when the cards are stacked against her.

Praise for The Redemption of Mattie Silks:

“The research on the era shines through, as do the grit and spirit of the characters. …A colorful and enthralling journey.”

~ K.T. Blakemore, award-winning author of The Good Time Girls series

“A nice, nuanced portrait of the complex underworld with fine and witty turns of phrase. A great Western romp!”

~ Randi Samuelson-Brown, award-winning author of The Bad Old Days series

Welcome, Kimberly!

Please make yourself at home. Would you prefer tea or coffee, or perhaps something more…fortifying?

In the mornings, you will find a big cup of coffee in my hand, but I end the day with a glass of wine. I like to match my drinks to the season. (Does anyone else do that?) I’m finished with pumpkin spice coffee for the year. I’ll be drinking gingerbread lattes until the New Year.

Summertime is perfect for a crisp white wine; red wine tastes better during the sweater-weather months.

Before we begin, please introduce yourself.

I live in Virginia with my husband. We have two grown children, so now I have time to devote to my writing and pampering my black lab.

The Redemption of Mattie Silks is my second novel. My first —The Mrs. Tabor—is also based on a true story from the Old West. It won several awards, including Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award, The Independent Publishers Book Awards gold medal, and a National Indie Excellence Award.

Could you tell us a little about your book and what inspired you to set your story during this period in history?

I grew up in the high mountains of Colorado, hearing tall tales about the colorful characters that settled the West. I married a New Yorker and moved to the East Coast, where no one had ever held these stories.

 I knew I had to write about the incredible women who risk everything and succeeded when they moved to the frontier.

Where and how did you conduct your research into characters and setting?

Did you know there are four museums dedicated to Old West Prostitution? I visited the ones located in Cripple Creek, Colorado, and Skagway, Alaska. I walked the streets of Denver and sailed the Inner Passage of Alaska as my main character Mattie Silks did.

The staffs at the Denver Public Library and History Colorado were very knowledgeable and helpful.

There are a surprising number of non-fiction books about madams, prostitutes, and other shady ladies. I think I read them all.

When researching for this novel, did you come upon any unexpected surprises?

Oh boy, did I! The ladies of the lamplight were using all sorts of home remedies to prevent pregnancy and disease. (Of course, none of them really worked.) So little of that information was clearly recorded. People didn’t talk about it and when they did, they used euphemisms to disguise the true subject. For example, in 1873, the US Congress passed the Comstock Act making it a federal offense to disseminate birth control through the mail. To get around this the Sears catalogue sold carbolic acid and women’s syringes for “disinfecting and cleaning purposes.”

It's fascinating how they found ways around the restrictions! Genius.

What do you think is the most challenging aspect of writing Historical Fiction about characters like Mattie Silks?

The Old West has been highly romanticized in movies, books, and on television. Sometimes readers don’t believe the real facts. Over one hundred books, magazine articles, newspaper stories have been printed about my antagonist Soapy Smith. Some were written by Smith’s family or reporters on Smith’s payroll. Conflicting reports were written by Smith’s enemies. I tried to find the grain of buried truth.

What are you currently working on?

Strong women of the Old West remain my favourite characters. My next book is based on an old family story about my Great-grandparents search for justice/revenge when their son is murdered by Mexican bandits.

Thank you for your time, Kimberly.

This title is available to read on #KindleUnlimited.

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Kimberly Burns

Kimberly Burns grew up in Colorado hearing stories about the colourful characters of the Old West. She has degrees from the University of Colorado and the University of Hartford. Kimberly is a member of the Historical Novel Society, Western Writers of America, and Women Writing the West. She lives with her husband and black Lab in Leesburg, Virginia.

Her debut novel The Mrs. Tabor won numerous awards including the Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award for Best New Novel, a gold medal for Best Regional Fiction from the Independent Publisher Book Awards, a National Indie Excellence Award, and a silver medal from the Colorado Independent Publishers Association EVVY Awards.

Kimberly and her unruly heroines make for an entertaining book talk. She is available to discuss her novels with book groups in person or online.

Connect with Kimberly:


  1. Thanks so much for hosting me and letting me share Mattie Silks' story. I hope everyone has as much reading about her as I did writing about her.
    Kimberly Burns

    1. You're very welcome, Kimberly. I'm intrigued about Mattie, and looking forward to reading more about her. Enjoy your tour!