“When I was a girl, I always liked Nancy Drew books, because the women were competent,” says New York Times best-selling author Sandra Dallas. “Girls always had to be protected and rescued in other children’s books. But Nancy Drew did her own thing. She solved mysteries and drove a little roadster.”
Dallas knew at a young age she wanted to be a writer. “I loved reading stories, so it followed that I wanted to write stories.” In junior high school, she began writing. In high school, she was editor of the literary magazine. In college, Dallas majored in journalism, was editor of the literary magazine and yearbook. After college, she began working in Denver for Business Week Magazine as assistant bureau chief, later becoming the magazine’s first female bureau chief and driving her own roadster, an Austin Healy convertible.
Photo of Sandra Dallas in front of the Bride's House
At that time, there were few women in business journalism. While touring a trona mine (soda ash used for making glass) for a Business Week story, Dallas’ tour guide found it awkward to mention the primitive bathroom facilities underground. “Before we entered the mine, he asked, ‘Do you want to go powder your nose?’” Dallas remembers with a laugh. “I used to go to press conferences and hear ‘Gentlemen…and Sandra’”.
Dallas was with Business Week for two years until she married, in 1963. She moved to Breckenridge with her husband, Bob, and began writing non-fiction books about the West. The two moved back to Denver, and she returned to Business Week, eventually becoming bureau chief, while continuing to write books about western history.
In the late 1980’s, she and two friends tried writing a romance novel together. Their styles did not match, and it was harder than she had thought. “But I realized that I really loved writing fiction,” says Dallas. “I rewrote an old manuscript and sent it off to my agent. She said, ‘I kind of like this, but it’s not publishable.’” Dallas continued rewriting the manuscript, and with the advice of her agent, made the characters likeable. Her agent was eventually satisfied, and The Chili Queen was published in 2002. In the meantime, Dallas had written three other novels while still writing for Business Week.
Eventually, Dallas left Business Week and became a full-time novelist. “I don’t sit down and think I should write a book about this subject,” says Dallas. “It just happens.”
After looking at a decrepit Victorian house in Georgetown, Colo., Dallas and her husband brought in preservation architect Gary Long. “We were going to pass on it, but then we went into the house with him. He came to the stairway and threw up his hands and said, ‘This is a Bride’s House!’ And I thought what a great title for a book. And so, we bought it, and I went looking for a story.” The two spent four years restoring the house, and she published The Bride’s House in 2011, making the home one of the town’s tourist attractions. Georgetown named her and husband the official Fourth of July parade judges for nearly 20 years.
At 84, Dallas’ roadster is now a Cooper Mini. She has published 18 adult novels novels—the latest one Where Coyotes Howl-- and five mid-grade novels. She spends her time at the Bride’s House today, preparing for her annual Fourth of July BBQ. Like Nancy Drew, Dallas enjoys writing about competent women. She says, “My work is a big part of who I am. I enjoy the process of sitting down and writing and seeing what’s going to happen.”