I think the main reason I use a cowboy as the male character in most of my books is because I’ve always loved horses. Let me explain. Horses are a central theme in most of my stories, so I need to choose an individual who’s comfortable working with and around horses for my books. Also, I’ve discovered that most cowboys have a set of morals and values closely aligned with mine (although there are always exceptions, of course) but I choose to believe the majority of them are hard-working, honest, and God-fearing. In addition to these reasons, I was married to a ranch cowboy for 25 years, so I became very familiar with the type of work they do, and I can write about it with complete authenticity, which you do not always find in westerns.
Years ago, I was reading a novel that was set on a cattle ranch. I was roughly halfway through the book and enjoying it immensely, when the writer made a huge mistake, which ultimately ruined the rest of the book for me. She created a scene where the female character was riding a horse out to the pasture where the cows were calving, and she had this girl scoop up the calf (I think she didn’t realize how much they weigh, even the smallest calf can easily weigh fifty lbs.), toss it over the neck of her horse, in front of her western saddle, climb back on the horse and gallop back to the barn, where she’d deposit the calf and race off to get another one.
There are several things wrong with this whole picture. One, you would never swipe a newborn calf from its mother, just willy nilly. The mother is supposed to raise the calf, take care of it and feed it. Two, as I already pointed out, it would take a strong man to get a fifty lb. calf draped over the neck of the horse. Three, even if you did have an extenuating circumstance, say the mother died or something and you really did need to rescue the calf and take it back to the barn, you would never gallop. If you did, the calf would fall off!
Anyway, as I say, it ruined the rest of what had started out to be a pretty nice story. So, one thing I can guarantee to my readers is that you will never find me “writing about something I don’t know.” Now, we writers hear this often from certain people who teach the craft of writing. “Don’t be afraid to write about something you don’t know. That’s what research is for.” Nope, I don’t think so. Not for me anyway, after I experienced such a horrific problem as I did with that author. It did teach me a very valuable lesson though, and that is: You can’t always do enough research to really know the circumstances surrounding a given situation, and what the proper behavior of the characters might be, not to mention the correct lingo they’d use.
So, yeah, my advice to writers would be: It’s probably safer to stick to what you know so that you don’t accidentally annoy your readers.~